chapter  9
The art of reconciliation: Autobiography and objectivity in the work of Aldo Rossi
Pages 12

Architecture is the most abstract of all the visual arts. Despite its fairly obscure mimetic origins and perennial flirtation with classicism and figuration it remains an art that resists easy symbolization and straightforward representation. On the other hand, one of the oldest genres of architectural writing is biography: architecture has long been explained and classified on the basis of individual artists and architects. We are used to perceiving architecture as a product of the lives and works of individuals. But what about autobiography? How can the abstraction of architecture and the selfrepresentation of autobiography come together and what does it mean for architecture to be autobiographical? In this paper I am tackling these questions in relation to the work of the Italian architect Aldo Rossi. Rossi not only built and designed but also painted, drew, wrote and even shot a film, but his persona remains elusive.1 When he died in 1997 he left behind an abundance of archival material, not only many versions of his published and unpublished theoretical writings, journal articles, editorials, lecture and conference notes, but various personal notes and diaries. The excess in the archive together with Rossi’s solipsistic and aphorismic mode of writing that draws inspiration from myriad sources and brings together short pieces of writing without leading to a logical, coherent whole complicates any attempt to come up with a definitive portrayal of him. So, should we take the often stated claims about his ‘autobiographical architecture’ at face value, which is also associated with an attempt to develop objective architectural principles beyond individual architects’ ‘whim’? My aim is to inquire into such tensions between the subjective and the objective, between autobiography and architecture, and finally between the creation and the reception of architecture in order to demonstrate how these tensions might have been reconciled in Rossi’s work.