How a group of local DJs, producers and musicians keeps Ivrea alive
There are few cities in the world where you can contemplate the projection of an idea while you walk through their avenues. Our subconscious has been depicted throughout history in caves, paintings, works of art. However, there are few contexts in which you can perceive the strength of an ideal in every corner.
The unique case of Lisbon’s enligthenment
Sometimes, specific historical circumstances allow you to actually walk through human mind. These might be the result of a disaster, like the one that occurred in Lisbon some centuries ago. After one of the strongest earthquakes in European history, in 1755 the capital of Portugal was razed to the ground, becoming “similar to the Arabian desert”. From the rubble, the city was rebuilt thanks to Sebastião José de Carvalho and Mello, Marquis of Pombal, and the enlightenment rationalism that attracted the sympathies of the European encyclopedists.
But where is the enlightenment now? You can perceive it in the pioneering political discourses or in all the scientific discoveries, or even in the adoption of laws allowing a more open society and shifting the focus on the importance of human rights. However, the case of Lisbon is different: you can still walk through and touch this enlightenment, as its buildings speak French and every corner smells like that period. From the ashes you can rise again, as “Candido” understood in the book by Voltaire. Despite the acknowledgment of the existence of evil, it does not appear, however, that the author of “Candido” exalts pessimism. Indeed, the metaphor of evil can be seen in the earthquake, central in Voltaire’s book. It is no coincidence that the French thinker embodies in the figure of the tutor Pangloss the German philosopher, whose aim is to teach the young Candido to see the world around him with optimism, regardless of disputes and mishaps.
Adriano Olivetti’s experimental ideas on Ivrea
The circumstances of a little city in north-west Italy are less drastic, but as revolutionary as those of the capital of Portugal. Ivrea, in Piedmont region, came to life again thanks to the simple idea of an Italian manager. Ivrea is not Venice or Rome, but it is a UNESCO site since 2018. As a matter of fact, it became the 54th place to become UNESCO heritage site in Italy. Suffice it to say that Italy has the largest amount of UNESCO heritage sites in the world, one more than China.
Ivrea is the projection of Adriano Olivetti’s mind and his ideals of a humanistic approach to human labor. He was able to shape an entire city with his industrial concept, in which the economic, social and cultural well-being of employees is considered an integral part of the production process. And only relatively recently are companies starting to think about the importance of this way of thinking within an organization. Olivetti did that already from the ‘30s to the ‘60s, shaping an entire city system and trying to implement his experimental social and architectural ideas on the industrial process.
Ivrea’s urban shape and buildings were designed by some of the best known Italian architects of the first half of the 20th century. The city is composed by buildings for production, administration, social services and residential uses, reflecting the idea of the Community Movement, an Italian socialist party. Therefore, the industrial city of Ivrea is a significant example of the theories of urban development in last century’s architecture, in response to the industrial and social transformations brought about by the Italian economic boom, including the transition from mechanical to digital industries.
Ivreatronic keeps the town alive
It is always interesting to note that people try to project their ideas onto a piece of paper or around the avenues you walk on, or even by creating a musical experiment. Ivrea is now slowly dying, as many other small centers which do not have the strength to fight the cities’ attractiveness and the general process of urbanization happening today. However, some minds are able to keep their interest about small villages through their creative activities.
Nowadays in Ivrea, instead of Olivetti, there is Cosmo, an Italian songwriter who runs several electronic festivals in town, even though it would be more appealing to organize them in some metropolis. He is doing this in order to discover new talents in his territory and Ivreatronic, which is the label of a group of local DJs, producers and musicians, seems to attract lots of people from all over Europe. In the Italian countryside, the sentiment of spleen and boredom is sufficiently widespread, and probably this is why creativity eventually explodes in the mind of Italian artists. Ivreatronic is one of the greatest example of this creative process.
Olivetti and Cosmo have nothing to do with each other, neither do the time in which they lived, nor their approaches to life and politics. However, they shared the same objective of reviving a small city, albeit in two different historical contexts. The result is that Ivrea still is a lively city which tries to fight an uncontrolled urbanization process in its own way. A process that started in the ‘30s from a socialist approach, following the relationship between the owner of the company and the workers, and that is kept alive even now thanks to the Italian electronic music movement led by Cosmo.