One day, Piri Reis in Milan

Un giorno, Piri Reis a Milano
An urban fairy tale. First Prize Winner Young Critic of Architecture 2018 (presS/Tletter).


He is old, Arab and escaped death by a nose in one of the most disgusting prisons in Al-Sisi, somewhere in the suburbs of Cairo. And what is he doing in Milan, he just doesn’t know. He was a sea soldier, and sea or in Milan or it seems there is none, although wind and water are everywhere; he was the geographer of the sultan Solimano, Ḥājji Muhyieddin Piri Ibn Ḥājjī Meḥmed, known to the world as Piri Reis, commander of the Ottoman naval forces in the Indian Sea and sentenced to death by the sultan and reawakened or we do not know yet how and why or in Milan, in a center for clochard near the Central Station. The question of what he is doing in Milan, more than 460 years after his death sentence (at almost 90 years, he would have been fooled by little), is in doubt.

He is old, tired and lost, but he’s not stupid, he has to draw a card. Without paper, you go nowhere and it must work, allowing you to navigate the sea, the coasts and the sources of the rivers. It doesn’t take long for the old man to understand that there is a lot of water in Milan, but it’s underneath, next to the sewers and tombs of martyrs who didn’t have popes to dig them up and worship them, but workers to ignore them. He doesn’t waste his talent and already in the late morning he traced the first line of the coast, a central sea in the shape of a heart, in the summit the Castello Sforzesco, and inside a liquid, chaotic and brackish historical center.

Inside the sea-heart-centre, little and nothing, abysses of houses, churches, palaces, squares; he saw in the Ticinese area the monument to a poor Christ condemned for a plague caused by rats and poor hygiene. Out of the heart, everything. The geographer no longer observes the form of water and land, but that of men, animals, birds, spirits and demons of the cities. Its map will not be for the sultan, there is no longer a sultan, indeed, there is no longer even the Sublime Door or any form of state. The state has been replaced by other institutes, perched on other and high minarets, which create the false image of a crowding of more or less singular lines, but all boringly similar. So, no more state, which still could be a good customer for its map, it touches drawing for men.

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