Pippo Ciorra: Being Bruno Zevi

a man smoking a pipe, standing against a wall of bookshevles
Bruno Zevi. image / provided
bright exhibition hall with an orange wall to the right
Being Bruno Zevi (2018), Fondazione MAXXI. M3 Studio / Fondazione MAXXI
Bruno Zevi. image / provided Being Bruno Zevi (2018), Fondazione MAXXI. M3 Studio / Fondazione MAXXI

Pippo Ciorra is an architect, critic, and professor, and was a member of the editorial board of Casabella from 1996 to 2012. He collaborates with journals, reviews, and national press, and is the author of many essays and publications. In 2011, Ciorra published an overview of the conditions of architecture in Italy, Senza architettura, le ragioni per una crisi (Laterza). The author of numerous books, he published monographic studies on Ludovico Quaroni and Peter Eisenman, and books on museums, cities, photography, and contemporary Italian architecture. He teaches design and theory at Scuole di Ateneo Architettura e Design–University of Camerino, and is the director of the international Ph.D. program Villard d'Honnecourt (IUAV). He is a member of International Committee of Architectural Critics (CICA) and advisor for the Mies van der Rohe Prize and the Gold Medal of the Italian architecture. Ciorra has chaired or participated in national and international prizes and competition juries. In 2016 he was part of the jury for the Venice Biennale of Architecture. He has curated and designed exhibitions in Italy and abroad, and, since 2009, he is the senior curator of MAXXI Architettura in Rome. Among his major exhibitions are Re-cycle; Energy, Food; The Japanese House; and Piccole Utopie, a traveling show realized in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2018 he cocurated Bruno Zevi. History and Counter-History of Italian Architecturem, and cofounded the interdisciplinary research program Housing the Human, based in Berlin. He curates the Italian edition of the Young Architects Program, the MoMA PS1 international program for young architects.


Bruno Zevi is one of the key figures both to investigate some of the essential features of architecture in some critical decades of the second half of last century and to track back the reasons and clues for a full understanding of the contemporary conditions of our discipline. The exhibition J. L. Cohen and Pippo Ciorra recently curated in Rome had both of these tasks. They looked into Zevi's agency as a historian/critic to disclose a wide set of figures who can complete a picture of postwar Italian architecture which was, so far, heavily (and incompletely) tailored by a retroactive ideological frame designed (mainly) by Manfredo Tafuri. They also shadowed Zevi's restless life and work to trace the roots of the complicated relations between design, history, geopolitics, communication, art, and even religion that weigh on the present fragile identity of architecture. The lecture will mainly focus on this second aspect, trying to highlight the aspects of Zevi's biography that most help us to understand the present intricacies of architecture culture. Next, the lecture will follow Zevi's traces as a smooth operator in the world of historiography that he transformed into a battlefield for his idea of modernity. Then it will look into the birth of a new idea of the architecture critic, as an active agent in the architecture confrontation. It will discuss Zevi's contribution as a political "agent" (nearly literally), counting on architecture as a device to propagate democracy. The lecture will show how Zevi has an influence on basically every type of architecture communication before the digital, including publishing, lobbying, editing, exhibiting, and broadcasting on mass media — all topics that are very much under discussion today. Finally, the lecture will emphasize his legacy as a typical European public intellectual of the 20th century, tirelessly devoted to taking sides and searching for confrontation, cultural battles, and dialectical oppositions.

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