Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Come t'ammazzo otto cilindri con un CAFE.



Ovvero,  quando uno stato moraleggiante distrugge una tecnologia collaudata ed economica.



In morte del motore V-8.

di Eric Peters (traduzione di Leonardo Pavese).

I motori V-8 (cioè con otto cilindri disposti a V) stanno per sparire, di nuovo.
La prima estinzione di massa era occorsa all’incirca fra la fine degli anni 1970 e gli inizi degli anni 1980, come conseguenza della prima bordata di diktat governativi conosciuta col nome di CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy: le norme sul consumo medio per le auto di produzione industriale).
Il CAFE imponeva che le auto (ma non le camionette) fossero capaci di almeno 22,5 mpg (miglia per gallone americano. Circa Km 9, 52 con un litro), altrimenti i costruttori che avessero continuato a produrre certe auto dissipatrici sarebbero stati colpiti da sanzioni anti-ingordigia, che poi a loro volta avrebbero scaricato sul consumatore.
Tutto ciò rese anti-economica (almeno per l’epoca)  l’automobile familiare  a trazione posteriore di grandi dimensioni, e con motore V-8, la quale fino a allora era stata la più comune.

Per cui, la maggior parte sparì.


De Tomaso Mangusta. (Montava un V-8 americano)

Il motore V-8 però ( e con esso le grandi vetture prodotte per il mercato di massa) ritornarono in auge negli anni 1990 (e lo sono ancora ai giorni nostri), quando la tecnologia (specialmente i sistemi d’iniezione e gli overdrive, cioè i cambi sovra-moltiplicati) rese possibile il raggiungimento della soglia delle 22,5 miglia al gallone americano. Perfino una macchina dalla potenza favolosa, e quasi  incontenibile, come la Cadillac CTS-V del 2012, la quale monta un motore V-8 da  6,2 litri  e 556 hp (415 kW), riesce a fare 19 miglia al gallone in autostrada.  

Ma non esiste nessuna tecnologia al giorno d’oggi, o all’orizzonte, che riuscirebbe a portare la CTS-V, o una qualunque altra auto con un V-8 sotto il cofano, neanche nelle vicinanze del minimo obbligatorio di 35,5 miglia al gallone americano dettate dal nuovo CAFE, che entrerà in vigore nel 2016. Ciò significa, con ogni probabilità, che le auto con un motore a otto cilindri stanno per sparire di nuovo, e questa volta forse per sempre.
La Jaguar XF del 2013, la quale sin dalla sua introduzione nel 2009 non ha mai avuto in dotazione niente di più piccolo  di un V-8 da cinque litri, verrà venduta, nella versione base, con un quattro cilindri di cc 2000.  Il motore opzionale sarà un sei cilindri di circa tre litri. La Lexus ha rinunciato a offrire la scelta del V-8 nella serie GS delle sue berline sportive del 2013, la quale ora monta solo  un V-6 (ibrido, combustione-elettrico, per giunta); e  Audi ha mandato in pensione gli otto cilindri della sua A8 4200 cc, sostituendoli con un V-6.

La Mercedes sta per introdurre una nuova versione ibrida della sua classe E per il 2013. Il modello della E con il V-8 rimarrà in offerta, ma al prezzo base di quasi $ 60000 (€ 45500 circa) non sarà certo una vettura per le masse. Insomma i V-8 stanno diventando motori per ricchi, e di questo parleremo fra un attimo.







Perfino i sei cilindri sono in pericolo d’estinzione. La BMW ha messo da parte il suo motore a sei cilindri in linea, che prima costituiva lo standard nella serie 3 e nella serie 5, a  favore di un nuovo quattro cilindri bi-turbo.
La tendenza è ovvia, e il fatto che si noti il suo manifestarsi gradualmente nel segmento del lusso e delle auto sportive la dice lunga sul futuro di vetture  più economiche, ma con motori di grandi dimensioni, come la Chrysler 300 e, con ogni probabilità, anche i  tanto attesi ma probabilmente poco longevi modelli tipo la berlina Chevrolet SS del 2014.




