Letter to a 20-year-old
by Alfredo Pirri
You are very lucky, and in more ways than one. The first way, of course, is that you’re 20 years old. The second is that you’re starting to study at university – and learning is the best way to make time keep pace with us without overtaking us. The third is that Domus can assist you on this adventure like an angel does: lightly, watching you from behind or from the side, never buzzing round above your head like a bothersome and overbearing fly, but offering advice only if you ask for it, and addressing you as an equal, without shouting in your face and spraying you with spittle. It is not there to say, “If you want to be somebody, you must do this and not that!” On the contrary, it suggests that you can do things that no one else has done yet,
and at the same time, it helps you to better understand in depth what has been done before you. It spurs you to make the effort to share with your peers, the people you meet every day, and to discover that each day the effort can be transformed into the joy of discovery. Not all those starting university can call themselves as lucky to be able to rely on such useful indications of how to tackle such a plain yet crucial need. To keep a constant dialogue alive and open means having a magazine to read every month that will make you want to keep and treasure each issue, tidily or not, divided according to memory, numbers or colours; a magazine that puts past, present and future on an equal footing and enables you to discover that things past are not always and necessarily old and humiliated by age; that the things of today concern us all, including things that easily escape our notice; and, above all, that things belonging to the future can not avoid being modelled according to your wishes. Your wishes! Do you know yet that the real issue is how to get to know them? And how to force them to come to the
surface? And then to give them form? How to recognise their real individuality and, finally, how to hand them on to others without violence or aggression? I believe the important thing is to design the contours of a habitat that can accommodate these
wishes by supplying them with room for expression, so that they can be recounted as if within a generous, useful and vigorous struggle. A battle among brothers, half fake and half serious, and energetic to be sure, but not with the aim of winning or losing. These battles should be fought in order to know ourselves as neighbours and to find ways together out of the sterile conflicts of the typical dualism of our world:
To do or to imagine? To read or to write? Useful or useless? Form or idea?
Domus has decided to participate in this struggle by giving voice directly to the creators of projects and built forms. Their voices may at times be tremulous and a little obscure (as in the case of the person writing this), but for this very reason they are the only ones that can be likened to yours and to those of people like you who are starting to study architecture.
They are voices from which you can draw something, even, if you like, by momentarily imitating their tone. They are the only voices that can accompany you to places not always happy, but certainly alive. This is the boxing ring in which you
are summoned to fight. You too can contribute to tracing and widening the design of its elastic outer ropes
without pushing so far in the process as to lose sight of their boundaries and drown in them as if in a malodorous swamp.
Article originally published on Domus 997, December 2015