LIBRERIA CONTINUA is the hypothesis for an inter-scalar relationship between interior architecture and the city. Even if the bookcase is considered as an element naturally related to the interior space, in fact, thanks to its adaptability and usage, it becomes an interactive element able to gather the users in a collective experience: the act of reading. Its collective nature enables us to imagine the bookcase as a continuous and alive ‘creature’, which naturally extends from the interior spaces of our houses and libraries to the outside public space of the city. Changing its context as a ‘Ready Made’, LIBRERIA CONTINUA is the proposal for an infinite oversized bookcase, which interacts with the public spaces of the city, adapting to the urban context and opening up new collective possibilities for the citizens.
What prompted the project?
The vision of LIBRERIA CONTINUA came out from a real bookcase we actually designed for a client’s house in Milan about a year ago. In particular, this bookcase came from the need of generating a continuous element able to connect some previously divided areas within a house. It was indeed conceived as a dynamic element able to adapt to the interior space, joining two different domestic zones: the living room and the kitchen. A year after its realisation, we started fantasizing about the potential of this kind of continuous and interactive bookcase, considering its adaptability and continuity as peculiar values. What would happen if our bookcase came to life as a living organism extending itself from the interior spaces of our houses and libraries to the outside public space of the city?
What questions does the project raise and which does it answer?
First of all, our project aims to open up a reflection on the inter-scalar relationship between interior architecture and the city, in this case calling into question the typology and nature of the bookcase. The general architectural belief tents to make a clear distinction between projects related to a domestic-individual space and projects related to the collective space of the city. On the contrary, we believe that this rational distinction should be overcome. LIBRERIA CONTINUA indicates that it could be possible to re-interpret and re-scale elements that are normally considered as related to an interior space, re-adapting them to the public spaces of a city and exploiting their hidden collective value. This re-interpretation can work, on the other hand, even with the integration of urban-architectural elements within an interior space.
What do you intend when referring to the libreria as a ready made?
In 1938 Andrè Breton, analysing Duchamp’s work of art, defined the ready-made as “an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.” In the same way, changing the context to an ordinary object, it can be seen from another perspective. By doing so, the ‘libreria’, re-interpreted and re-contextualized into the city, can be elevated to a new value by revealing its collective nature.
What informed the reference in the naming of the project to 'Monumento Continuo'?
Certainly the Manifesto of Superstudio has been a relevant reference. Monumento Continuo was a provocative and critical representation of Modern Architecture during the 60’s: an architecture ever more bland, generic and driven by globalisation which was not able to have a natural relationship with a context, its society and its history. In the same way, our vision aims to re-imagine the bookcase as a continuous element which is inserted in the city, but with a different perspective, probably more naïve and positive: rather than a top-down and anonymous mega-structure overlapping to the city, we imagined it as an over-scaled element able to adapt and dialogue with the public spaces and landmarks of Milan. In this sense ‘Libreria Continua’ is conceptually closer to the principle of ‘Mobile Architecture’ theorized by Yona Friedman, as it acts as a dynamic collective device able to interact with the citizens.
What is your take on the role of the book in contemporary society?
Today more than ever, the main role of the book is to keep people conscious and curious beings offering them a way to develop a spirit of criticism, escaping from an even more self-centred life. A book has indeed the capacity of transporting the readers in a parallel dimension extending their perception of time, through an unique formative and personal experience, that is hard to find in any other digital recreational activity.
To what extent have we lost the ability to read and commit to 'long' texts rather than snippets of information provided by digital platforms?
The availability of snippets of information offered by digital platforms is undoubtedly weaning us from reading long texts. Normally we tend to give greater consideration to the multiplicity of information we can read rather than focusing on longer and more specific texts. This is why only approximately 20% of the readers of this article will read it till this point. In other words, we prefer to be ‘know-it-all’ rather than being well informed on some specific news. As it happens with reading ‘long’ information, even reading a book is not a routine anymore for many people.
To what extent do you trust in the project's ability to change our contemporary habits and relationship to the sphere of the digital?
‘Libreria Continua’ proposes a new way of interaction between architecture and citizens in the public space, through the ‘collectivisation’ of an activity normally considered individual: the act of reading. This kind of vision of course aims to encourage people to understand and re-discovery the value of a more analog habit; at the same time we believe that the sphere of the digital needs to be part of our life. More than seeking to change our relationship with the digital, ‘Libreria Continua’ represents a pretext for remembering that there are other powerful habits, which are note necessarily related to the sphere of the digital.
What informed the drawings through which the speculation is revealed?
The drawing is inspired, as said before, by the wave of utopian architecture of the 60’s. However, contrary to Monumento Continuo, we favoured a street-view angle rather than a bird’s eye one, to better show the human interaction within the public space. Moreover, the drawing merges two different graphical approaches, hand-sketch and vectorial, to enhance the relationship between digital and analogic.
What is for you the power of the drawing in communicating and challenging an architectural idea and concept?
First of all a drawing can be a very powerful tool to communicate an architectural idea as it offers a narrative perspective. Moreover a drawing can be a more understandable and engaging representation for anyone who is not involved in the architecture field.
What is for you the architect's most important tool?
CMQ is a group based in Milan that operates in the field of architecture using research and practice as essential tools.
CMQ’s approach consists in the exploration of several transversal fields through the implementation of projects at different scales able to question the traditional relationship between architecture, space and its users.
CMQ has been founded by Antonio Boeri, Ludovico Oldini and Davide Pagano. The group started in 2018, after graduating from Politecnico di Milano and KU Leuven University in Belgium and after gaining experience in international offices around Europe.