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Vesper. Journal of Architecture, Arts & Theory



Guido Guidi, Pinarella di Cervia, 1980



Vesper No. 8 Vesper

Call for abstract and call for paper



Its atmosphere was twilit and dangerous, its topography aggravated with mirrors; the main events were taking place on the other side of the amalgam, within some abandoned palazzo. […] there is no other outcome thinkable against the background of this Penelope of a city, weaving her patterns by day and undoing them by night, without no Ulysses in sight. Only the sea.

Joseph Brodsky, Watermark



The eighth issue of “Vesper” is dedicated to the theme Vesper, and therefore calls for a double mirror: one inherent in the figure of the number eight and the other found in the contents and the name of the volume that contains them. Vespers and the design of time, twilight, the duality of West and East, the double as a condition and as a strategy, Venus and Venice, the sunset as a propitious direction, the drawing of shadows, camouflage, Vesper Lynd and the Vesper cocktail (both inventions from the pen of Ian Fleming) are the constellation points that propagate from the term Vesper and that “Vesper” 8 plans to illuminate.

Time and its measurement as project material was confirmed by Cedric Price in the Mean Time exhibition, presented in 1999 at the CCA in Montreal, where architectural situations were associated with 14 temporal categories: Self-Destruction, Refabrication, Prediction, Anticipating the Impossible, Chronicle, Synchronization, Interval, Simultaneousness, Uncertainty, The Pleasure of Frustration, Suspending Time, Distorting Time, Gravity, Pacing. But the project of time can also be resumed in the shape of a construction: the Swiss artist Not Vital conceives and realises today towers scattered around the world, designed only to become estranged and focussed on the appearance and fading of the sunset.

Twilight is associated both with the glow of the sky in the East before sunrise, and with the dim light that reverberates in the West after sunset. West and East are clear and confusing positions as already testified by Venice, or as Wright endeavors to demonstrate through his research, following the ideas of Georges Ivanovič Gurdjieff, bringing together twins who would never get along (again, West and East). The lagoon city is often associated with Venus due to them both being born from the waters (waters in which Venice is reflected and doubled). Pythagoras identified in the planet Venus both the evening star (Hesperus) and the morning star (Phosphorus); the two names refer to the same star but placed in different temporal conditions. The double is therefore both a situation and a strategy as recalled by the twin churches in Piazza del Popolo in Rome (1665-1678), the two apparently identical but different churches of Santa Maria in Montesanto (1662-1679), by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and Santa Maria dei Miracoli (1675-1679), by Carlo Rainaldi, again in Rome. The Naturhistorisches Museum and the Kunsthistorisches Museum by Gottfried Semper and Karl von Hasenauer built in Vienna between 1872 and 1891 are mirror images of one another. MVRDV’s Double House, built in Utrecht in 1997, proposes two interlocking housing units to become conjoined twins.

The sunset as a propitious direction has been demonstrated over the years in the work of some long-lived thinkers and architects; it is a real space in which architecture can choose to exist, even to defend itself. In 1998 Bernard Khoury built the B 018 nightclub in Beirut in the Quarantine district, a site that had witnessed bloody clashes during the Lebanese civil war. The club, sunk into the ground like an air-raid shelter, takes advantage of its concealed surface to live in the dark: by opening its moveable roof it transforms into an en plein air disco. Jean Nouvel conceived Onix (1988), in Saint-Herblain in France, to respond to the dichotomy between the urban direction prescribed by a large parking lot and the echo of a primeval Eden evoked by the presence of a large lake in the area. The architect opted for a third position between the two existing situations, suspending the building within the brilliance and density of darkness: ‘It is black, but bright and sharp. The thickness of the building is conveyed through the thickness of its darkness, and appears as a monochrome block’.

