In the contemporary extended exercise of sifting through the websites where architecture is published and consumed, thumbnails have the fatal power of homogenizing completely different levels of complexity: a rendering (where all the variables can be controlled by the author) is presented as the equivalent of a built work (where none of the variables is controlled by the author). There is a reason why if it’s not built it doesn’t count. An arty installation is presented next to a complex institutional building, when we all know that the easy bit is having the idea, the difficult bit is implementing it. A house is shown as not being that different from housing. Such homologation is blind to the difference in the energy spent in controlling quality during the building process.
But every now and then there are intriguing moments when a building stands out from the uniform variety of websites. Such as when the transit from an idea to reality takes place with such a level of perfection that it is hard to distinguish the rendering from a photo. If this level of control takes place in a public building and not in a private house one can only guess at the obsessive amount of work that went into making it. That is the case of Renato Rizzi’s Shakespeare Theater in Gdansk. The project, something between a building and a machine, exudes an extraordinary level of commitment, intensive tracing, attention to detail, and profound knowledge of construction. All of this is something rare and unusual in the contemporary world where there is either a reductive logic (of costs, called economy, or of time, called efficiency) or an excessive logic (to show off power or ego). The architecture of Renato Rizzi reminds us of a different logic, a logic that gave origins to many of the highpoints in the history of architecture: that of the intensification of reality.
It is always rewarding and uplifting to see a missing link in the history of architectural practice, when commitment and professionalism defeat banality and mediocrity. Such moments are an unequivocal contribution to the quality of the public life of a city and bare a kind of sacred condition despite the secularity of the program.