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reviews online ISSN 2175-6694


Texto de apresentação das Atas do Seminário Internacional “Manfredo Tafuri, seus leitores e suas leituras”. São Paulo, FAU USP, 23-25 de fevereiro de 2015. Organizadores Mário Henrique Simão D’Agostino, Adalberto Retto Jr e Rafael Urano Frajndlich.

Presentation text of Proceedings Of The International Seminar “Manfredo Tafuri – his readers and their readings”. São Paulo, FAU USP / Unesp, February 23-25, 2015. Organizers Mário Henrique Simão D’Agostino, Adalberto Retto Jr e Rafael Urano Frajndlich.

how to quote

D'AGOSTINO, Mário Henrique Simão; RETTO JR., Adalberto; URANO, Rafael . The construction of a program. Manfredo Tafuri, his readers and their readings. Resenhas Online, São Paulo, year 18, n. 214.03, Vitruvius, oct. 2019 <>.

The School of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo – FAU/USP, from February 23-25, 2015 hosted a seminar on the work of Manfredo Tafuri (1935-1994) and its reception by the colleagues of his generation, students and researchers, in order to update an intellectual trajectory in the light of contemporary dilemmas.

The program was organized in five non-chronological sessions based on themes derived from his work. Each session had a Brazilian moderator who was responsible for replicating the impact of Manfredo Tafuri’s work in Brazil, revealing the network of relationships and scientific exchanges built around his historiographic method and production.

As Howard Burns writes, Tafuri created “a fertile new way of making architectural history – or tout court history – that does not ‘explain’ architecture in terms of ‘context’, but identifies its fundamental role within a given sociopolitical moment and its interaction with other cultural forces, although such interaction does not passively determine it (1).

The first session, titled “The Historical Project and the Architectural Historian’s Education”, explored the origins of the Dipartimento di Analisi Critica and Storica (1976) of the University of Venice, which replaced the former Istituto di Storia dell’Architettura, directed by Bruno Zevi and later by Manfredo Tafuri. It also explored the debate about the so-called Historical Project, seeking to explain the repercussions of Tafuri’s studies for three generations. The pioneer generation, represented by the first director of the Department, Prof. Paolo Morachiello, mapped the facts, ideas and debates that contributed to its formation and consolidation, with the clear objective to train architectural historians.

Two years before his death, Manfredo Tafuri wrote in the introduction to La piazza, la chiesa, il parco on the method that would underlie new investigations in the Venetian context: the relationship between philology and historiographical analysis from single objects – fragments, in a temporal arc that extends from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century. The axis that articulates all the writings of this volume is the complex relationship between idea, text and context, based on single elements, as well as the search for the appropriate method for each one, throughout their long history.

In the same introduction, Tafuri asks important questions about how researchers approached their investigations: “What is the philology for this particular topic? How can we submit critiques to sources once their historicity is recognized? How can we possibly make monuments and archives speak in order to restore a significant scenario, not isolated within its own confines? (2).

The second generation was represented by Professor Andrea Guerra, one of the students of the first cycles of the Doctoral Program in History of Architecture, and the third was represented by Prof Luka Skansi, a member of Tafuri’s last class before his death. They reflected mainly on the comparative research and our subject’s return to the Renaissance, at a time when his production moved away from contemporary design and turned to the great masters of the past, such as Alberti, Raffaello, Sansovino, Palladio, Borromini, and others. The group was mediated by architect and professor Adalberto Retto Jr., a former student of FAU USP who participated as a CNPq scholarship student at the sandwich doctorate at the IUAV University of Venice, in the last group of the Historical Project Doctoral Program.

The other sessions came from two major themes - Renaissance and Contemporary Architecture, which surveyed Tafuri’s twenty-three books. The second session, “Renaissance,Architecture and the City” addressed the importance of comparative studies, from the elaboration of a mosaic of choices that mark Tafuri’s research, its continuities and inflections, and discussed issues around the “Long Renaissance”, considered from a critical perspective that rejects the time frame of most historiographical studies of this period.

Cacciari points out that the very title of the book Ricerca del Rinascimento: principi, città, architetti is an exercise in living philology, since it ceases to work with research on the Renaissance to incorporate its “own vision of the Renaissance as research” (3).

The studies by Morachiello and Professor Donatella Calabi, the Italian representative in the debate, on Rialto’s commercial center and the theoretical bases of techniques, on the relationship between religious debate, civic life, artistic expression, and the role of image in Venice in the fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries, are part of a unique frame of reference then considered in this session.

