Autonomy by Drawing: Gianugo Polesello on Route ’66


  • Giovanni Corbellini University of Trieste, Architecture



This article questions the revival of ‘La Tendenza’ in the recent architectural debate, taking the work of Gianugo Polesello as a privileged vantage point. The Italian architect – along with Aldo Rossi, Giorgio Grassi, Guido Canella and other protagonists of that approach – taught in the Venetian PhD programme attended by the author, who recalls here his first-hand experience.

The economic, ecological, and social crisis we are dealing with has generated, in academic discussions, a widespread re-emergence of political engagement, felt as a necessary alternative to the neo-liberal pensée unique that has dominated recent decades. Various important theoretical contributions from mid-1960s, such as the ambiguous mixture of populism and formal research, of radicalism and reactions against modernism, are therefore back in the architectural debate. Among the several approaches produced by that agitated moment, the Italian movement ‘La Tendenza’ contributed to redefine the disciplinary field in terms of language and autonomy, shifting its focus from design to composition and from the transformative attitude of the zeitgeist to a continuity with existing typo-morphological contexts.

Gianugo Polesello, a partner in some early projects of Aldo Rossi – main protagonist of that movement – and a member, with Rossi and other young architects, of the journal Casabella’s ‘think tank’, shared that theoretical operation, conducted, however, through a more explicit and precise medium: architectural design or, more precisely, architectural drawing applied to design. His approach provides an interesting vantage, able to shed some light on a period and a generation that, at a closer look, appear less coherent than their latest reconstructions.

Author Biography

Giovanni Corbellini, University of Trieste, Architecture

Giovanni Corbellini, architect with a PhD in architectural design, and a critic of contemporary architecture, has taught in Venice, Ferrara and Milan. He is currently assistant professor at the University of Trieste. The author of many essays, his latest books are: Ex libris: 16 parole chiave dell’architettura contemporanea (22 publishing, 2007, republished by LetteraVentidue, 2015), Bioreboot: The architecture of R&Sie(n)(Princeton Architectural Press, 2009), Dr. Corbellini’s Pills (LetteraVentidue, 2010, translated into French, 2012, and English, 2016), Housing is Back in Town (LetteraVentidue, 2012), Parametrico nostrano (with Cecilia Morassi, LetteraVentidue, 2013), Go Re-cycle! (e-book edited with Eva De Sabbata, LetteraVentidue, 2014), Lo spazio dicibile. Architettura e narrativa (LetteraVentidue, 2016; English edition, forthcoming).


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