Horizontal Visions: An Architectural Interpretation of the Ground

By Cristiano Lippa and Fabiano Micocci.

Published by The International Journal of Architectonic, Spatial, and Environmental Design

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Contemporary human environment is characterized by a composite multi-layered structure and its original setting that has progressively been blurred and camouflaged. Each specific site cannot be deeply understood and described by means of traditional tools of urban design. Ignasi de Solà-Morales suggests the use of topography as a design tool: topography describes the complexity of reality in a phenomelogical and scientific way, providing an interpretation model during the design process. The recognition of ‘circumstances’, as the Portuguese architect Fernando Távora named the combination of all the factors affecting every man, can be investigated using this topographical practice at different scales.
The replacement of traditional settlements, grown over centuries, with an accelerated model of urbanity, highlights topographical conditions and renders them explicit. At a large scale, topographical analysis recognizes the specific condition of an architectural field intended as a unity of objects, the surrounding landscape and the forces in action in the space between. A “thick topography” is the unity of these events taking place in a space between the ground on which humans, actions and architecture lay on, and the horizon, which in an urban context is replaced by the skyline.
At a small scale analysis, the topographical practice affects designers in many ways. The ground becomes an element to model and an instrument to influence movements and users’ perceptions. The skyline at this scale is intended as the morphology of the building, expressing the characteristics of the ground-natural and human-as horizontal relations, in opposition to urban verticality. Hence topography can direct human environment towards a more natural use of the soil, resources and circumstances, transforming constraints into opportunities.

Keywords: Site, Topography, Circumstances, Ground, Skyline

The International Journal of Architectonic, Spatial, and Environmental Design, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp.183-190. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 358.654KB).

Dr Cristiano Lippa

PhD Candidate, Kengo Kuma Laboratory, Department of Architecture, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan

Cristiano Lippa is an architect researching on issues concerning the perception of architectural and urban space in relation with tectonic structures. He has graduated at the University of Roma Tre in 2004 with a thesis called “Archaeological Underground Museum in Piazza di Porta Maggiore in Rome”, winning project of the XV International Symposium of Urban Culture at the University of Camerino in Italy. He has worked in architectural competitions and projects, earning recognitions and prices. He has collaborated in several research programs at the Department of Architecture of University La Sapienza of Rome where he has graduated PhD in 2008 with a dissertation called “Oku and the Japanese Sense of Space”. From 2012 he is a Post-Doc Fellow in Kengo Kuma Laboratory of University of Tokyo.

Dr. Fabiano Micocci

Independent Practitioner, Urban Transcript, Athens, Athens, Greece

Dr. Fabiano Micocci is an architect working on public and residential spaces, and on the relationship between architecture and landscape. He is a founding member of NEAR architecture, a network of architects working on small and large scale design as well as theoretical research. He graduated from University Roma Tre in 2002 with the thesis “Study Center for the Regional Landscape Painting in the Lazio” that received the XV International Symposium of Urban Culture award at Camerino, Italy. His Ph.D. degree, obtained from the University of Florence (2010) with the thesis “Mediterranean Topographies: Michelucci, Tavora Pikionis and the idea of the Mediterranean 1945–1964”, was focused on architectural practice in the Mediterranean after WWII. He has participated in several international conferences and workshops (Eindhoven, Lisbon, Athens, Venice, Chania, Bergamo, Prato, Rome and Los Angeles) and has taken part in various international architectural competitions, receiving several prizes. His present research focuses on the Mediterranean cities, combining landscape and history, public spaces and geography. He currently works in Rome and Athens and he is fellow of Urban Transcript.