Se la Jaguar, la BMW e la Lexus non si possono più permettere di produrre automobili con il V-8 (perlomeno in gran numero) allora è quasi sicuro che neanche la GM, la Ford e la Chrysler ci riusciranno.
E ciò comprende anche i camion.
Infatti il nuovo standard del CAFE (consumo medio: un gallone per 35,5 miglia) questa volta non si riferisce solo alle vetture passeggeri, come nel caso del limite originario delle 22,5 miglia. Tutti i veicoli, ad eccezione di quelli commerciali, ora saranno inglobati nella medesima categoria. La scappatoia della “camionetta leggera” non esiste più; che poi non era altro che il  “rotto della cuffia” che aveva consentito alle aziende automobilistiche, negli anni ‘90, di aggirare le difese del CAFE, installando grossi motori in veicoli di grandi dimensioni i quali potevano essere categorizzati come camionette leggere, e che poi avevano ribattezzato SUV.

Perciò, anche la Ford sta aumentando le distanze, alla chetichella (ma senza alcun dubbio), fra i V-8 e le sue camionette più grosse, come per esempio la serie F dei pick-up. Al momento, ne è rimasta solo una sul mercato; ma per quanto riguarda il resto delle  motorizzazioni disponibili, e cioè il catalogo per la clientela di massa, si tratta esclusivamente di motori a sei cilindri a V. Ford li ha denominati con un nome che la dice lunga: Ecoboost. Si tratta di propulsori relativamente piccoli, con uno o due turbo-compressori, per fornire potenza quando ci vuole, ma con una migliore efficienza dei consumi in tutte le altre situazioni.






I turbo-compressori, e anche i sovralimentatori, sono considerati a questo punto l’unico modo tecnicamente fattibile di eguagliare la potenza e le prestazioni di un V-8 (o almeno avvicinarvisi), adeguandosi allo stesso tempo alle norme del CAFE.
Be’, tutto il male viene per nuocere?
Dipende dal vostro punto di vista.

Dal punto di vista delle aziende automobilistiche, no. Perché così facendo si scrollano di dosso lo stato, almeno per il momento e, anzi,  incrementano il loro margine di profitto trasferendo i costi più alti sui consumatori, comprese le spese di manutenzione di auto con una meccanica più complessa.  
Dal nostro punto di vista, in quanto consumatori, non è proprio un grande affare: pagheremo di più all’acquisto; e anche se il costo sarà in certa misura alleviato dai consumi più bassi, il risparmio potrebbe essere annullato (e probabilmente lo sarà) più tardi, dai costi di manutenzione e di riparazione. Motori più piccoli, e più sollecitati, tendono a durare meno di motori grandi che se la prendono comoda. È poco probabile che un motore turbo, che viene ingozzato a forza, giri senza problemi per 250000 chilometri. Forse questa nuova generazione di motori sovralimentati è di fibra più tosta, e durerà di più; o almeno tanto quanto un bel V-8 altrettanto potente ma meno stressato. Vedremo. Ma se non durano, state attenti.
Sostituire un turbo-compressore su un’auto delle nuove di solito costa circa $ 2000. Molte di queste nuove vetture progettate secondo il CAFE ne hanno due, di compressori.      

E quella è una cosa da considerare. Ma c’è dell’altro: il miglioramento dei consumi, per ogni veicolo preso individualmente,  spesso non è poi granché. Per esempio, il camioncino F della Ford, che è ancora disponibile oggi con un V-8 da 5 litri di cilindrata, fa 15 miglia con un gallone in città, e 21 in autostrada. Non proprio ottimo. Ma l’Ecoboost V-6 da cc 3500 (che fornisce più o meno la stessa potenza del V-8) consuma solo un pochino di meno: 16 miglia in città e 22 miglia in autostrada.



Si potrebbe anche pensare che 1 o 2 miglia in più siano irrilevanti, ma per quanto riguarda il CAFE sono molto importanti. La Ford vende qualcosa come mezzo milione di camioncini serie F all’anno. Se ciascuna di queste camionette costa alla Ford ( e quindi al consumatore) anche solo $ 300 di tassa anti-ingordigia per veicolo, moltiplicati per mezzo milione diventano una bella sommetta molto rapidamente.




Quindi, ecco quello che dobbiamo aspettarci.