In his book Le soglie dell’ombra. Riflessioni sul mistero Franco Rella crosses ancient and modern cultural contexts in search of the boundary between light and its opposite and the meanings it preserves and constructs; but shadow is also substance to be considered and manipulated by architects and artists through the presence of concrete elements and the control of black forms to sculpt faces and bodies. In the axonometry of his project for Ca’ Venier dei Leoni (1985), Costantino Dardi fills the found and existing void with a forest of pillars, a void inhabited only by the erect columns and their shadows. His earlier facade project presented as part of the 1980 Strada Novissima in Venice was modelled to define inclined depths in the minimal usable thickness and featured thin overhanging frames: these are two movements aimed at obtaining cast shadows and dark thresholds. Many cities are also marked by sundials that transform light into dark signs, again designing forms of time.

The cocktail (that usually marks the end of the day) ‘Vesper’ is an invention of Ian Fleming, mentioned in Casino Royale (1953). The name of the drink reflects that of one of the protagonists of the story: the spy Vesper Lynd (a character inspired by the life of the Polish secret agent Christine Granville/Krystyna Skarbek in the service of the British MI6). Today it is not possible to reproduce the original recipe as Kina Lillet, a fundamental ingredient together with gin, vodka, and lemon zest, is no longer in production. The relationship between alcohol, the city and architecture has perhaps been little considered in urban studies, while certainly observed in literature and the visual arts in the way it creates common spaces in the evening, exalting the passage between day and night. Yet it would be useful to unravel the ‘mystery’, citing Rella, of venues such as the Harry’s Bar in Venice: experienced as a busy port of call, extremely packed and cosy, conceived as an intimate but not alienating place.

Vesper Lynd, with her double game, her being a fictional character and a real spy, brings camouflage to the field, a condition naturally experienced by some animals and plants, a declination of the double as strategy that is always based on ambiguity and on the inhabited border. In the text Architecture in Uniform: Designing and Building for the Second World War (2011) Jean-Louis Cohen stresses: ‘During the Second World War, architects almost completely supplanted painters in the field of camouflage. Studies into the technique had continued uninterrupted since 1918, and camouflage departments now occupied an important place in all the armed forces. […] Physicists were added to strengthen the scientific component of the projects; advanced experiments were conducted in an ingenious “vision chamber”, making it possible to study the various proposals under different lighting conditions, as well as in a “moonlight vision chamber” for nocturnal views’. The art of masking is redundant in the city of Venice, consider for example the Serenissima’s laws on architectural embellishments that relegated luxury to the interior of buildings only, hidden from the urban setting. Again, camouflage finds its foundation in the changing worlds of water, in the mirrors, in the Wilde-like dissociations which then coincide with the multiple – and multiverse – substance of the reality.

“Vesper” enhances the fall into time because, as Cioran writes, ‘we are truly ourselves only when, facing ourselves, we coincide with nothing, not even with our own singularity’. Looking into the twilight is equivalent to dissolving obvious differences and distances, it confuses the boundaries of objects and tests the certainties of the gaze, immersing the latter in the darkening of the ‘contemporary’. Blindness is a necessary condition for understanding reality, as Saramago has already suggested; Agamben states that in order to live within one’s time it is necessary to construct a displacement, an anachronism: not to see the lights but to be able to detect the obscurities; Eco reminds us that considering the darkness it is possible to reconcile an affectionate sense of the concrete and a dance of sublime abstractions.



Vesper welcomes different types of contributions, the call for abstracts and the call for papers are organized according to the different sections. Contributions in their final form will be subject to a Double-Blind Peer Review process.



Call for abstracts and Call for papers >>

Editorial Style Guide >>





Sections: Project, Essay, Journey, Archive, Tutorial, Translation

Abstracts must be submitted by August 25, 2022

Abstracts acceptance notification by September 10, 2022

Papers submission by November 1, 2022

Papers acceptance notification by November 20, 2022


Sections: Tale, Dictionary

Papers submission by August 25, 2022

Papers acceptance notification by September 10, 2022


Publication of Vesper No. 8, May 2023





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