‘Imagination and fantasy can only blossom from the knowledge of the real,’ said the architect Aldo Rossi. The epigram appears in the Blue Notebooks, a personal and professional journal Rossi started in the late 1960s. It was a discipline he maintained over three decades, filling 47 volumes, which continue to offer an insight into his unique take on the poetry and practicalities of architecture and a wider creative life.
Born in 1931, he died just before the turn of the century. In that time, he established a reputation as one of the 20th century’s leading architectural voices, and was the first Italian to win the Pritzker Prize, in 1990.
Rossi cut a distinctive figure with his expansive creativity, passion for any kind of talent and virtuosity, and solid belief in the vital role of the architect within society. He had an appreciation for film, theatre and books, which informed his take on architecture and the city as an organic environment. ‘One cannot make architecture without studying the condition of life in the city,’ he stated.
He is now the subject of an extensive retrospective exhibition at the MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome, while his iconic ‘Piroscafo’ bookcase is being reissued in a new edition by Molteni & C, one of his longstanding collaborators.
In 2001, the museum acquired 2,000 graphics and drawings, 1,895 photographs, 11 models and 30 files of documents from his archive for its permanent collection, which now form the backbone of the retrospective. ‘We are proud that such an extensive and comprehensive exhibition is presented in Rome’, says the museum’s president Giovanna Melandri.
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