I motori a otto cilindri diventeranno delle rarità. Nel senso di rari come qualcosa di esotico. Durante lo scorso round il CAFE aveva reso la vita difficile, a una persona che lavora, potersi permettere un’auto con un motore V-8; ma per chiunque fosse situato confortevolmente nel ceto medio la cosa era ancora fattibile. Le Crown Victoria e le Lincoln Town Car erano sopravvissute.
Per il ceto medio alto non c’era problema: $50000 e il gioco era fatto; il che era realistico, per una coppia di professionisti.
Questa volta però i V-8 diventeranno i giocattoli esclusivi dei ricchi, cioè coloro che si possono permettere di spendere $ 70000, e più, per auto costruite in piccole serie e perciò irrilevanti per quanto riguarda la normativa CAFE.




Naturalmente Barack Obama, e il prossimo Caro Leader, continueranno a scorazzare nelle loro automobilone dotate di grossi motori a otto cilindri, che fanno molto meno di 35 miglia con un gallone...tanto il conto lo paga il contribuente.
Che poi è esattamente quello che desiderano.




Anche ai comunisti piacevano i V-8 americani. (Breznev e Zivkov a Sofia).




Eric Peters scrive di automobili, statalismo e libertà su ericpetersauto.com. Forse vi potrebbero interessare altre due traduzioni di articoli di Peters, sempre a riguardo dell'interferenza governativa con lo sviluppo della tecnologia e il mercato dell'automobile: uno sulle auto elettriche, l'altro sulle airbag.
I vostri commento saranno molto graditi.

Leonardo Pavese

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ignoranza a prova di proiettile

Illustrazione di Ginette Callaway

L'invincibile ignoranza.
di Thomas Sowell (Traduzione di L. Pavese).

Ma è proprio inevitabile che ogni evento tragico, in cui qualcuno spara contro un gruppo di persone, faccia emergere la totale ignoranza di coloro che propongono il “controllo” delle armi da fuoco?
L’errore chiave delle cosiddette norme di controllo delle armi è che certe leggi in realtà non le controllano affatto, ma non fanno altro che disarmare i cittadini rispettosi della legge, mentre coloro i quali sono più inclini alla violenza trovano tutte le armi che vogliono a loro disposizione.
Se i fanatici della restrizione delle armi da fuoco avessero solo un po’ di rispetto per il dato di fatto lo avrebbero scoperto un bel po’ di tempo fa, perché nel corso degli anni sono stati fatti numerosi studi, i quali non lasciano più nessun dubbio sul fatto che le leggi intese alla limitazione delle armi da fuoco siano non solo futili ma anche controproducenti.               
Le località,  e i periodi, in cui le norme sul controllo delle armi da fuoco sono state le più repressive si sono spesso rivelati i luoghi e i tempi in cui il numero degli omicidi è stato il più alto. Washington D.C. (la capitale degli Stati Uniti) ne è il classico esempio; ma è solo uno dei tanti.
Per quanto riguarda il tasso di proprietà privata delle armi da fuoco, negli Stati Uniti è più elevato in campagna che nelle aree urbane; ma nelle città il numero degli omicidi è molto più alto. Il tasso di proprietà privata delle armi è più alto fra i bianchi che fra gli afro-americani; ma il tasso degli omicidi è molto più alto fra i neri. Per quanto riguarda poi il paese nella sua interezza, durante gli ultimi anni del XX secolo la proprietà privata delle armi è raddoppiata, ma il numero degli omicidi è calato.




A un esame approfondito, i pochi esempi confutativi offerti dai propugnatori delle leggi sul controllo delle armi da fuoco non reggono. Forse la loro argomentazione più solida potrebbe essere che la Gran Bretagna ha leggi più restrittive degli Stati Uniti e un tasso di omicidi più basso.
Negli anni della metà del XX secolo si poteva comprare un fucile a pallini a Londra senza problemi. New York, dove allora vigeva la molto severa Legge Sullivan, la quale limitava la proprietà privata delle armi da fuoco dal 1911, aveva un tasso di omicidi da arma da fuoco che era di varie volte superiore a quello londinese; per non parlare degli omicidi con altre armi che erano un multiplo di quelli di Londra.
Ma né le armi né le leggi erano la ragione della differenza fra il numero degli omicidi. Era la gente che era diversa.     
Eppure, su entrambe le sponde dell’Atlantico, molti dei più fanatici sostenitori della restrizione delle armi da fuoco sono anche i propugnatori della clemenza nei riguardi dei criminali.

