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La Biennale di Venezia

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Giovanni Michelucci, Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista “dell’Autostrada”, Campi Bisenzio, Florence, Italy
[Close Encounter]

Tom de Paor

I have never visited this church, although I know it. First on the information superhighway, it is Venturi’s reverse epiphany – an edited version – that opens.
“I have visited Giovanni Michelucci’s Church of the Autostrada since writing these words, and I now realise it is an extremely beautiful and effective building. I am therefore sorry I made this unsympathetic comparison”.
The quotation is an elegant footnote to his earlier description, when he frowned upon “the wilful pictures queness of the haphazard structure and spaces” – perhaps inevitable when looking at pictures, as we all do and often. Something happened between the first edition and second, between image and text, and space and time. He visited. Michelucci spoke of the challenge of making an eye-catcher on the new A1 from Milan to Naples. He said he wanted to make a “parish for tourists” in a new car culture and so the pilgrimage iconography: the crossing of the Red Sea, the journey of the Magi and donor towns in flying silhouette. He said he wanted to make a building without an end – a knot in the Highway of the Sun.
A close encounter refers to a classification of experiences of the unknown – top down, in order of proximity: sighting, physical evidence, and contact. Picture the Spielberg poster.
When are we close enough to know? This is an old dilemma between architecture and its representation, the paradox of exhibition, curation and of course teaching. From glimpses, we project.
These are drawings of the Church of the Autostrada, made from a distance, following an encounter.

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Biennale Architettura
Biennale Architettura