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"Table Manners": The Medici Bank Museum, Florence

Part 2 Project 2010
Paul Pattinson
University of Edinburgh Edinburgh UK
Table Manners: The Medici Bank Museum configures a trio of interventions on the banks of the River Arno in the historical centre of Florence, with the notion of western banking presented to the world through the confluence of political exchange in Renaissance Florence. Within the historical scope of exchange, the practice of banking, particularly as a Medici discipline in the 14C, formed a disproportionate territorial and representational influence on the city. The Medici Bank and Medici Bridge, in the heartland of the Medici, are cast in relation to Vasari’s Corridoio and play out an urban discourse of historical exchange and power between the Palazzo Pitti and Palazzo Vecchio, within the civic stage of an urban water corridor, on the contemporary Bank of the river, punctuating the historical narrative and augmenting a contemporary notion of exchange. The emergence of the thesis through the deployment of the historical banker’s tavola (table) as a drawing instrument and allegorical representation of the city; speculatively configures a further appropriated intervention - The Medici Boathouse in an act of topical denouement - commercial bankruptcy and global finance.

The construction of architecture, is inextricably tied to market conditions; as a commodity with a particular set of values within an advanced capitalist system, it will always be subject to the capitalist tendency to produce a material surplus. Architecture’s material surplus is recognised more universally in the entropic erosion of structures regardless of programme and when no longer deemed to carry a useful contribution to the economic bubble and its corresponding locus in the global network of capital flows. Contrary to the quantified expense of energy deployed in the working maintenance of a commercial bank; this project anticipates the emergence of attaching new programmes of cultural value to objects of waste through the conduit of the anthropological state of rubbish. By inviting the possibility of contagion from the river bank location, the material life cycle of the tectonic elements may be re-cast in a future city.

Paul Pattinson

Plans, sections and elevations, are difficult things to get students to produce these days. The proliferation of 3d software makes it very easy to produce building models, some of which can be very seductive. Plans, sections and elevations merely become the consequences of these models and the parametric data that they spew from. The art of two-dimensional architectural abstraction is becoming less well practiced. This is not so in Paul’s processes. Rarely have I seen such consummate skill in the articulation of these two dimensional art forms. Never have I seen them so well practiced by a student. To develop the architectural language from a thorough knowledge of Eisenman (a visiting critic to the Programme) and Hejduk, perhaps necessitated such skill if it was to successfully re-appraise Eisenman’s structuralism and Hejduk’s post-structuralist wit in hermeneutics. What would Hejduk have done with the new technologies of laser cutting and 3d modelling software? Perhaps Paul’s project is, in this sense, exemplary? But this project is no mere out-of-date record of architectural linguistic pirouetting. It is a serious attempt at trying to articulate an appropriate architecture in one of the most sophisticated of architectural contexts in Florence: the immediate backdrop is Vasari’s corridor, the Ponte Vecchio and the Uffizi. Furthermore, given the specific Medici context (inventors of the double entry banking system) and the unavoidable punning of water table and banking table the sides of the Arno in this vicinity seem so naturally to offer, how could such an able student avoid the opportunity to frame the very question of how architecture is to represent itself in these times where the tavolo rotto (broken table/bankruptcy) of global economics has splintered the processes of cultural transaction and made the conditions for architecture to participate in the development of cultural currency more hazardous? To judge Paul’s project by prejudicial predisposition either for or against its clear architectural references would be potentially to miss the sophistication that operates at many levels, not least the humanist scale, proportioning and experiential delight of its horizontal and vertical layering through time.

Mr Dorian Wiszniewski
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