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La Ticosa Department Store

Part 2 Project 1999
Ingrid Schröder
University of Cambridge, UK
A collective site strategy for a derelict site in Como, Italy, identified an existing factory as a useful framework for civic and commercial activities (public library, immigration reception and education, a department store) which would mediate the progression across the block from mountain to street. I was concerned with the department store and therefore with the exchange or conflict between public, civic values and those of the marketing of domestic intimacy and the urban role of the market place was manipulated to expose the tension between transient objects and their setting, and between ‘lifestyle’ and factory-labour. Within the structural grid of the long arm of the building are revealed the rooms of a ‘house’ which are punctured by a ‘shelf’ of objects (pots, picture frames, domestic equipment, etc.). The shelf in turn works as a building within a building, structurally hovering within the concrete frame. The rhythm is fractured from the entry corner along the curved wall, opening to the garden behind. Accreted to this fracture are a series of public spaces, workshops and a fashion-house preserving the ancient Comasco textile skills.
Ingrid Schröder

Schröder’s colonisation of a disused ‘20’s silk-factory with a department store made contributions in three areas:
to the nature of department store
to a new way of thinking rhythmic spatial articulation
to transforming the interior of the urban block

The department store as capitalist trough for the fulfilment of private desires was made to acknowledge the deeper strata of civic decorum. Iconographically the department store is an engorged house, which was dilated in scale. Rooms the size of buildings measure the site’s progression from civic cemetery to high street.

The standard coupling of system and fantasy in the department store is attuned to the paradox of the modernist column-grid, where ‘tectonic’ order creates ontological disorientation. Often the banality of commercial or industrial generalisation, the column-grid also claims to mediate earth and light/geometry. From within rhythmic spatiality’s estrangement, Schröder finds a hierarchy from domestic objects to urban garden topography by subtly and aggressively marking the distinction between repetition and typicality.

Collaborative research into the block metabolism of Como disclosed the importance to civic life of the ‘messy’ structure of the block interior. This richly variegated, ‘unofficial’ milieu vividly demonstrates the degree to which urban order is a permanent receptacle of metamorphosis orientated to the mediation of conflict.

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