In Gran Bretagna, questi personaggi hanno avuto talmente tanto successo che il possesso legale di armi da fuoco è stato ridotto quasi al punto da scomparire, perfino quando gran parte dei condannati non finisce dietro le sbarre. Il tasso di criminalità, compreso quello dei crimini commessi con armi da fuoco, oggi in Gran Bretagna è molto più alto di quel che era nei giorni in cui vi erano poche restrizioni  all’acquisto di armi da parte dei britannici.
Nel 1954, a Londra, vi furono solo una dozzina di rapine a mano armata, ma entro gli anni 1990, dopo decenni di restrizioni sempre più coercitive del possesso di armi da fuoco, il numero di rapine a mano armata era già più di cento volte superiore.




La scelta della Gran Bretagna da parte dei sostenitori del controllo delle armi, come termine di paragone con gli Stati Uniti, è una scelta completamente tendenziosa; non solo perché ignora la storia dei due paesi ma anche perché ignora completamente altre nazioni in cui le leggi sul porto d’armi sono molto più restrittive che negli Stati Uniti, come per esempio il Messico, il Brasile e la Russia. In tutti questi paesi il tasso degli omicidi è più alto. Anche facendo un paragone fra altri gruppi di paesi si giunge a un simile risultato. Il possesso di armi da fuoco è di  tre volte superiore in Svizzera, in relazione alla Germania; ma gli svizzeri hanno sempre registrato un numero di omicidi più basso. Altri paesi con un alto tasso di proprietà privata di armi da fuoco e un basso numero di omicidi sono Israele, la Nuova Zelanda e la Finlandia.
Il problema non sono le armi. Il problema sono le persone; comprese quelle determinate a imporre restrizioni sulle armi da fuoco, motivate dall’ignoranza, o dallo sprezzo per il dato di fatto.
C’è l’ignoranza innocente e c’è l’ignoranza dogmatica, invincibile e arrogante. Pare che ogni tragico omicidio di massa le faccia emergere entrambi.



Thomas Sowell


L'articolo originale di Thomas Sowell è apparso su Lew Rockwell.com il 18 dicembre 2012.

Se vi interessa sapere chi è il Professor Sowell e leggere una traduzione di un altro suo articolo, andate a questa pagina del mio blog.
Grazie. I vostri commenti saranno molto graditi.
L. Pavese



Saturday, December 1, 2012

When Green shoots Blue.


Italian Army's Pumas and the Afghan former royal palace.




Italian Army Corporal Tiziano Chierotti was killed by Afghan soldiers.
by Gianandrea Gaiani (Translated by L. Pavese).

The credibility of the Italian military news releases, between silence and politically induced censorship, has always been shaky; but these days it really looks like it’s about to collapse. After the information regarding the costs of the F-35’s fighters (for the Italian Air Force and Navy), which were published after having been “discounted” quite a bit, and the silence about the final bill for the military parade of June 2nd, the latest serious episode concerns the death of Army Corporal Tiziano Chierotti, the fifty-second Italian casualty in Afghanistan. 
Chierotti was killed on the 25th of October by Afghan “soldiers” in the village of Siav, 20 kilometers from the headquarters of the 2nd Italian Alpine Regiment in Bakwa (in the province of Farah). 
Fausto Biloslavo tells the story on the Italian daily Il Foglio in a very detailed report from the village, in which he quotes the testimonies of the other soldiers who participated in the fight. 
The report completes, and partly contradicts the very meager account released by the official military sources, who simply reported an attack carried out by a handful of rebels. “The Taliban activated two soldiers to kill the Italians,” declared Major Gul Ahmad, chief of the Afghan police in Bakwa; telling how two Afghan military men (whom he names), based in Siav, waited for the arrival of the Italians to attack them with rocket launchers and machine gun fire, in an ambush in which groups of rebels who had taken up position in the vicinity also participated. That’s an important point, because in Siav there’s a military outpost controlled by a platoon of the Afghan National Army. It would have been impossible for the Taliban to wait in ambush in the village, or in the surrounding area, without the soldiers noticing them; therefore, it’s more than right to suspect the complicity of the Afghan soldiers with the rebels. In the exchange of fire, which lasted about fifteen minutes, one of the two renegade soldiers was killed, but the other one managed to escape with the guerrillas.









