Architecture for Bureaucracy.
Giorgio Vasari and the architecture of the loggia.
Published in San Rocco Magazine, no.4, Summer 2012
Referring to the disunion between the plebs and the roman senate which constituted the very propelling source of the republican freedom, in his Discorsi sopra la prima Deca di Tito Livio Niccolò Machiavelli contested the traditional cult of civic concordance assuming conflicts and turmoils as necessary fundament for the state power. In this sense a city that aimed at extending its hegemony over the neighbouring states had to rely both on the faithful support of a popular army and on the art of government of its prince, whose virtuosity should have been aimed at controlling the intestine humores and the territorial extension of the conquered provinces through an organic deployment of political and economical institutions.
For these reasons, the two fundamental forms of Renaissance utilitarian architecture were military constructions, which paralleled the innovations of fire-arms technologies, and the building of bureaucratic apparatuses, related to the progressive capital accumulation managed by what Weber defined a new rising army devoid of condottieri. Deeply influenced by the reiterative modularity of the medieval Procuratie Vecchie in Venice while distant from the authoritarian nobleness of Bramante’s Palazzo dei Tribunali in Rome, Giorgio Vasari’s Uffizi in Florence and Loggia in Arezzo could be considered as two radical paradigmatic projects generated to frame the economical and political context of Cosimo I de’ Medici dukedom (1537-1574) which was characterised by large defence investments and by a marked proliferation of specific ‘immaterial’ professions such as banking, trading, administrative and forensic activities.
If the Uffizi reversed the logic of the architectural ‘objecthood’ by modulating the irregularity of urban texture around the negative void of the strada nuova, the Loggia provided a subtle infrastructure for the trade businesses taking place in the overlooking Piazza grande, hosting shops, offices rooms and residential units for the Monte di Pietà, the Chancellery and the Customs House functionaries within a single building devoid of ornaments, a continuous multi-functional slender slab able to mediate the complex topographical conditions without compromising the overall equilibrium of the massive preexisting buildings.
While the first, as a modern epicentre for the city government,exerted its control over the continuous field of the urban production by structuring the different guilds and magistracies through a unique spatial office module and interiorizing the public soil as a propelling element of the building itself; the latter, conceived as a strategical financial outpost at the confines of Tuscany, acted as homogeneous stable background to control the internal productive activities and commercial exchanges between the princedom and the outer bordering states, in line with the close Medicean Fortress and the bastioned walls.