The second speaker, Professor Christoph Frommel, Director Emeritus of the Hertzian Library in Rome, deepened Tafuri’s dialogue with the researchers of the so-called Scuola Romana and the Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura ‘Andrea Palladio’, in revisiting classical studies such as those of Rudolf Wittkower and Jacob Burckhardt. The mediation fell to Professor Mario Henrique Simão D’Agostino, an Italian Renaissance researcher, who from an early age, established an intellectual dialogue with Manfredo Tafuri and his work.

The third session, titled “City and Architecture in the Twentieth Century”, was a deeper look at the historian and his analysis of contemporary architectural production, as seen in the books Architettura italiana 1944-1981 (1986), Teorie e storia dell’architettura (1968), Progetto e utopia (1969 e 1972) and further, in the Storia dell’architettura contemporanea, written with Francesco Dal Co, in 1976.

Eight years after his arrival at the IUAV, Manfredo Tafuri founded, in 1976, the Department of Critical and Historical Analysis (Dipartimento di Analisi Critica e Storica) on the ashes of the Istituto di Storia dell’Architettura directed by Bruno Zevi. The successive change in the name of the department that recuperated the old name of Storia dell’Architettura shows that the two adjectives, “Critica” and “Storica”, constitute a tautology. As Tafuri maintained, “history has always had a critical function,” so “there are no critics, only historians” (Non ci sono critici, solo storici). In fact, the new denomination marked the passage to a phase in which the “fruitful uncertainty of the analysis” was in opposition to the certainty of the project of the so-called Storia operativa of Zevi” (4).

On the other hand, according to Retto Jr., Jean Louis Cohen, who closely followed Venetian intellectual developments – Italophilie (1984), Dall’affermazione ideologica alla storia professionale (1999) – a , explains that by overcoming the operativity of history, the Scuola di Venezia manages to move from the study of conjunctures to that of structures, laid as the foundation of the “annales” historiography: without subscribing to the cause of the long duration in itself (per se stessa), but by proposing diachronic reformulations that bring about structural cycles, according to which, the crises of capitalism and architecture correspond (5).

In the same article, Retto Jr. explains that in the 1970s, the decade called “the golden years of urban history in Italy” by Guido Zucconi, “a group of teachers began to delineate a new and autonomous way of making history, in which the term ‘urban analysis’ is no longer synonymous with ‘operative analysis’, featured by Saverio Muratori in his ‘Studi per una operantiva storia urbana di Venezia’ (1953).

Tafuri’s reflections on the artistic currents of the twentieth century were considered as an epistemological rupture in the corpus of the history of contemporary architecture. To the modern movement he added a set of doubts that, as seen from the previous analyzes of Argan, Rogers, and Paci prioritized the conflicts and highlighted the contradictions of the avant-garde discourses, whose destabilizing power was discovered after the 1960s: he emphasized the contradictions between intentions and projects, ideologies and practices.

In this session, a generational chronology was used again with Tafuri’s direct collaborators: Prof. Marco De Michelis and Prof. Dr. Guido Zucconi. The moderator was Prof. Carlos Martins, from the USP São Carlos Institute of Architecture and Urbanism, who is not only a reader of Manfredo Tafuri, but also represents an important research and reflection group on modern architecture in Brazil.

Marco De Michelis and Manfredo Tafuri, Venice, 1980
Foto divulgação

The fourth session, titled “Tafuri and the Architects”, explored the dialogue between professionals. It is a fact that Tafuri’s meeting with Bruno Zevi was decisive for his new choices, and that the confrontation between the two assumed great importance in the midst of the discussion of the so-called operative history. In this sense, although Manfredo Tafuri’s education had started as a collaborator of great architects of the Italian scene and, in 1960 and despite being an assistant professor alongside Salvatore Greco – lecturer of the Composizione Architettonica program, sometime later, he motivated historian-architects to distance themselves from the drafter’s métier as a way to prevent the “fruitful uncertainty of analysis” from being marred by the certainty of the design proposition. Manfredo Tafuri encouraged and promoted the training of specialists in materials, structures, archaeological methods, and the history of techniques and representations, in order to obtain skilled professionals to whom he would also delegate works of restoration and preservation of heritage.

