A major figure in architecture of the second half of the 20th century, Aldo Rossi was instrumental in reshaping and reviving the landscape and imagination of modernity. From the very outset, he undertook research into the relations between building typology and urban morphology. Here, architecture was conceived based on a rereading of rational models, referring in particular to the “logical system” which he found in his analysis of the works of Boullée, Mies van der Rohe, and Adolf Loos. As a leader of the Tendenza critical movement, Rossi advocated a “return” to a historicist understanding of the City, the place of a collective memory, laden with symbolic values. His treatise L’Architettura della Città (1966), translated the world over, defined a new theoretical logic based on a re-examination of the classical architectural tradition. Rossi proposed a set of urban archetypes based on “basic” models, prior to the chaos of the industrial age. Emblematic of the Italian neo-rationalist movement, his architectural projects experimented with an analogical principle where reference to the past was only viable if it condensed fundamental types (street, façade, wall, window…), by synthesizing them in elementary forms. His buildings of the 1970s and 1980s thus involve the lines of cubes, cones and cylinders, and are usually organized in symmetrical plans, without any ornament whatsoever. His countless drawings, often compared to Giorgio de Chirico’s metaphysical landscapes, illustrate his “obsession” with cities, and, through interplays of colour and endless duplication, reveal a certain image of the world, imbued with anxiety and nostalgia.
Trained at the Polytechnic School in Milan, where he started teaching in 1965, Aldo Rossi had an exemplary career as an architect, theoretician, artist and designer. Between 1961 and 1964, he worked as an editor at the architectural magazine Casabella-Continuità. He taught in several schools and universities in Europe and the United States. His very busy output earned him numerous top prizes, including, in 1990, the Pritzker. Ever since an initial “manifesto” building, the Logements sociaux du quartier Gallaratese in Milan (1970), Rossi’s activities continued to develop through extremely varied programmes. Designer of the Centre d’Art Contemporain de Vassivière in the Limoges region (1988-91) and the Bonnefanten Museum in Maastricht, in the Netherlands (1990), Aldo Rossi died accidentally in 1997. In 2010, the Venice Biennale organized an exhibition in his honour, marking the 30th anniversary of the creation of his Theatre of the World.