Ciro Pirondi came to Ferrara, in Italy, to present an exhibition dedicated to Niemeyer at Restauro 2013 and here it is, where we met.
I ask him to introduce himself. He looks at me and smiles gently – ‘I am an architect’ – he says humbly – ‘and I am emotional to be here, as this is where my father comes from… from Emilia…’
He is a kind man, very gentle. I explain him about the interviewing process, he smiles curious and when I ask him, he just plays with the bricks.
I ask him about Niemeyer. He looks at his model for a while, and makes some adjustments.
‘To talk about Niemeyer, I need a tower with curves… lots of curves, as Niemeyer loved curves…something like this!’ he says showing me the model.
‘Niemeyer used to say that he loved curves a lot, because curves reflect Einstain’s universe, they reflect the loved woman, and they remind Rio de Janeiro’s mountains… And he really loved curves. ‘ And by keeping the model in his hands and looking at it, he goes on.
‘Curves are on the top of the red bricks – the curves talks about passion… although this is not a red curve, colour is transmitted…’.
Ciro Pirondi: Oscar Niemeyer’s Architecture in a LEGO model
I look at his model and focus my attention on the basement.
He smiles and thinks for a while. He’s relaxed, he enjoys the process, we go ahead together, like in a concert.
‘The base for Niemeyer always maintained a relationship with the surrounding. The base had an aesthetic and social function at the same time and it relates to the tower… Niemeyer always made sure that surrounding elements could always dialogue with the tower.’
I like the idea of elements’ dialogue, and invite him to tell me more and to show me them in the model.
‘The dialogue lies in the combination of horizontal and vertical forms… it’s like the vertical form represents the feeling of possession of the earth, while the horizontal forms suggest the idea of love, the idea of a caring act towards the earth rather than that of an act of possession. Niemeyer used in all his works both vertical and horizontal elements together.”
‘But these shapes and forms are detached, there are no touching points…’ I ask him looking at the model.
‘They are detached, but they can see each other, they can relate to each other. It also depends on the observer…”
I look at the black base and ask Architect Pirondi about it.
‘I believe that for Niemeyer the base always represents a relationship, a relationship with society. The main idea is that the base is something public: Niemeyer’s buildings’ basement are never private, they are always public spaces. In his work in Brasilia, the basement is always a collective and public space.’
I focus then on the brick which stands out and exceeds the basement.
‘This is the aesthetic idea that interprets figures as plastic figures with a curious element… it’s the invention of something that did not exist before. This recalls the vertical and horizontal shapes together and it represents Architecture itself. However, this is almost a playful element – a creation act for a playful dimension of space… So, what is this? It’s a provocation, a way to create ambivalence and curiosity…’
‘And what about this element on the top of the curve?’ I ask looking at the thin element emerging from the model and going upwards.
‘I think this represent the connection with the world, the spreading of ideas and socially relevant information. This aspect is very strong for him. Niemeyer during all his life edited a journal called Modulo to share his ideas, to write, to discuss with friends the important topics for society’.
I challenge him, and show him how such a structure is not stable.
‘It’s not stable this way’ he says ‘but if we add another elements somewhere else…’
‘So, is there a balance in Niemeyer’s view?’ I ask while he plays with the bricks making the model stable.
‘It exists. There is a balance.’ He says firmly. ‘Niemeyer’s work is basically a geometric work, extremely geometric. His work is apparently made of free layers, with free forms, but if you codify and analyse the forms, you’ll see that they are always made by constructive geometrical shapes. Think about the dome, which reminds of a round shape and it is an attempt to overcome technology. To make you a concrete example, a dome is mainly a playful internal space, but if you see a dome from the outside, it always looks the same. However, whether you enter into Niemeyer’s dome, you see a huge impressive transformation of all the internal space. It’s never the same. And if you look at it from the outside, it’s not the same…’.
Mr. Pirondi is getting into the flow, he is confident with the bricks, the subject and the whole experience. I explore more about his model and question the colourful base below the curves and arches.
‘Niemeyer’s buildings have shapes that seems to be in a crescendo, but then they dilute and form the idea of a sort of transparency, of a dilution. It’s the attempt of an extremely marxist man, a very materialistic individual who was also extremely transcendental… He built religious buildings, cathedrals, chapels and other very otherworldly buildings. The idea of the transcendental is pervasive in his work: the idea that the base is sound and forms go upwards and then they turn into something metaphorical, otherworldly and very spiritual is a typical aspect in Niemeyer’s works. An example of this, is Brasilia’s cathedral which has many pointed
Cathedral of Brasilia – O. Niemeyer
arches; you can access the cathedral through a tunnel which is absolutely black, dark and with no light. And such an entrance takes you to a totally enlightened and bright cathedral. The cathedral very powerful and I think that that is his most representative work, because the temple, since Agrippa’s Pantheon in Rome, Michelangelo, Brunelleschi’s Santa Maria del Fiore… they are all characterised by a dome that is the distinguishing and fundamental element of a temple.
And when I say that Niemeyer’s key masterpiece is the cathedral, I say it because there he took the most distinguishing element of a temple, the dome, and made it the cathedral itself. Brasilia’s cathedral is a dome. Nothing else but a dome. It’s like taking a single note and make a whole symphony out of it. This is simply brilliant!’.
The second part of the interview, explores Heritage. Given he specific context where we met, understanding Heritage through the eyes of an experienced architect as Ciro Pirondi, was a pleasure.