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GranTouristas, Padiglione Italia, Biennale Architettura

27 August 2012

Klat’s users have already heard of GranTouristas. They know about it thanks to Cristina Perillo’s blog. GranTouristas, which is being presented as part of the Italian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of Architecture, is one of the most innovative curatorial projects of recent years. Actually, curatorial is not enough: it is an open system of knowledge acquisition and development. A digital and physical meeting place of exchange and examination, a wild, irregular mapping of our country,  a real journey to build up in several stopovers, a surprise box for 2013. It’s a wonderful game, something that had not been attempted yet. A total novelty, a starting point, a step forward. GranTouristas is so exciting that we decided not only to give it a place of pride in our section #necessary, but also to explain in detail what it is all about. Here you’ll find the key information to explore the project: what it really is, how it came to light, where it is going, who leads it and much more. The article is by Gioia Guerzoni with Stefano Mirti e Antonio Scarponi.

One way ticket for a journey with multiple destinations 
The whole thing started with the invitation of Luca Zevi, via Maria Luisa Palumbo, to contribute to the Padiglione Italia of Biennale di Architettura 2012 with a digital project. We had free reign, more or less. So we tried to understand who are the most interesting people to meet, which are the projects they are working on, what is the imagery they feed on. In short, we wondered: who are the visionary planners/designers of 2012 Italy, working in the Far West of a present which is cluttered with past but already future? In less than a month, our contribution has turned into a wandering, an atlas generated by a Facebook Group, a detour in contemporary Italy.

The start
At the beginning we were three: Daniele Mancini, Stefano Mirti, Remo Ricchetti. We started the  Facebook group towards the end of July, posting a few thoughts and images. In the evening we were a couple of dozens, a week later five hundred. Now we are almost a thousand.
Are we going to restore Italy? Very unlikely. But it’s a way to shed a light on a lively, extremely interesting part of Italy, too often put in the shadows by its grand monuments.

© Cristina Senatore

© Cristina Senatore

The path
Think of a book which is endlessly written, like 10 pages a day. With the contribution of 700 hundred people, mostly planner/designers, in general bright people with overdeveloped antennas. The pages are the computer screen (for now). The difference with a traditional book is that you can  skip parts of it. Maybe in those pages there’s amazing stuff going on, but it doesn’t matter, there’s more to come, the flow keeps going. That is the process, the preparation of the journey.
The GranTouristas on the Facebook group post suggestions, directions, mention places, people, ideas, drawing the map we are going to use. The community that emerged through Facebook proposes and discusses the issues generated by the key words of the Biennale – sustainability, new architectures, urban spaces, etc. – with amazing curiosity and digressive spirit. There is no  real selection from above as far as the choice of projects or issues is concerned. Somebody suggests an idea, many discuss it. Proposals pop up and are followed or discarded, very smoothly.

The participants
Anyone can join in. The aggregation of people that don’t know each other is really the step where the project acquires a special meaning. The group is not made only of architects, many are just  fascinated by the process, or they want to share something special. The conversations do not focus only on the single projects, there is a lively exchange on the key issues and various other subjects (literature, cinema, history, current affairs and so on). Sometimes there are heated debates. In brief, the group members trade their views of the world, as in a market of symbolic values, each with his/her own beliefs. Talking about symbolic values, this project has no financial/economic support. Those who participate do it because they want to, there are no fees, allowances, exchanges of money.

“You’re either on the bus or off the bus.” Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test 

The stopovers
Today, on the 27th of August, we’ll go public, using all the communication channels, traditional and digital in order to further expand the participation.  From the 27th of August till the final week-end of the Biennale, 24/25 November, we’ll be working to finalize the atlas that is going to be used during the expedition, a treasure map of contemporary Italy. Some of these projects will be shown in Venice, during the Biennale. Italy has always been a land of saints and sailors, and of visionaries too. We are trying to map these new visionaries, create a network so we can meet and share ideas. Once we have our atlas, GranTouristas will become operative. We’ll have a website, where you can buy tickets, book visits, etc. Family offers, discounts for the elderly, t-shirts, fanzines, postcards and much more. A travel agency ready to organize a unique and peculiar excursion in the Spring of 2013.  A Grand Tour of XXI century Italy.

The destination/destinations 
At the beginning of the project, we had no idea we would conceive a whole journey, it came up in the group. Besides the classic pathway, based on the online conversation, several people are developing ad hoc projects which are shared on Facebook. A dozen experiments that will be exhibited in two events (one during the opening days and the other in the final week-end of the Biennale) where the digital community will have the chance to meet.
The end of the journey doesn’t mean at all  that the ongoing projects will come to a stop. In fact, during the exploration, the touristas will collect the most interesting discoveries: ideas, prototypes, experiments. At the end we’ll have a grand exhibition perhaps, a digital  trip, a real journey, an atlas, a collection, a dictionary of amazing places. But we could also have a documentary, or even a movie. It really depends on the energies of the group and on the  experiences we’ll go through during the project. We’ll see what happens on the road.

© Cristina Senatore

© Cristina Senatore

Means of transport
For this journey we are on a crowded coach, and the coach is Facebook. The crucial shift, we believe, is the modification of imagery, personal and collective, spurred by social media. “The medium is the message” has turned into “The community is the message”.

“Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.” Stewart Brand, Whole Earth Catalog, 1968

Cardinal points
We are drawing a map of contemporary projects in Italy. In our case, the process and the map that is being traced are generated by the same element, people. Instead of compass and barometer, we can count on nearly one thousand designers and smart people. Then of course we have lots of North Stars: Céline, Burroughs, Huxley, Pazienza, Flaiano, Boetti, Hunter S. Thompson, Bianciardi, Tom Wolfe, Benjamin, W. G. Sebald, Stewart Brand, Savinio and many others. So the party is great, we have all sorts of patron saints, a map to draw and to follow…

“Wow! What a Ride!”, Hunter S. Thompson

© Cristina Senatore

© Cristina Senatore

On Facebook we have two addresses. The conversation in Italian  is here, while the atlas in English here.

There is also a theme-based collection in tumblr  (courtesy Daniele Mancini @unpacked). Here.

The ongoing projects (Anna Barbara, Francesca Lando, Lucia Giuliano, Parasite 2.0, Antonio Scarponi) are on Facebook too, here.

The GT tweet book (Michele Aquila & U10) will be soon on FB and here.

The fanzine (courtesy Lucia Giuliano & Abadir @ABADIR_ACADEMY) is this, while the digital engraving of biotype GT (courtesy Mauro Ceolin) is here.

For the graphic design, headers are by Alica Horvathova. GT drawing (courtesy Cristina Senatore) are here.

Twitter is curated by Gioia Guerzoni et al. Andrea Volpe and Valentina Carta update Instagram. The  accounts have the same name @GranTouristas. We are also on Twylah.

On Klat there is the GT diary, by Cristina Perillo.

Evelyn Leveghi and the Glossom gifted us with this.

GT geotag and fantastic visuals (courtesy Salvatore Iaconesi @xdxd_vs_xdxd) here.

Follow Paolo Priolo on , Facebook, Twitter.


Paolo Priolo

He has been the Editor-in-Chief of Klat since 2009, the year in which he founded the magazine with Emanuela, prompted by his interest in information, design and good ideas. A perfectionist, he loves skiing, swimming pools, digressions and high resolution. There’s one thing that, like John Keats, he’s sure of: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.”


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