Showing posts with label Architects and Designers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Architects and Designers. Show all posts

12 December 2023

Giancarlo De Carlo - architect

Forward-thinking designer who helped shape modern Urbino

De Carlo's ideas often put him at odds with more traditional urban planners
De Carlo's ideas often put him at odds
with more traditional urban planners
The architect Giancarlo De Carlo, who gained international recognition for his forward-thinking work in urban planning, was born in Genoa on this day in 1919. 

De Carlo was also a writer and educator, who was critical of what he saw as the failure of 20th century architecture.   Many of his building projects were in Urbino, the city in Marche known for its 15th century ducal palace and as the birthplace of the painter Raphael.  

He put forward a master plan for Urbino between 1958-64, which involved new buildings and renovations added carefully to the existing fabric of the city, described as genteel modernism and designed with the lives of Urbino citizens in mind. 

The most notable parts of the Urbino project were at the University of Urbino, where he worked for decades, constructing housing, classroom and administration buildings, carefully embedded into the hilly landscape and designed to facilitate ease of movement between parts of the campus.

He also built Matteotti New Village, a social housing project in Terni in Umbria to provide homes for the employees of Italy’s largest steel company, designed housing for working people in Matera in Basilicata and worked on the Mirano Hospital in Venice, buildings for the University of Siena, and the redevelopment of the Piazza della Mostra, Trento.

De Carlo’s buildings reflected his views on the involvement of users and inhabitants in the design process. On the Terni housing project, for example, he insisted that workers be paid to attend consultation sessions to enable him to understand better how they wanted to live. 

The Palazzo Battiferri at the University of Urbino, part of De Carlo's biggest planning project
The Palazzo Battiferri at the University of Urbino,
part of De Carlo's biggest planning project
He was a member of the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM) and Team 10, which brought together a new generation of architects focussed on a new type of architecture, better suited to local social and environmental conditions.

De Carlo was educated at Milan Polytechnic, where he graduated in engineering in 1943. He joined the Italian navy but with Italy’s surrender to the Allies in September of that year he went into hiding, then joined the Italian Resistance movement. Together with another architect, Giuseppe Pagano, he organized an anarchist-libertarian partisan group in Milan, the Matteotti Brigades.

He resumed his studies in 1948, obtaining an architecture degree from the University of Venice before opening his first studio in Milan.  His progressive views came to the fore when he produced a series of short films denouncing prevalent ideas about the modern metropolis and, as a professor of urban planning, often clashed with other architects, who he claimed put abstract ideas ahead of the interests of people and their environment.

His 1956 housing project in Matera ignored most of what had become the accepted principles of modern architecture in favour of design sympathetic to the geographical, social and climatic context of the region.  Architects who shared his progressive views joined together in the group known as Team 10. 

De Carlo began working on his Urbino project in 1964, winning international recognition for his designs for the University Campus. During the 1968 student uprisings, he sought constructive dialogue with the students and subsequently wrote a number of essays in which he explored his theories on what became known as “participatory architecture”, underpinned by his own libertarian socialist ideals

Among many honours, De Carlo was awarded the Wolf Prize in Arts in 1988 and the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 1993. He died in Milan in 2005.

As well as being the home of Raphael, Urbino offers the attraction of a beautiful ducal palace
As well as being the home of Raphael, Urbino
offers the attraction of a beautiful ducal palace
Travel tip: 

Urbino, which is 36km (22 miles) inland from the Adriatic resort of Pesaro, in the Marche region, is a majestic city on a steep hill.  It was once a famous centre of learning and culture, known not just in Italy but also in its glory days throughout Europe, attracting outstanding artists and scholars to enjoy the patronage of the noble rulers. The Ducal Palace - a Renaissance building made famous by Baldassare Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier - is now one of the most important monuments in Italy and is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site. Inside the palace, the National Gallery of the Marche features paintings by Titian and Raphael, who was born in Urbino, and there are more examples of Raphael’s paintings at his house - Casa Natale di Raffaello - in Via Raffaello. The University swells the city’s population by up to 20,000. Urbino is home to a number of gastronomic delights, including crescia sfogliata, a flatbread often served stuffed with melted caciotta cheese, and prosciutto di Carpegna, a local cured ham.

Matera is renowned for its famous cave district, the Sassi di Matera, to which visitors flock
Matera is renowned for its famous cave district,
the Sassi di Matera, to which visitors flock
Travel tip:

Declared a European Capital of Culture in 2019, the city of Matera in Basilicata, where De Carlo completed his first important housing project, is famous for an area called the Sassi di Matera, made up of former cave-dwellings carved into an ancient river canyon. The area became associated with extreme poverty in the last century and was evacuated in 1952, lying abandoned until the 1980s, when a gradual process of regeneration began. Now, the area contains restaurants, hotels and museums and is an increasingly popular destination for visitors.  The oldest part of the city, known as the Civita, sits above the cave districts on a flat, rocky plateau. Before they were turned into new dwellings, the caves became an extension to the Civita, used for storage and stabling horses. The Cattedrale della Madonna della Bruna e di Sant'Eustachio, Matera’s duomo, built in Apulian Romanesque style in the 13th century, can be found at Civita’s highest point.  