The report by Biloslavo is very detailed and rich with witnesses’ accounts that honor the men of the Second Platoon, who responded to the enemy fire without consequences for the people in the village. But the most serious aspect of the story is the now obvious unreliability of the official Italian sources of information which, in Herat as in Rome, are once again incomplete, lacking, sketchy, and reluctant to provide detailed information about combat situations which involve Italian troops.
This is not the first time that national media sources have shed light on the most thorny aspects of combat episodes, and the Italian casualties, of the Afghan war, that all the Italian administrations, including the current “care-taking” government of un-elected “technicians,” have tried to hide, even if they have nothing to do with military secrecy. It goes without saying that the excuse, for the various omissions, is always that their silence is imposed by the ongoing investigation; but it’s obviously nothing but a smoke screen.


This past year, the Americans, the Britons, the French and the Australian divulged, without censorship, the details about the killing of about sixty of their soldiers, cut down by “our allies”, the Afghans, notwithstanding the fact that they were still investigating every single occurrence. 

Moreover, the fact that Corporal Chierotti was killed by Afghan military men doesn’t affect in any way the development of the investigation. It just looks like Rome wants to keep hidden that sort of episodes which other allied contingents report in detail; that is, “green on blue” episodes, which have already caused at least one death, and half a dozen wounded, among the Italian troops.








Maybe, the reluctance of the Italian authorities is understandable, because to talk about Taliban in Afghan Army uniforms would only amount to admit that the Kabul’s troops are not ready to relieve the Italian forces, who are withdrawing rapidly from the hottest western areas of the country. These “insider attacks” belie the fable of the orderly transition from the Allies to the forces of Kabul, and someone just prefers to keep quiet about them.
 It could also be that nobody talks about it not to contradict Italian Defense Minister Di Paola who, on the 11th of the October, said that these kinds of attacks were “decreasing”, notwithstanding the fact that, actually, this year they reached a record, with respect to the eleven preceding years of international military presence in Afghanistan.
Or, maybe, it’s not to contradict the numerous statements by generals and ministers (not only Italian, to be fair) who lately have been praising the increased combat readiness of the Kabul’s Army. After all, next December our (Italian) Alpine troops will leave Bakwa, leaving their Camp Lavaredo base in the hands of about one hundred Afghan soldiers; and who knows how many of these Afghan soldiers are actually in cahoots with the Taliban or the drug trafficking guerrilla?










The case of Corporal Chierotti is really a “Waterloo” for the military information system (which, strangely, most media have not reported), and it is at the same time ridiculous and absurd.
   It’s paradoxical that Afghan officers would report, unreservedly, insider attacks about which the Italian authorities don’t want to comment; unacceptable, that our armed forces, who are in Afghanistan supposedly to defend democracy, have to take lessons of transparency from their Afghan colleagues; and outright ridiculous: on the same day that Il Foglio published the report about the death of the 24 years old Alpine trooper, the Italian headquarters in Herat divulged, in a communiqué, that the Italian soldiers with a family, stationed in Farah, are wearing a little heart with an Italian flag on their fatigues, which says: “My daddy is in Afghanistan”.
Comments are superfluous.

But your comments to this article will be very appreciated. Thank you.
Leonardo Pavese.


Gianandrea Gaiani is the editor of the on-line magazine ANALISIDIFESA. He also writes for the Italian daily newspaper Il Foglio.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

What should a house represent for a man? Architecture in the age of ephemera.



