The original choice of the Italian Ministry of Culture fell on Francesco Dal Co, one of the leading architecture critics, editor of Casabella magazine, student of Manfredo Tafuri and co-author of his History of Contemporary Architecture, and curator of the 5th Venice Biennale 1991. However, Dal Co refused, citing his busyness (in March 2014 his new book about Renzo Piano was published by Electa), and then, after a long search, Cino Dzucchi, a young by Italian and successful by international standards Milanese architect, was appointed as curator. the world without leaving academic work at the Milan Polytechnic. Zucchi, the author of a monograph on the architecture of the Milanese courtyards "Cortile" of the 16th-17th centuries, quotes Eisenstein and Shklovsky, highly appreciates post-war modernism and knows the history of modern architecture, as perhaps none of the living Italian architects knows it.
As a consequence of such scholarship of the curator, the pavilion of Italy is not devoid of allusions and hidden quotes. Its entrance is decorated with a huge arch that enters into dialogue with the arcade of the Arsenal courtyard. Due to the color of dark bronze, the arch looks more like an apse, and deliberately violates the scale of the building. An element that refers either to altar images of the Giotto era, or to the "Square Colosseum", a strange building without a pronounced function in the Roman EUR district of the late 1930s, as if recalling the essence of Italian modernism, which did not want to tear with tradition. “Anomalous modernity,” in the words of the curator.
Surprisingly, but Italy during the heyday of the modern movement in the field of architecture was perhaps the most "backward" country in Europe. Large-scale complexes at the turn of the century, for example, Milan Station or the Monument to Victor Emmanuel in Rome, were still being completed in the early 1930s and still live in the mass consciousness as works of "fascist" architecture, that is, of the interwar period. In the mid-1920s, neoclassical art deco in the spirit of Gio Ponti's Milanese works or the eclectic regionalism of Piacentini and Fasolo in Rome were considered the modern style. The "real" modern movement - represented by Giuseppe Terragni, Franco Albini, the Figini Pollini bureau and others - took shape here only by the beginning of the 1930s, but it never left its classic "foundations".
Chino Zucchi tells the story of the renewal not so much of the architectural language as of the city, choosing as an example his native and well-studied Milan. The modern movement in Italy was born in the process of "modernizing" Italian cities in the era of fascism, when medieval alleys were expanded for propaganda purposes, ancient ruins were dug up, and new architecture was erected next to them, which - precisely for propaganda purposes - was supposed to personify modernity. Since the interpretation of this task was not regulated by clear aesthetic directives, along with monumental and eclectic opportunistic architecture, rather unexpected buildings appeared, such as Casa del Fascio in Como by Giuseppe Terragni, one of the "icons" of the architectural avant-garde. The north of Italy then turned out to be the main laboratory of modern style. Milan is one of the most striking examples of a “multi-layered” city, where the restructuring of various regimes and eras, from Napoleon to the present day, is well read, moreover, with a healthy ratio of tradition and modernity that is quite rare for Italian cities. Demolitions and restructuring here have never caused such fierce discussions as in Rome or Florence, since the industrial character of this city could not but make it loyal to innovations, even sometimes radical ones. The bombing of the Second World War opened a wide road for the "grafting" of modernity here, making room for modern architecture in the historical part of Milan, but also defining its point character. The economic boom of the 1960s gave rise to new growth in the city. This history of architectural transformations is demonstrated on an interactive map of the city, where, in accordance with the illustrative material projected above it, the places of reconstruction and new buildings are highlighted.
However, the story of "grafting" begins with a period that predates modernism for several eras: let us recall that in Italy the epoca moderna in the history of art and architecture begins with Michelangelo. As a mirror of the process of introducing a "modern" architectural language, the Milan Cathedral with the entire centuries-old history of its construction up to the 20th century competitions for the design of its square is presented. Then the exposition leads to the 1920s - 30s, and then to post-war modernism, represented by the Milan architectural bureaus, which did not gain loud fame in the history of architecture, but actually created a new, post-war Milan, such as "Asnago and Vender" (about which Dzukki published a monograph in 1999 in the publishing house Skira), and then to the "unprecedented" Triennial of 1968 and the addition of the phenomenon of Italian design.
From the historical "preface", the material of which would be enough for three thematic exhibitions, the viewer enters the next hall, where he sees the modern results of "inoculation". On the pedestals, schematically imitating the branches of trees, incised for grafting new branches to the trunk, photographs of modern objects realized by Italian bureaus, both in Italy and abroad, are placed without signatures and strict logic (for example, the Quattro Corti business center of the Piuarch bureau in St. Petersburg).
This label-free exposition tells that the Italian architect is always also a craftsman, for which he is appreciated by the world professional community and a grateful consumer. He builds a city from a spoon, does not forget about the smallest details and even personalizes the assembly line. Indeed, such were the great Italians of the twentieth century - Gio Ponti and Carlo Scarpa, universal architects, attentive to the material, attentive to the person, the builders of the environment. Despite the largest concentration of architects per capita in Europe, there are very few large studios in Italy, and the world famous RPBW, led by Renzo Piano, is known for its methods of work close to the medieval workshop. However, this does not prevent these bureaus from building in the most distant and unlike Italy countries, and even helps to remain attentive to their conditions, just like at home. This is a fundamentally non-stellar architecture, the very “anomalous modernity” that manages, adapting to any urban situation, to preserve its individuality. This is what the exposition of this hall tells about, where the signatures to the works can be read only on a common stand hanging above the entrance, and therefore the viewer is forced to look at the architecture, not the names. In one of his preliminary interviews, Dzukki said that in this way he wanted to break the stereotype of the presence of a work at the Biennale as a recognition of its quality: the selection of a work depends on its relevance to the declared topic, that is, if there is no work in the pavilion's exposition, then this is not a reason for the author to be upset.
Let's move on from the exhibition from small architectural firms to an international event. A separate room is dedicated to World Expo 2015, which will take place in Milan. For its construction, which attracted Italian "stars" including Massimiliano Fuksas, rebuilt the existing complex of the famous Fiera, and also erected a special station for a high-speed train near the future exhibition complex. All these works over the course of several years were accompanied by all sorts of polemics and high-profile events: "the architect Fuffas" became the hero of a whole series of TV programs by the famous parodist Maurizio Crozza, newspapers talked about scandals due to inappropriate spending of funds, and last summer in the Quirinale Palace layout of the future complex. The Dzukki Pavilion laconically and elegantly, with the help of light boxes and light projection of the text, explains the organization of the space of the future exhibition and its concept.
The pavilion of Italy presents material of exceptional quality and completeness, but it hardly manages to be, as stated in the concept, "more a botanist than a historian." The principle of presentation and presentation has a pronounced didactic character (a 3-volume (!) Catalog has been released), giving out an intellectual and a university professor as a curator. All this would look great on a thematic exhibition in one of the major Italian museums, but unfortunately, at the biennial overflowing with information, it is unlikely to be truly perceived. After the political acuteness of the exposition of both Koreas, the irony of the English, French and Russian pavilions, as well as the conceptuality of the Swiss, the Italian national exhibition seems to be a guide to prepare for the exam. The curator speaks a lot, in detail and beautifully about what he likes and what is close to his creative credo, without unexpected moves, sharp criticism or subtle irony. As a result, the topic is revealed, the exposition is good, and as for the near-professional reflection, it is fully represented in the main program of the Biennale - the exhibition "Monditalia".