Science and Society meet in Architecture

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Flying cities, mozzerella ravioli, and The Beatles: the unedited meetings between astrophsyicians, artists, philosophers and chefs.

“The astro-physician and the artist play with the idea of building a flying city. The chef and the food science expert discuss how similar the kitchen is to a laboratory. The sociologist and the linguistic philosopher explore the cover of a Beatles album.

These are only three extracts from the vast and varied contents of the meetings held in Villa Caldogno by Observa and the Caldogno Town Council. Umberto Galimberti and Roberto Vacca, Giovanni Bignami and Tomas Saraceno, Carlo Cannella and Massimiliano Alajmo, Flavio Albanese and Edoardo Boncinelli were among the fascinating guests at the event which was very well attened by the public”.

This is how the event “Science in Society Meet in Arechitecture” was presented: four days of meetings, debate, exhibitions and cocktails bringing together science, art, philosophy, architecture, cooking and music from 12-15 April, 2007.

Observa’s president, Federico Neresini, comments: “It was a challenge, although not really a wild one, because we chose to deal with speakers whose great communication skills we were fully aware of. However, we had no idea what the public response was going to be and, it was amazing, both in quality and quantity, proved by the attentive silence during the debates and the amount of questions. We chose the dialogue between two experts rather than the lecture style and this really worked. The guest speakers really played the game well and acknowledged that the listeners want to listen to and take part in the meetings and dialogues. We saw that, science can definitely be discussed in public and that the people involved, even those with no scientific knowledge, really get into the event.

From an article by Gianmaria Pitton, for the Giornale di Vicenza, Saturday 21 April 2007

Why organize a festival dedicated to “Science and society in Architecture”?

A closer relationship between science and society is today considered to be a necessary requirement for economic development and also for social well-being. Complaints are heard from many areas about the lack of dialogue between research, the world of production, experts and citizens. It is for this reason that many local and European institutions have been promoting action in the areas of scientific communication and scientific culture in the last few years. Research and innovation are risking losing the possibility of making an impact and benefitting from enrichment by not having a solid relationship with the different areas of creativity and practical experience.

From this realization the European network ‘City of Science’ has been founded. This network is co-ordinated by the city of Barcelona and its main aim is to: develop public involvement in scientific issues which is not generic or abstract and is strongly rooted in and tied to the different local and territorial sentiments in Europe. Due to an academic spreading of scientific content which often risks being the same in all cities, it is necessary to be very careful of and sensitive to different cultural and productive requirements.

The need for this care and sensitivity is particularly felt in the Veneto region of North East Italy, where most research and innovation is carried out by a colourful patchwork of small and medium sized businesses and the models and ways of thinking are different from those in the North of Europe.

The idea of Observa Science in Society, the Italian member of the network is to stabilize public discussion of the issues of research and development using the familiar ground of architecture which, in Veneto, is characteristic of local identity and traditions. The Villas in the Vicentine area and the Venetian buildings which we are well known for are not only fascinating to observe, they are evidence of the coming together of science, technology, science and culture.

If we could break down these great architectural works of art we would find the unmistakeable evidence of techno-scientific knowledge and the values and ambitions which were around at the time of the building project. It is also through architecture that we regulate our daily dealings with space, light and time and the ever difficult meeting of knowledge and practical necessity. In this way we could discover that dialogue between scientific and humanistic language-this separation between two cultures which has become more than two and was commented on fifty years ago by Snow has not been invented from scratch but can be re-discovered and re-evaluated as part of tradition.

Scientists, technicians, artisans and artists have worked side by side ever since the birth of modern science: the anatomist Andrea Vesalio, professor at the university of Padua, entitled his book in 1543 “De Humani Corporis Fabrica” and had it magnificently illustratd by one of Tiziano’s students. It has been the tradition to re-assess keep up to date using the most recent developments and innovations,but the increased involvement of society in science cannot be forgotten.

There is no opposition or zero sum game between science and culture or between innovation and tradition but there is the possibility to recuperate stimulation and enrichment if only it knew how to value it correctly.

The “science and society meet in architecture” event is a good example of this: it shows an answer to the challenge of setting up solid dialogue between science and society, between innovation and territory using intelligence, passion, scientists’, artists’, and philosophers’ experience as a platform.

Speakers; experts in the fields of science, architecture, art and philosophy discussed in pairs and with the public key terms using uncensored terms and proposed captivating points of view. In every discussion the public participated enthusiastically and actively.

On the opening evening (Thursday 12th April) philosopher Umberto Galimberti with engineer and writer Roberto Vacca discussed “Tecnique”, following a welcome from the councilor for culture of Caldogno, Costantino Toniolo and from the president of Observa, Federico Neresini.

On Friday 13th April astro-phsyicist Giovanni Bignami (new President of the Italian Space Agency) and artist Tomas Saraceno (well known for his exhibition ‘aeree’ at the London Barbican Center) talked about the theme of th Immagation. To conclude the evening, scientific sociologist Massimiano Bucchi and Mario D’Angelo explored the relationship between “Science and Pop music” using video and a dj set. On Saturday 14th April “Science in the kitchen” was discussed by one of Italy’s top chefs Massimiliano Alajmo from the Ristorante Le Calandre and Carlo Cannella, food science expert and guest on the television programme Superquark presented by Piero Angela. The event finished on Sunday 15th April with a great series of discussions: a meeting between the editor of the design and architecture magazine Domus Flavio Albanese and the genetist Edoardo Boncinelli, showing of the video, “The Architetture of Science” ontroduced by Leopoldo Benacchio of the National Institute of Astrophysics and at the end, the prixe giving for the competition “My Ideal Laborotory”. The artists of this exhibition were the students of the primary and middle schools in Caldogno and they explored the different meanings of the idea of “The Project”. The students’ work was on display during the event in the Old Stables of the Villa Caldogno.

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Some pictures of the event

Umberto Galimberti

Giovanni Bignami

the public

Tomas Saraceno

Edoardo Boncinelli

Flavio Albanese

Carlo Cannella

Massimiliano Alajmo

Science and Society Meet in Architecture was supported by the Veneto Region, the Province of Vicenza, the Association of Young Architects of Vicenza Province, the Regional Institution of Venetian Villas, with the contribution of Intesa San Paolo Bank, Vicenza Chamber of Commerce, Jolly Hotel Tiepolo, Galla Bookshops, Tipografie Campisi, Corriere del Veneto newspaper.

Observa is a member of the European network of ‘city of sciences’ ESCITY supported by the European Commission and coordinated by the city of Barcellona, which includes also the cities of Vienna, Lisbon and Tromso.