Diogenes of Sinope, in the third century before Christ, said that he had finally thrown even his cup away, after he had seen a child drinking water from his cupped hands.
He owned nothing, and he lived in a large earthen jar, saying that he wanted to live as simply as a dog; therefore he was called a "cynic". But he was by no means a cynic in the way we mean today: he sought wisdom through the liberation from material desire; and he said that Prometheus was justly punished for giving man the skills to produce the complications and the artificiality of modern life, which burden us and distract us from our pursuit of wisdom.
Be indifferent to the goods (material and immaterial) that chance might bestow on you, said Diogenes, and you will be free from fear. It's the way of the Tao (from an Oriental perspective), as James Altucher also says in the following excerpt from his newsletter. (Mr. Altucher is an American entrepreneur, investor, and immensely popular blogger). 
It seems to me that what Altucher is talking about is more a sort of "ephemeralization", (just to add an "ization" to the ones that he lists in his article); that is, a way of being able to do more with less physical impediment. In any case, he's had it: he's going to throw everything away. So I guess he won't mind if I pick up some of the stuff that he left behind and re-blog it, as a way to introduce another translation of mine:


   
I give up (says James Altucher); I’ve been constantly burned by my possessions. None of them have ever given me pleasure. They all eventually have given me stress with maintenance, costs, upkeep, storage, transport. I want none of it ever again.
I am going to throw everything in my life away. I used to say “don’t own a house”. Now I don’t even want to rent a house. I used to say, “lease a car”, “don’t own it”. Now I don’t want to lease or own. I don’t want to shop for food. I don’t want to have a computer. I want to get rid of almost all of my clothes. I want to throw out all my books and furniture. I want to throw out my TV screen. All of my plates and dishes and coffee machines and beds and dressers. Gone.
What do I need them for?
The Tao Te Ching, Chapter 48: “If you want to learn: increase every day. If you want to have wisdom: decrease every day.”
I opt for wisdom.
So I’m going to do it.
I’m going to give up my rental. I’m just going to switch to constant airbnb. A month here, a week there, six months here. I can live in places like a tree house in Costa Rica; maybe I will spend a week there. In a chateau in France: (for $191 a night. Cheaper than any hotel in Manhattan); or in this Manhattan deluxe apartment for almost nothing. Wherever I want. No responsibilities. For the rest of my life I’m going to live this way.
What about clothes?
Guys, be realistic. We wear three outfits, tops. Some t-shirts and we’re good. If I need another pair of underwear, I’ll go to the Duane Reade (it's a drugstore, in the U.S.). Or there are plenty of people with PhD's in Nuclear physics but no immigration status thanks to America’s backwards immigration policies that would be happy to make money washing my underwear.
What about my extensive library of books? Throw it all out! I already have five times as many books on my kindle.
What about a computer? What a drag it is to carry around a computer and make sure it’s connected to the Internet. I’m throwing out the 5 computers in my house. I have the Galaxy Note II for tablet/phone and I can always go to a Kinko's if I need a computer.
What about an office if I want meetings. There’s about 250 spaces in New York City (and I’m sure in other places), where I can get a conference room and a desk for $25 a day.




 
But don’t you need to drive? Ok, Uber if I need a car service, Zipcar if I want a car waiting for me one block over with the key already in the ignition. I never need to own a car again.
Don’t I need food? Seamless web for food, MaxDelivery for bulk goods like toilet paper.
I’m done with it.
For the rest of my life I’m decreasing. Until I have nothing. No address. No belongings. No nothing. I don’t even need an identity. I’ll use incorporate.com, set up a corporation. Make it a C Corp so there’s no look-through. Get a corporate credit card because we live in a cashless society. Use bitcoin when I can to pay for things.

But you can’t get rid of everything, you might say. Don’t you need a job?
I’m on the board of a temp staffing company with ½ billion (U.S. Dollars) in revenues. I can guarantee you that when a job opens, it is never getting filled. Ever again. The era of the fixed job is over. We are moving towards an employee-less society. I see it from behind the scenes. Not a single Fortune 500 company wants to hire full-time employees ever again.
Again, the entire concept of a “job”, which is a modern concept, has been replaced by globalization + localization + mobilization + digitization + monetization. The “izations” have crushed the job market.

It’s over.
So you either need to be a temp staffer or an entrepreneur; and an entrepreneur can find random conference rooms and desks all over any city for $25 a day. We think in the age of computers we are somehow getting more and more and more. Phones, tablets, computers, digital TV, digital cars. But the reality is, computing is designed to make our lives more efficient, instead of the increasingly complex lives we’ve built up, in our never-ending quest to keep up with the Jones family next door.
The jig is up. The tide has come in.
Follow the Tao. The way of wisdom is less. I’ve already started throwing everything away. And one day I hope that there is so little trace of me left that I’m effectively gone. A digital version of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man...







