Alpinerer Architekturen

After the total chaos left behind by the Second World War, the reorganisation of Europe initiated the development of a free, fair and standardised structure within a highly heterogeneous continent. Whilst history was rather against this notion, there was an opportunity to seize the chance to create something collective – ideally a place in which human society and natural conditions are so perfect that there is complete contentment: the definition of a EUtopia.

However, despite its standardisation, Europe is yet to find a conclusive visual and architectural language for the new. Analogously to America, Europe also finds itself with an uncomfortable perception of the modern city, evoking nostalgia for the established and the old. But besides the sedated cores of the UNESCO-protected “art-cities”, and the static twelve-star flag of the European Union, is hiding an ever-increasing number of sub-constellations: EU-15, EU-27, Eurozone, European Broadcasting Union, UEFA, EURATOM, Benelux, European Space Agency, Schengen, etc. – evidence of the development of a sectoral Europe, which only occasionally follows the geographical or topographical borders of its regions or nation-states. By that, Europe functions like the Japanese Transformers – entities that, with a few handles, can convert themselves into common or innocuous forms, including airplanes or battle stations.

This sectoral development also evoked undifferentiated specifications in architecture and urban planning. Unfortunately, well-interpreted but specific phenomena – e.g., those of Philipp Oswalt’s Shrinking Cities – are hastily copy-pasted on the appellative European City or latently applied as collective diagnosis to the entire Eurozone – a tendency to generalise certain observations on the city, or conjugate them on other unquestioned imported neologisms. In parallel, cities are increasingly modernised beyond professional control, and there is a consequent risk that the architect’s stuttering transforms into a permanent muteness to influence a territory the architect ceases to be able to describe. By now, we know well that the coalescence to a pan-European economical entity has inevitable consequences that are not limited to international boundaries. The new cities are the Ruhr, the Iberian Coast, the Dutch Randstad, the Milan-Turin-Genoa industrial triangle. Correspondingly, the new economic conurbations are the Golden Banana and the Sun Belt, but also the Alps.

The aim of “Alpinerer Architekturen” is to better comprehend the latter in the form of a case study that not only examines the Alps themselves, but also the adjective or certificate alpine. Even if the latter mostly refers to a socio-cultural entity, it is much more heterogeneous when used to describe an economic and political territory. Closely associated with the congruent use of “alpine” are its tourism and architecture. Nevertheless, the formal differentiation and diversity of vernacular architecture that can be found all over the entire Alpine area raises the question as to which parameters are used to determine, and eventually generalise, these definitions beyond their etymological meaning. An eventual paradigm that will be examined by retracing the evolution of (“alpine”) architecture over the last half century in South Tyrol, reaching a dead-end after strong postmodern distortions and reinterpretations.

This German-speaking province in Northern Italy is determined by cities of great historic importance, a highly self-reflexive cultural environment, industrial boom–bust cycle and a “free” landscape with high touristic and ecological value. The latter is a key indicator for the country’s identity to such an extent that tourism is constitutively threatened by urbanisation. This antagonistically raises the question of how a region can be developed when actually nothing should change in it: everything should remain as it is, only the frequency and revenue increase.

Tags: