By the mid 1960s the modernist design ideology of the new, by which I mean the search for novel forms expressive of a future and better world, had begun to seem somewhat tired, at least to the late avant-garde architects who are the theme of this conference session. These architects were suspicious of the modernist commitment to the new because, for them, having witnessed the devastation of the Second World War and the subsequent rebuilding, justification of formal invention as a kind of message radiating backward from the future seemed no longer credible. Remaining committed to the architect’s desire to formulate projects, yet in search of alternative strategies upon which to base their projections, some of these architects looked back to the early twentieth century and to the work of artists who had been associated with the Surrealist movement. One architect who is known to have looked back to Surrealism in this way was Aldo Rossi, already well noted in this respect was Rossi’s interest in the painter Giorgio de Chirico. Rossi’s contemporary, the architectural historian Manfredo Tafuri, claimed that Rossi sourced the imagery for his projects from the mute, enigmatic sign language of de Chirico’s metaphysical paintings, where space appears frozen and abandoned by time. But there is another connection to surrealism via Raymond Roussel, which has received very little attention. It is this connection which I will explore in this paper, focusing on how Rossi made memory an active ingredient in the architectural imagination and hence the reference to surrealism a part within the formulation of architectural projects after modernism.
Included below as a supplementary file is a pdf of images that are essential for understanding the paper.