top of page
photo source:
Is the Ideal city the echo of an Ideal Architecture?

Renato Rizzi                                                                                         


1- Forgetfulness of the Myth.

I don't think we can say much about the subject of the Ideal if we do not address before, at least at a glance, to the origin of knowledge. That is, to myths. In our case to that one of Prometheus. The story, in general, is quite known, even if I will recall only a small part of it. That one related to the theft of the fire: the techne. But we often forget the development of the entire story, from the premise to the epilogue, which we find in Plato's Protagoras.


2 - Premise.

Prometheus (the one who thinks first), brother of Epimetheus (the one who thinks late), needs to intervene immediately to repair a serious fault committed by his brother. The latter had been entrusted by the Olympus gods with the task of assigning to each living on Earth his own qualities. Unfortunately Epimetheus forgot the man. A very serious fact. This was the cause moving Prometheus. Using a stratagem, he stole the "fire" (techne) from Hephaestus, the blacksmith god, and gave it to men. Despite the sacrilege committed by the Titan, humanity continued succumbing to fairs. Men, in order to defend themselves, could barely build sinoikia: agglomerates. An obsolete term, but if we translate it into our familiar language, then it is very well known: the suburbs (peri-pherein, to carry around without purpose).


3- Epilogue.

A tremendous spectacle flared up under the eyes of Zeus. Furious, the king of the gods, was torn between two opposite feelings: the anger at theft, the compassion for the inevitable dram. However, he decided to intervene again by distributing, equally to all men, two more gifts: Aidos and Dike. Decency and Justice. Only in this way humanity was able to save itself (thanks to the sacrifice of Prometheus). It was then that the first step towards "civilization" began. Towards the construction of the Polis: the "city", the place of "cohabitation".



4- Reversal of the Myth.

Myths are not fairy tales for children. Their images are indomitable powers. They possess an innate and unbreakable property. Their coefficient of truth does not change with the passing of times. The past is not past and the future is always a past perfect. Therefore, we contemporaries, we should always compare the presence of our time with the absence of the totality of the times. Because in the heart of myths the epistemic structures pulsate, and in Prometheus those of the Form pulsate: of the Polis, of the "city". Techne + Aidos + Dike. But if we would now try to overlap the paradigm of contemporary knowledge to the paradigm of myth, we would be stunned. Although we are now many centuries away, we will see a single immense tragic scenario in transparency. Identical in results, different in proportions. The Sinoikia narrated in Prometheus’ myth are the same as the suburbs we still continue to build nowadays. Should we then believe that the myth is dead? Or maybe has it incredibly yet to be accomplished? What is ahead between the two? The technical thought or the mythical thinking?


5- The pivot of the Myth.

Let us remember! Myths never turn to the past, but to the future. They survive beyond our chronologies. In fact the pivot of myth in Prometheus concerns the word Aidos: Decency - a term that does not belong to morality, but to aesthetics. It means: the double gaze. It means to watch and, at the same time, to be watched. It means to judge and, always, to be judged, but by who? By the world. The myth asks for the displacement of the subject's axis: from the Ego of Individuality (technical-scientific arbitrariness) to the Self of Singularity (the self-denial of the Ego). From nominative to dative. A radical blow to our presumption. The myth reminds us of something we have forgotten too much soon. The difference between: knowing (techne); culture (Aidos and Dike); civilization (the Polis, the form). All this is present since ever and even if we have forgotten it, still it is embodied in the name of our discipline.


Architecture: Arche (Aidos + Dike) and Techne. The indissoluble bond between indomitable and dominable. Mith and Arche, in them we always can find a virgin substance growing like a plant, always new in every present.


Translated by Susanna Pisciella



Renato Rizzi, full professor at IUAV, Venice. Currently, he's engage to complete the work on John Hejudk's poems, "Bronx: poesie 1953-2000", in two volumes. Vol. 1, Antichissimo testamento; Vol. 2, Nuovissimo testamento. 

bottom of page