Paolo Portoghesi and the Field Theory

Contemporary to Perugini, Portoghesi has been working on an alternative model for organising space and therefore creating a different kind of architectural expression. Like Perugini, he had a deep interest in Baroque architecture having researched the Baroque architecture of Borromini.

In a time before real computing started to influence and inform the production of architecture both Perugini and Portoghesi played iwht ideas of a computational architecture. In this era of what Roberto Botazzi calls ‘Pretend Computing’ design decisions were not made following traditional compositional rules. They explored an alternative way of proto-parametric design.

Portoghesi explored this in his Field Theory in several projects developing an architecture where the composition leaves room for alternative modes of inhabitation and occupation. The architecture is created using soft tools allowing the form to emerge from a set of different parameters set out in the design process. The field allows for growth, it can reflect diverse changes in the process and almost acts as a framework to hold the ideas together.

‘A further element used as a dialogue tool is given by the conception of concentric circles, which among other things is a bit at the basis of my architectural theory of magnetic fields, according to which the architectural space can be compared to the latter. Therefore, I used these concentric circles to represent, in a certain sense, the multiplicity in unity. The concentric circles, which are then part of the cosmic conception of Islam given by the 7 skies that Mohammed crossed, are precisely at the base of the circle of the dome. As for the general distribution of the volumes, the curvature of these is due, on the one hand, to the magnetic field of the city and on the other hand to the magnetic field typical of Islam, that is, the reference to Mecca. The curvatures in this case are very dampened because the terrain was limited but the concept is the one mentioned above. Physics theorizes the effect from a distance. Similarly, architecture has its own nature that creates an effect a remote distance.’

Part from in interview with Paolo Portoghesi

Paolo Portoghesi: Casa Papanice, Rome 1966-1969


April 28, 2021