George Courtauld

A Political [mis]DirectionRegional Council Chambers + Public Forum | Turin, Italy | Unit 21 | 2018

Awarded Distinction for Design & Distinction for Thesis

 

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Turin is often considered a city of contrasts, the Baroque vs the Industrial, the scientific vs the magical, however a better description would be as the Romans described it, a city of Confluence, the coming together of different rivers, attitudes and people.
The city is well known for its political influence in the unification of Italy, less well known is its ancient and mystical magical history. Sitting exactly on the 45th meridian Turin supposedly forms a ‘white magic’ circle with Paris and Lyon. The ruling Savoy family were obsessed with alchemy, the philosopher’s stone and the elixir of life consequently the city gained a reputation for black magic. This was emphasised when the city was trying to unite Italy in the 1800s: to annoy the Pope who was wholly against Italian unification, the Duke of Savoy invited all persecuted religious believers throughout Europe to come and worship freely in Turin. To the Papal States, and many Catholics in Italy, Turin had become the city of cults.
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The project began by looking at the history of magic, myths and legends and then stage-magic. The perception of the audience. The often-uncomfortable relationship between the Magician and the Spectators, the Reality and the Illusion. The duality of time: when the trick actually starts and when the audience think it has begun. What the magician knows, and what the audience knows.
This was then applied to Italian politics, an emotionally charged and often contentious affair. At times comical, at others deeply worrying and confusing. This project follows in the wake of the 2018 general election that saw two anti-establishment ‘populist’ parties take the largest share of the votes; the Five Star Movement and the Northern League. The project takes two recent government legislations that aim to ‘promote transparency, combat corruption and increase citizen participation’. Combining Turin’s rich political past with its less well known magical history, the project explores the parallels between magic and politics, and the tensions, juxtapositions and experiences this might create through architecture. How magical principles of misdirection, framing, laughter and timing can be used to empower and engage groups or individual citizens with the labyrinthine political process, whilst simultaneously being deployed by the politicians in an attempt at political misdirection.
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