Tag Archives: Vincenzo Buongiorno

V. Buongiorno – Suburban Retail Spaces



Vincenzo Buongiorno

Suburban Retail Spaces
Formative and Transformative Process

SpringerBriefs in Geography


Foreword by Giuseppe Strappa

The book by Vincenzo Buongiorno concerns the formative processes, the contemporary structures and the future perspectives of the retail space, the space dedicated to commerce, sales and exchange. I believe this is an important topic to be investigated in contemporary times.
Relegated to the margins of the city and the attention of architects, retail structures are today one of the few forms of truly vital public space, inheriting, in some way, the characteristics of a tradition of specialized commercial routes typical of the European city, from nineteenth-century shopping streets, to Parisian passage,
to large department stores formed as real urban knots at the end of the nineteenth century.
With many problems and differences: these structures, widespread in Europe in the second post-war period, especially through the North American version of the big shopping centers, are also, in reality, a place of great contradictions, being public spaces privately owned for sale and profit.
They also subtract vitality to the traditional commercial spaces made up of stores and workshops. Contrary to traditional exchange spaces, strongly rooted in the urban fabric from which they arise, contemporary retail spaces originate at the edge of the city constituting external polarities, often of a territorial nature. They act as distribution tools at the end of production/distribution chains of global dimensions of which they express characters and values: economic pragmatism, the assemblage character, a particular disposition to fast change. For this reason, they belong more to international trade networks than to local urban form. An antinomy
that can constitute, from my point of view, as a designer, a fertile predisposition to experimentation, a resource.
Current studies on this topic are mostly concentrated on the functional and quantitative aspect of the problem, within a handbook production that tends to neglect the core of the problem, essentially urban. On the other hand, the more properly architectural studies (such as the excellent The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping, the result of a research directed by Rem Koolhaas) are based on critical-perceptive tools that can hardly propose general design methods.
The work by Buongiorno acknowledges this condition of the state-of-the-art by proposing a point of view, in my opinion, completely innovative. Through a work that constitutes, at the same time, a reading and a project, Buongiorno proposes to read the elements that form the structure of retail spaces not as buildings, but as a
unit of an urban aggregate forming fabrics.
The way of reading things, I am convinced, is also a way of designing: the author reads the spaces for trade and exchange as fabrics because he proposes that, as such, they can turn into real parts of the city, bind themselves organically to the territory.
It is, therefore, a critical reading that, as such, cannot be neutral but contains a choice, is oriented to the design of the new as a term of a process (think about the crisis of these structures due to e commerce) and start of a new phase.


 RETAIL SPACE AND FORM OF THE CITIES                                 

(U+D 11/12 EDITORIAL)       https://www.urbanform.it/

Giuseppe Strappa

This issue of U + D marks a transformation in the life of our journal which, in some issues, will be organized around a single theme.  Publishing monographic numbers is a problem that has been discussed for some time by the editorial board, not hiding the difficulties of the operation, but also considering that, as in any organic structure, even an “editorial body” must be continuously transformed, adapting to new conditions.

Taking into account the cultural context in which the editorial work takes place, which is that of a permanent condition of crisis, a monographic issue cannot simply be the assembly of a set of related subjects. In our opinion, it must be an “organic” aggregation, in fact, of collaborating and complementary texts, accepting contradictions and discontinuities, of course, but also establishing a clear interpretative line with respect to which the editor and editorial board indicate some basic choices and over which they have the responsibility.

This issue therefore deals with a single theme, and not an insignificant one, if it is true that the “retail environment” is one of the physical and ideal centers around which the transformation of the contemporary metropolis revolves. A theme, however, on which the architects have practiced sufficiently in terms of contemporary aesthetics but which, strangely, remains little investigated in its structural terms

We chose this theme because it brings us down to earth.

In the metropolis of the confusion of languages which, in every continent, expands and explodes into fragments, the immaterial seems to take over from reality and the virtual from the materiality of urban landscapes.

The very notion of the city as space inhabited (from the Latin habitarehabere, to possess) where the citizen, in the etymological sense of the term, “owns” the places and shares them in civil life, seems now lost. Network landscapes seem to detach themselves from real forms, from physical places: the mental image of a commercial distribution chain, of the links that bind the places of sale, now appears to be a conventional representation like icons on a computer screen.

The prophecy of Bill Gates seems to have come true. He who had promised the advent of a new man, free from all affiliation, telematic, who can be “here and there and in every possible place”.