This (above) is a model of a house designed by the Italian architect Cesare Cattaneo. (The furniture was designed by Carlo Mollino. If you don't know who he was, check him out, please). It's located in Cernobbio, Italy. Today it is known as Casa Cattaneo, but it was designed, and built, as a rental property between the years 1938 and 1939, (maybe for people on their way to invisibility, as James Altucher might say).
However, it still exists, and it reminds us that a beautiful object of design, even if it's meant to be experienced in a transitory way (like a rental, an automobile, an item of clothing) represents the product of the interaction between human creativity and reality. Therefore when uniquely gifted individuals, like Cattaneo, create something, the result is unique and ever-lasting, and it enriches creation. Someone might even say that human creativity represents part of a divine plan. Cesare Cattaneo certainly thought so, and he had his ideas, also, about what a house should represent for a man, as Ebe Gianotti explains in the following article, that I have translated into English. (The article was published in Italian on La Bussola Quotidiana. All the models that appear in the pictures are by Onirofabrik).


Cesare Cattaneo and the Ideal House.


  Even for architecture, the years of the 1900’s were the century of experimentation, the years of a clean severance with tradition and the past, and the architects who flowed to Rationalism, the most important architectural movement of the first half of the century in Italy and in Europe, were inspired by the certainty that architecture in the new century had a messianic role to play. 
   In their work and in their plans, their conviction to be able to change the people and the world by the strength of the principles on which the new architecture was being founded is obvious. However, the tension that prompted them was ethical, social, ideological, but almost never religious or spiritual; except in some rare case, such as the example of Cesare Cattaneo (1912-1943).

Cesare Cattaneo
   
   In anticipation of the celebrations of the hundredth anniversary of his birth, Archivio Cattaneo published a book in two volumes: Scritti di architettura (Writings on Architecture Archivio Cattaneo Publisher), that contains many interesting documents, including a 1942 article, which was summed up in previous notes entitled Manifest for a Catholic Architecture.
   The article was written for the architecture magazine Domus and, even today, it seems to point to a method that is very different from the path followed by some contemporary architects. Rather than offering themselves as interpreters of human needs, or problem-solvers at the service of Man, these demiurges, having cut the umbilical cord which connects architecture to its history, see themselves as makers of their own fate with a programmatic prosopopoeia all of their own, which is closer to an ideology than a craft.

  
 The title of Cattaneo’s article is very significant: La casa e l’ideale (The House and the Ideal). It took some guts to propose it to one of the foremost avant-garde architecture magazines! Could there have been a more glaring mismatch than that?     We must remember that this was the historical period in which the home of the working and lower middle classes was the object of an analytical and almost fanatical study to determine, with ergometric precision, exactly the minimum space required for each room of the dwelling in relation to the number of occupants and their movements, while they engaged in their various activities.
   Stated that way, the concept doesn’t even seem wrong. But it is erroneous because of the peculiarity of the thought that generated it, that is, the scientific-engineering approach which classifies people’s needs as they relate to dwelling as if they were exclusively of a functional and physiological nature – a thought that, even today, is still held in high regard. 
   Cesare Cattaneo understood this limitation clearly and, in his article, he proposed as an alternative a project called Family House for the Christian Family; premising his report with a quote from one of the Wednesday’s Audiences of Pope Pius XII: “The family is the beginning of society. As the human body, the family is composed by living cells which are not just placed one near the other, but with their intimate and constant relation they constitute an organic whole. In the same way a society is not formed just by a conglomeration of individual sporadic beings who appear just for an instant only to disappear; rather it is formed by the economic association and the moral solidarity of the families which, transmitting from one generation to the next the precious heritage of the same ideal, the same civilization, the same religious belief, assure the cohesion and continuity of social ties.”




