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The Death of Narcissus

IUAV, Venice, Spring 2019

The history of Urbino in Italy from the Roman times till today was written by men who saw something in the city that their ancestors had not. The city’s most profound transformation took place in the Renaissance under the impulse of the city’s duke, Federico da Montefeltro who turned the little burg of Urbino into “An ideal city” and a center for the Arts and Humanities.

History was bound to repeat itself 500 years later, with the intervention of the charismatic modernist architect Giancarlo de Carlo, whose vision was to salvage the crumbling walls of the city by drawing youth and educational institutions into its historic center. Urbino hence became the mirror through which these founding figures, could contemplate their masterworks, and thereby themselves. After Narcissus died of languor contemplating himself, the reflecting source of water also shed tears because it was no longer able to see its own beauty in the eyes of Narcissus. Therefore, just as De Carlo saw himself in the city, the city saw herself into him. It is one mirror facing another. A endless story of duality and unity. A city of the future that emerges from its past.

All Narcissus wanted was to be seen by others for who he truly was, and not for the external beauty that all his suitors desired him for. Punished by the Gods, he had to pay the price of his life, for denying the nymph Echo’s love. Narcissus hence, until his last breath remained genuine, searching for love and his true self. Through the very act of building a house, considered quintessentially narcissistic, this project emulates the descent of Narcissus into the stream as an introspective journey to the bottom. Drawing from the labyrinthian circulation, walls and courts of Urbino, this house immerses itself into the landscape to provide an intimate space for the community to reflect on one another