Thus, Tafuri established an intense dialogue with the IUAV architects linked to the morphological school, rooted in the work of Saverio Muratori, such as Aldo Rossi and Vittorio Gregotti, among others, and overseas those such as Rafael Moneo and Peter Eisenman, who led him to make some statements, such as: “Eisenman is a formal terrorist”; Meyer is a “mechanic of functions”; Graves is a “polysignic”. The fourth session moderator was Professor Anne Marie Sunmer, who brought Paulo Mendes da Rocha, architect and 2006 Pritzker Prize winner, to speak on the Italian historian.

The fifth and final session was divided into two types of readers outside the Venetian context: the first kind had a direct dialogue with Manfredo Tafuri, including Jorge Liernur, from Torcuato Di Tella University in Buenos Aires, Carlos Sambricio, from the Advanced Technical School of Architecture at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, and Rafael Moreira, New University of Lisbon/CHAM, Humanities Center, NOVA FCSH/UA. Sambricio and Moreira correspond to researchers who did not have a direct relationship with Tafuri, but worked on some aspects of his intellectual path and his approach to the history of contemporary architecture: Prof. Marco Biraghi of the Politecnico di Milano, Prof. Daniel Sherer (Columbia University), and in the Brazilian context, Prof. Rafael Urano Frajndlich (FEC Unicamp), author of the most recent work in the country on the Roman historian, entitled “Manfredo Tafuri: the Time of the Faraway City”.

The mediator was Professor Maria Cristina da Silva Leme, from FAU USP, who, in addition to working with the exchange of ideas in the area of urbanism, established an effective exchange with the IUAV by signing an agreement between the two institutions. The second session was mediated by Professor Cibele Saliba Risek, from the IAU USP of São Carlos.

The closing of the event was attended by two of today’s greatest intellectuals: Professor Alberto Asor Rosa, from the La Sapienza University, in Rome, who addressed the topic, “Between Politics and Architecture”, and Professor Otília Beatriz Fiori Arantes, from FFLCH USP, with the theme Tafuri’s Negative Dialectic.


NA – Translation Thiago Tomassine Duarte Vieira; review Anita Di Marco and Ann Puntc.

NE – Presentation text of: D'AGOSTINO, Mário Henrique S.; JúNIOR, Adalberto da Silva Retto; URANO, Rafael (Orgs.).  The construction of a program. Manfredo Tafuri, his readers and their readings. São Paulo, FAU USP, 2018. Download do livro.

RETTO JR., Adalberto; BOIFAVA, Barbara. Donatella Calabi. Entrevista, São Paulo, ano 04, n. 015.01, Vitruvius, jul. 2003. Disponível em <>.

RETTO JR., Adalberto. Os saltos de escala no estudo (e no projeto) da cidade e do território: indagações à luz do debate veneziano. Arquitextos, São Paulo, ano 11, n. 132.03, Vitruvius, maio 2011 <>.

RETTO JR., Adalberto. Marco Biraghi. Entrevista, São Paulo, ano 07, n. 028.01, Vitruvius, out. 2006. Disponível em <>.

RETTO JR., Adalberto; BOIFAVA, Barbara. Donatella Calabi. Entrevista, São Paulo, ano 04, n. 015.01, Vitruvius, jul. 2003. Disponível em: <>.

RETTO JR., Adalberto. Jean-Louis Cohen. Entrevista, São Paulo, ano 06, n. 024.01, Vitruvius, out. 2005. Disponível em <>.

about the authors

Adalberto da Silva Retto Jr. Is Professor at Paulista State University – Unesp. Coordinator of the International Specialization Course Lato Sensu in Urban Planning and Public Policy: Urbanism, Landscape, Territory. Post-doctorate at the University Institute of Architecture of Venice, Italia (2007); PhD from the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo and the Department of History of Architecture and Urbanism of the Institute of Archi tecture of Venice (2003).

Mário Henrique S. D D’Agostino is graduated in Architecture and Urbanism (FAU PUC-Campinas, 1985), master’s degree and PhD in Architecture and Urbanism (USP, 1991 e 1995). He is currently associate professor at the University of São Paulo. Has experience in Aesthetics and History of Architecture and Urbanism, acting on the following subjects: treatises on architecture, classical architecture, perspective and Renaissance architecture.

Rafael Urano Frajndlich is professor in the course of Architecture and Urbanism at Unicamp since 2015. His doctoral dissertation (FAU USP), focused on a study of the work of architecture historian Manfredo Tafuri and its relationship with Italian philosophical circles. Develops research on modern Brazilian architecture, under the cut-off of the close relationship between the aesthetic formulation of Oscar Niemeyer and the political project of Juscelino Kubitschek, from the city of Belo Horizonte until the inauguration of Brasilia.



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