By Matteo Zambelli
Andrea Ponsi is a Florentine architect who dedicates equal attention to architecture, design, painting, writing and teaching. It’s no coincidence that in 1974 he received his architecture degree in Florence with Leonardo Savioli (the centenary of whose birth is this year), master of an approach that crosses over disciplinary borders. Ponsi’s activities as a painter are spread out across different areas of research. The first is that of the scores-notes, a form of automatic writing organised into musical scores that hybridise imaginary graphemes, mythical symbols, fields of colour and flashes of architecture to create an emotional diary capable of condensing memories and feelings without recourse to words. Another area of research is dedicated to perceptive maps and urban landscapes, or rather subjective explorations within the fabric of cities told through a combination of site plans, elevations, cross-sections, perspectives (the architect’s tools for representation) with landscape painter-like watercolours. The result of these, apart from paintings, are two books that feature as protagonists both in pictures and in words the cities of Florence and San Francisco. Then there’s the research dedicated to analogous cities, in which Ponsi shows through sketches and drawings how using architectural references and the cities of the past it’s possible to conceive of a new architecture or a new urban layout using the tool of the analogy, theorised by the Florentine author in two educational books that reveal his teacher’s soul. The Cross MacKenzie gallery in Washington DC displays Ponsi’s last area of experimentation, that of faces drawn on Post-its.
When Andrea talks on the phone he has the compulsive habit of sketching (with a pencil, a pen or whatever he has to hand) completely invented faces that have nothing to do with the person at the other end of the line. He can’t give a reason for this impulse, the only explanation that he hazards, in the form of a question, is that it could have something to do with the typically Italian tendency (masterfully explored by Bruno Munari in the Dizionario dei gesti degli italiani, or Dictionary of Italian Gestures) of gesticulating with our hands when speaking. Once the call finished Andrea Ponsi would throw away the Post-its, but one day an assistant (who had been picking them out of the bin) lined them all up so he could see them next to each other, surprising Ponsi with the human menagerie that he had drawn over time.
Ever since then (this happened in the 1990′s) he began to collect them and today he’s sketched nearly 20,000 faces: an entire city. A city with one particularity: all the faces are male because, he explains, “I wouldn’t want to draw an angry, monstrous, silly or grotesque woman”.
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