For this reason, the study of the retail space has, today, a founding value: the concreteness (economic, physical, symbolic) of the space for the exchange, distribution, sale, shopping, commerce, with its multiplicity and, together, with its non-eliminable link with the life of men, it shows us how globalization is something very different from the dispersion of things in their representation. Living in an apartment building in Shanghai or in an attic in London is not yet, all things considered, the same thing. Especially because the streets and the spaces around them, the places where the exchange is concentrated, offer concretely different forms and conditions.

Certainly, one should not give in to the consolidated rhetoric of the identity of places: the problems of interpreting, as architects, this theme presents entirely new characters linked to the global circulation of products, to the internationalization of distribution networks, to the domination of the financial aspect, even in the trading problems, on the industrial one.

To realise this, just think of how, only half a century ago, the architects tried to tame the new theme of large retailers by linking it to the consolidated character of the cities. But also to how the theme of the retail space, with its application to pragmatism, had, even then, constituted a signal of reference to reality.

The Rinascente example in Piazza Fiume applies to everyone. Although fully involved in the critical atmosphere of the international modernism of those years, the Roman building was able to avoid, however, the literary suggestions that had led the Gardella of the house in the Zattere quarter to disguise a simple apartment house in a Venetian palace and the BBPR studio to evoke medieval shapes in the Torre Velasca skyscraper. Propitiated by the reality of the theme, the solution adopted by the Milanese Albini and Helg, using steel and prefabrication, seems, on the contrary, to realistically decline the plasticity of Roman construction in the internationalist tradition of transparent and light structures.

Light years seem to have passed since then. The large-scale retail trade now occupies the interstitial spaces of the metropolitan fringe belts, where the hypermarkets road networks, located by the laws of the market, end up between wrecks of farmland. With some specialized knots too, such as fashion outlets, captivating consumer villages exhibiting apparently cordial frontages towards the interior space.

These structures, which offer the architect the undoubted charm of instability, have contributed to the flourishing of a real literary genre crowded with confused neologisms (hybridizations, transhumances, mestizos). Also creating a form of legitimacy to the social and political contradictions that the laceration of the territory entails. Just think of the infinite  small structures forced to close by the new forms of distribution, the emptying of the relationship between base and special fabric, the spread of online sales which, in turn, are rapidly making obsolete the new commercial centers too.

As you can see, the theme is highly articulated, multifaceted, and does not allow rapid synthesis. It is clear that this journal issue, which proposes some urgent problems for discussion, does not offer answers (nor could it) to the questions that the topic raises. But I believe it provides an idea of the current complexity and size of the problem, together with the proposal not to take for granted, organizing an aesthetic consensus around them, the contradictory conditions of the environment in which the exchange activities take place today.




prof. Giuseppe Strappa
collab. arch. Annarita Donatella Amato
arch. Vincenzo Buongiorno
arch. Marta Crognale
arch. Cristian Sammarco






locandina SCHEDULE PDF


Université Laval du Québec

EXPOSITION         Lecture morphologique des espaces
d’échange et commerce dans la Ville  de Québec

lundi 16 avril 2018,13h30, salle 1224












La transformation radicale des espaces dédiés au commerce est l’un des phénomènes qui a le plus contribué à la condition de la métropole contemporaine. C’est un phénomène tout à fait nouveau qui s’est développé à partir du deuxième après-guerre dans les grandes villes nord-américaines et qui a progressivement investi toutes les grandes villes, constituant l’un des aspects les plus évidents de la globalisation. Leur concentration extrême a généré de nouveaux types de tissus spécialisés non liés au bâti de base, isolés par des grands parkings, caractérisés par la relation physique toujours plus faible entre le vendeur et l’acheteur. Dans ces tissus l’espace est reconnu comme isotrope, non orienté, où l’acheteur se déplace sans but et où prennent de l’importance les espaces résiduels. De l’autre côté, avec la réduction des échanges commerciaux due à la concentration dans les structures spécialisées, les tissus traditionnels perdent l’une de leurs composantes les plus importantes. À l’échelle urbaine le grand shopping district, situé dans des zones marginales, est considéré comme un lieu en constante transformation. Il accueille une partie importante de la vie de la ville, mais il ne génère pas d’identité, ni d’appartenance, ni d’espaces communs. A l’échelle du bâti, les structures de vente sont composées d’ensembles d’éléments en série distribués par un parcours interne ou externe, polarisé par des “attracteurs”, relativement homogènes et indifférents au type de produit……