Research project, currently under development
See an abridged version of this research in "Circulen," Circo 186 (2013)
How can we regard architecture's entanglement with the material actuality of contemporary circulatory processes? This materiality is certainly obvious when considering the infrastructures that architects and engineers negotiate for the city. However, it is not so clear when it concerns the cultural and economic processes involved in the movement of images and capitals. Architecture, completely imbricated between all of them, enacts the apparent virtuality of these processes. In this research I follow these simultaneous forms of circulation in the analysis of Milan's subway and Milanese circulating imaginaries.
Consider the following image to begin: A policeman (or maybe a policewoman?), poses in a relaxed position. She is framed horizontally by a continuous banner announcing a subway station, Duomo, and the edge of a platform, positioned, respectively, at the top and the bottom of the photograph. Dressed in a light elegant white outfit, legs crossed and leaning on the stair rail, she is observed not only by the camera located on the opposite platform, but also, on the left-hand side of the image by a group of six people, seemingly a four-member family and an elderly couple turning their heads toward the figure in white. A colored tube rises from the wall turning upward, making a perfect quarter-circle arc to the right and then a full half-circle to the left to meet the policewoman's fist, before finally turning around the dark wall behind her back. There, before rising upstairs, the railing tube meets, in an optical coincidence, the tip of the gigantic arrow of an advertising board located on the wall that backdrops the scene several feet further into the background. On the white and well-illuminated board, the big abstract arrow frames the rather austere logo of the department store La Rinascente, pointing to the stair that rises to the exit. In fact, several feet above the scene depicted in the photograph, one would find not only the successful boutiques of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle and the popular Gothic cathedral that gives its name to the subway station, but also the original space in which La Rinascente had first opened in Milan in 1865 and the much larger location to which the thriving business had subsequently moved. Nothing stands out in this 1964 photograph of the recently inaugurated Milan subway, taken by Carlo Orsi—the policewoman, the railing and the advertisement orchestrate a perfect choreography—together they state: "Circulate!"
Metropolitana milanese, Carlo Orsi (1946).