Spoleto (Italy) 2-6 June 1976
Participation and the meaning of the past
Ten years after the Urbino meeting, De Carlo organized the second Team 10 meeting in Italy, held in Spoleto. In this period De Carlo had completed two works, both among his major and best-known projects: the Villaggio Matteotti at Terni and the new premises of the Faculty of Education in Urbino. And it was perhaps to foster discussion by making a field trip to these two projects that De Carlo at first sought to organize the meeting as two days at Terni and two at Urbino (with a day in between for the journey, which might have been used to take in some buildings by Francesco di Giorgio). However, in the end he opted for a single location and chose Spoleto, no doubt to simplify the organization but above all, perhaps, to make it easier for Bakema to attend. Due to continued heart problems, Bakema was under close medical control at that time and had actually stipulated that he could only attend the meeting if there was a coronary thrombosis lab in the vicinity. His presence mattered deeply to De Carlo, who wrote: ‘I cannot imagine . . . a Team X meeting without you,’ and went so far as to suggest postponing the meeting until the autumn. The postponement proved unnecessary because the choice of Spoleto with its facilities obviated the problem.
To judge by the correspondence preserved in the De Carlo archives, the Spoleto meeting had an entirely different character than the one in Urbino, which was the cause of endless discord. The people contacted by De Carlo first numbered sixteen, but defections reduced the number that actually took part to a smaller group, without any architec-tural historians or critics among them. An attractive photo of one of the meetings on this occasion, frequently republished, shows about ten people sitting round a table, among whom we can recognize Aldo van Eyck, Peter and Alison Smithson, Pancho Guedes, Brian Richards, José Coderch, Jaap Bakema and obviously Giancarlo De Carlo.
Apart from these, few others seem to have been present in those days, which thus marked a return to the original definition of Team 10’s meetings as working parties, impassioned debates but without any public hubbub. An almost private event, consistent with the very informal founding spirit of the group. That this was also felt by the other members at the time can be understood from a passage of a short message De Carlo sent Reima Pietilä (one of those unable to attend) immediately after the end of the proceedings. He wrote: ‘No final documents as always — upon the ancient tradition of Team X — but a real enrichment through good, patient and generous arguing.’ And he wrote to the Smithsons in the same spirit: ‘Even though smaller and smaller Team X seems to work as a good opportunity to see good friends — good architects with whom [it] is nourishing to discuss.
We can form a precise idea of what a working meeting in Team 10’s original spirit was like from a typescript, a sheaf of eighty closely written pages, preserved in the De Carlo archive. It is the transcript of a recording of some of the discussions. Unfortunately the version we have is only an early draft, sometimes in rather shaky English, with some preliminary revisions and supplemented by hand-written passages. It also contains numerous gaps, some of them extensive, that often make it impossible to follow with any degree of precision the arguments developed in the papers presented, so that the thread of the discussion is sometimes lost. Perhaps the limitation of the recording to a couple of discussions in the first few days shows that, for some reason, at an early stage it was decided not to continue with the recording, which was originally meant to provide a basis for a publication.
Moreover, it is no accident that straight after the introductory words (‘about the meaning of the past’, the opening topic proposed by De Carlo in the margin of an article by the Smithsons), the typescript contains a blank space that reveals an interruption of the discussion and the introduction, no doubt very lively, of a very different topic. When the transcript continues, in fact, we read the first words attributed to Van Eyck: ‘I don’t know whether the tape recorder assumes that we are something so important, to say that it’s going to [be] publish[ed] later, that’s the point. I do not agree with the form in which [lacuna] discussion is coming to the world. . .’. This assertion — probably a reaction to the pending publication of the Royaumont tapes in a forthcoming issue of Architectural Design and edited by Alison Smithson — sparked off warm debate, which lasts for more than six pages of the typescript and culminates in an open clash. Despite this, the recording continued, but its use with a view to publication had by this point been severely jeopardized and the uncertain destiny of the transcript was perhaps already decided. At any rate, or actually by virtue of this very fact, the typescript with its gaps and its deficiencies still remains a very precious record of the life of Team 10.
What this text reveals is the climate of the discussions, besides being a highly effective record of the very informal conduct of the proceedings: no one chaired the meetings; there was no regular order in the sequence of the speakers, no one sug-gested using texts previously drafted, and everyone spoke off the cuff. So the discussions were very free and spontaneous, ranging widely, covering a series of topics that emerged from the course of the debate itself. The discussion was sparked by a field trip to the housing estate designed by De Carlo at Terni, which had clearly taken place earlier because at several points reference is made to it. The Villaggio Matteotti provided the opportunity to keep the general subject of participation constantly in the air: De Carlo dwelt on particular phases of his meetings with the future inhabitants of the housing and described how he developed a dialogue with them. The development of this interaction with the architect was the subject of careful analysis by all the members.
The discussion started from very concrete issues such as the number of bathrooms per home-unit, the meaning and use of road space, the choice of wall and floor tiles, the position of the windows, the question of furniture, the layout of the gardens. After starting with these questions, the discussion explored the issues of the constraints imposed by the process of construction, the aggressiveness of the real-estate market, the inertia of traditions, the restrictions imposed by financial factors, the impact of consumerism, the users’ need for evocative symbols and their aspiration to signs of a different status. Discussion continually circled round the question of the role the architect has to be able to play as he juggles with all these variables. As the debate unfolded along these lines, the exchanges between De Carlo, Van Eyck, Bakema, the Smithsons, Guedes and José Coderch (these are the contributions recorded by the typescript) were often tough, made up of long statements that alternate with curt retorts, of good-humoured discussion involving different people and abrasive duels.
Mid-way down page 83, after a comment by Peter Smithson, the typescript ends. More correctly, it just breaks off, without any hint at a conclusion. Perhaps, for a number of reasons, it is fitting that it should be like this. As we have seen, De Carlo later told Pietilä that no final document had been prepared, ‘as always — upon the ancient tradition of Team X’. For this reason, though very likely unintentional, the rather brusque ending of the typescript is, all things considered, all the more honest.
Team 10 members present
organised by De Carlo
Giancarlo De Carlo
José Antonio Coderch
Aldo van Eyck