Genius loci: architettura e luoghi ricerca

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Molti sono i luoghi che hanno segnato la geografia storica e la mitologia dello sviluppo delle scienze. Dalla casa di campagna in cui Newton – che vi si era ritirato per sfuggire alla peste – rivoluzionò nel 1665 le idee su ottica e gravità, all’Ufficio dei Brevetti in cui Einstein lavorava quando concepì la relatività ristretta; dalla fattoria in cui Pasteur sperimentò sotto gli occhi dei contadini il suo vaccino contro il carbonchio, al minuscolo ufficio a Cambridge in cui Watson e Crick scoprirono la struttura del Dna.
Esistono luoghi che favoriscono il processo di ricerca? E quali risposte può dare l’architettura alle esigenze e alle trasformazioni della scienza contemporanea?

MB Partirei dalla nascita del laboratorio. Qui, nel corso del XIX secolo, la pratica scientifica stabilisce la propria sede operativa naturale – penso al Cavendish Laboratory, fondato a Cambridge nel 1871 e affidato alla direzione del fisico James Clerk Maxwell, al Museum of Comparative Zoology di Harvard, all’Institut Pasteur di Parigi.

FA Sono edifici che a mio avviso nascono con una duplice funzione. Da un lato di rappresentanza verso l’esterno: occorre che chi li vede da fuori intuisca che lì dentro si compie un’attività specialistica e provvista di un suo rilievo anche istituzionale. Dall’altro, verso l’interno, questi spazi definiscono il perimetro di una sorta di ‘pensiero isolato’, con ‘celle’ e ‘caselle’ che hanno una funzione protettiva per gli studiosi che vi lavorano dentro.

MB In questa fase fondativa, almeno per alcune aree di ricerca, il modello degli spazi interni sembra talvolta anche quello dell’atelier, del laboratorio artigianale, con la serie di banchi di lavoro in cui assistenti e ricercatori lavorano sotto l’occhio vigile del direttore o del responsabile dell’esperimento.
FA Certo, in discipline come la fisica o la chimica vi è probabilmente tuttora l’esigenza di luoghi asettici, in cui viga l’ordine assoluto. In altre aree di ricerca – penso alle discipline che dovettero iniziare a utilizzare gli animali a fini sperimentali – emerge però storicamente anche un’altra esigenza di ‘camouflage’, di rendere non ‘leggibili’ e non visibili all’esterno certi spazi per evitare problemi con l’opinione pubblica.

MB Mi viene in mente una frase di uno dei padri della moderna fisiologia sperimentale, Claude Bernard, il maestro di Pasteur: “Se dovessi fare una similitudine che esprimesse il mio sentire sulle scienze della vita, direi che si tratta di un magnifico salone, risplendente di luce, a cui non si può accedere che passando da una lunga cucina piena di odori”.

FA E’ una concezione che rimanda anche a una pratica tradizionale di suddivisione settoriale dei saperi: gli edifici coincidono con i diversi istituti o dipartimenti che corrispondono alle diverse discipline.
MB Come cambia questa esigenza venendo più vicini ai giorni nostri? Oggi si parla di scienza post-accademica o scienza 2.0 per riferirsi a un mutamento significativo nell’organizzazione della ricerca. Un rapporto più stretto con la pratica, anche industriale, l’ascesa di settori all’intersezione tra discipline diverse, addirittura la ‘smaterializzazione’ e delocalizzazione di alcuni processi grazie alle possibilità offerte dalle nuove tecnologie della comunicazione. L’architettura è in grado di rispondere a queste trasformazioni?

FA Indubbiamente questo richiede un ripensamento piuttosto radicale nella concezione degli spazi. Anziché spazi che proteggano la concentrazione e l’isolamento, si deve pensare a luoghi in cui confluiscano le competenze, a spazi contermini e per certi versi ‘antiaccademici’.
Alcune precoci intuizioni di questa trasformazione le troviamo già in progetti come quello di Mies van der Rohe per l’Illinois Institute of Technologyche è del 1939. In fondo la stessa idea di Campus è in parte già legata a queste dimensioni. Un esempio più recente è il Salk Institutedi La Jolla, realizzato nel 1983 da Louis Kahn, con gli studi dei ricercatori che si affacciano su spazi comuni per i laboratori al centro. Anche il progetto di Kazuyo Sejima per il Politecnico di Losanna, con una serie di ‘buchi’ nella copertura che richiamano il formaggio svizzero, si propone come luogo che origina l’incontro.

MB Un progetto architettonico per il mondo della ricerca che recentemente è stato al centro di molte polemiche è quello di Frank Gehry per lo Stata Center del MIT.

FA Non ho visitato l’edificio di Gehry e pertanto non posso dare giudizi sulle polemiche sollevate. Mi pare utile però fare un ragionamento: quando la funzione viene messa in crisi dal puro gesto autoreferenziale le critiche acquisiscono solidità e significato. Ma non bisogna dimenticare che lo sperimentare accende sempre un debito con la funzione, per cui è evidente che per fare sperimentazione, in scienza come in architettura, occorre concedere qualche margine di errore, facendosi carico dei ragionevoli rischi.

Flavio Albanese è direttore della rivista Domus.

Massimiano Bucchi è professore di Scienza, Tecnologia e Società all’Università di Trento

Articolo pubblicato il 15 aprile 2009 sull’inserto TuttoScienze de La Stampa, in occasione dell’inaugurazione della terza edizione della rassegna Scienza e Società si incontrano nell’architettura.

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