   Cattaneo was a refined intellectual, one of the most brilliant in the fight for a new architecture, and was neither a traditionalist nor at the margins of the debate; therefore, the fact that he asked himself the crucial question which everybody else avoided, that is, what should a house represent for a man - and from that he started to design it – amounted to nothing else but taking a revolutionary position.  Even today, his analysis of the concept, which at the time was just embryonic and now is widespread, is lucid and correct: the view of the home as a haven for the freedom of the people who live in it, as the place where one can set free his instincts and his whims, and where the dwellers are just “incapable to give their intimate lives a meaning which was not individualistic and romantic.”

A model of the Christian house, as envisioned by Cattaneo

   In the process of designing on the basis of the codes and the modern rules of distribution (“the pedantic rules of orientation, lighting of the rooms, height of the ceilings, cubic meters of air per dweller...”), what Cattaneo felt was the lack of a fundamental principle capable of orienting his work  (“[A]nd why should the kitchen be near the dining room?  Why eat in the dining room at all? Wouldn’t each dweller maybe eat more comfortably in his or her bedroom?”). That is, he felt an absence of a principle that took into account the impossibility of reducing man to a simple vegetative biological entity, as if he were “a single isolated animal or just simply close to other people, disregarding the effort he makes to fuse himself with other men in an organism which is superior to his own individuality.”  He thought that if we “Exclude[] synthesis from man, how can we even think about synthesis in architecture?”
   The ordering principle, for him, could only be found in the Christian concept of the family and, holding fast to that idea, he set out to develop a model, with several variants, to find an answer to the natural need for a home that arises with the establishment of a new family.


   Cattaneo’s description of the founding act of the new home - which is the delimitation of the land with a fence wall and the laying at the entrance of a stone with the name of the family carved on it - has the character of a sacred act. Also sacred in character is the construction of the family room in a central position with respect to the land. That room is dedicated to the safe-keeping of especially valuable objects that are linked to the memories of the ancestors and the marriage.  It is the chosen place for prayer and to receive relatives, and is the room around which all the other rooms of the house develop. Today we would call it a “work-in-progress” house.




   In fact, Cattaneo’s house is not rigidly defined from the beginning of its construction and set-up. Cattaneo forecast that, in time, the bedrooms will develop starting from the main nucleus, as more children will be born, mimicking a process similar to the growth of an organism; because Cattaneo thought that an architecture should be considered an organism. What will happen when the children will have grown? The house will empty, little by little, until the marriage of a grandchild who will acquire it. If the taste and the fashion will have changed he or she could demolish it, though preserving the fence wall, the threshold name stone and the family room.



   Cattaneo’s intuition was extraordinary: he recognized the ancestral need to put down roots in a place and then transfer it to the new generations; and the need to work to give an architectural shape to this ancestral need, which is tied to memory and to the construction of one’s identity – and that has nothing to do with any functional blueprint – adapting the architecture to the modern needs that force us to change within closer and closer frames of time. This change severs one’s roots to one’s place of origin, while it “would only be natural and appropriate that in a rapidly moving life a man also held a firm reference point.”


   However, Cattaneo’s building techniques were subordinated to the hierarchy of the different parts of the organism: particularly precise rules of execution were set and solid long lasting materials were chosen for the family room; while in the temporary sections of the house the structures were light and flexible.
   These days, the flexible parts of the house would be particularly suitable to be built employing the many alternative materials offered today for temporary and eco-sustainable housing (for example the m² 100/€ 100.000 house exhibited at the 2010 Triennale). Also, this way, the issue of ecology would be brought back to its proper dimension of a means, and not an end; losing the character of unassailable dogma that it has acquired.
   Cattaneo didn’t hide from the problem that such a house could only be built for a small number of people; although, thinking about the suburban neighborhoods in our country, with single family homes as far as the eye can see, maybe we’re not really talking about a minority. His answer to the raising of that issue was the following: “The problem of the mid and low income housing will be truly framed when we will have settled the question of the higher classes’ house, which should serve as an example for the former. Leon Battista Alberti: “Be the house of the poor similar to the house of the rich, but not the reverse.”
   If the low-income house today is so ugly and inadequate to give true happiness to its occupants, it’s mainly because the rich have lost the sense of the good and beautiful dwelling and of the right family life.”

   Ebe Gianotti is an architect and a journalist. She writes for the Italian daily newspapers L'Ordine and Il Giornale.
I hope you enjoyed her article and your comments, as always, will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
L. Pavese