Also on this day:

1572: The death of Loredana Marcello, Dogaressa of Venice

1685: The birth of composer Lodovico Giustini

1889: The death in Venice of the English poet, Robert Browning

1901: Guglielmo Marconi receives the first transatlantic radio signal

1957: The birth of novelist Susanna Tamaro

1969: The Piazza Fontana bombing in Milan


Home


7 October 2023

Michelozzo - architect and sculptor

Designs became a template for Renaissance palaces

A detail from a Fra Angelico painting is taken to be a depiction of Michelozzo
A detail from a Fra Angelico painting is
taken to be a depiction of Michelozzo 
The influential Florentine architect and sculptor Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi died on this day in 1472 in his home city.

Known sometimes as Michelozzi but more usually Michelozzo, he is most famous for the palace in the centre of Florence he built on behalf of one of his principal employers, Cosimo de’ Medici, the head of the Medici banking dynasty, for which he developed original design features that became a template for architects not only of the Renaissance era but in later years too.

He was similarly innovative in his work on the ruined convent of San Marco in Florence, also on behalf of Cosimo, which he completely rebuilt.

Such was the influence of these two buildings on many projects during one of the busiest periods of architectural development in Italy’s history that the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, as it became known to reflect its ownership by the Riccardi family after 1659, came to be called ‘the first Renaissance palace’ and San Marco ‘the first Renaissance church’.

His other notable works in Florence include the renovation of the Basilica of della Santissima Annunziata and some additions to the Basilica di Santa Croce, while outside the city he built or renovated a number of villas for the Medici family, including the Castello di Caffagiolo at Barberino di Mugello, the Villa del Trebbio at Scarperia and the Villa Medici at Fiesole.

Michelozzo also worked outside Italy, in the Greek islands, and notably in what is now Croatia, primarily on the city walls of Dubrovnik and Ston.

In his early career, he was apprenticed to Lorenzo Ghiberti, the goldsmith and sculptor, and worked closely with the classical sculptor, Donatello. 

Michelozzo's Palazzo Medici Riccardi set the standard for Renaissance palaces
Michelozzo's Palazzo Medici Riccardi set the
standard for Renaissance palaces
Michelozzo was born in around 1396. His father, Bartolomeo di Gherardo Borgognone, was a tailor of French origin who lived and worked in the Santa Croce neighbourhood. The family moved to the San Giovanni quarter, the heart of the city, and later established a family home in Via Larga - now Via Camillo Cavour - which Michelozzo kept after his parents died.

His first employment, at the age of about 14, is thought to have been as a die-engraver for the Florentine mint. He became apprenticed to Ghiberti, who is best known as the creator of two of the three sets of sculpted brass doors of the Florence Baptistry, one of which - the east doors - was dubbed the Doors of Paradise by Michelangelo. 

He collaborated with Donatello on several projects, including the sacristy of Santa Trinita and an open-air pulpit at the cathedral in Prato. He was responsible for the architectural frames of a number of funerary monuments sculpted by Donatello.

Cosimo de’ Medici worked with Filippo Brunelleschi, another pioneer of Renaissance architecture and the architect of the enormous brick dome of the Florence Duomo, but is said to have found Michelozzo more receptive to his wishes than the more temperamental Brunelleschi.

Such was Michelozzo’s loyalty to Cosimo than when the latter was exiled to Venice in the 1430s as a result of political rivalries in Florence, Michelozzo went with him.

Soon after Cosimo’s exile ended, Michelozzo began the rebuilding of the ruined monastery of San Marco, where his elegant library became the model for subsequent libraries throughout 15th-century Italy. He directed the reconstruction of the large complex of church buildings at Santissima Annunziata and temporarily succeeded Brunelleschi as architect for the Duomo after the latter died in 1446.

He began work on the Palazzo Medici in 1444. The palace, a short distance from Michelozzo’s own home in Via Larga, is characterised by an elevation consisting of three storeys of decreasing height, divided by horizontal string courses, the lowest storey finished in rustic masonry, the uppermost in highly refined stonework, the middle one somewhere in between. 

The walled old city of Dubrovnik with Michelozzo's cylindrical Fort Bokar guarding over the western harbour area
The walled old city of Dubrovnik with Michelozzo's cylindrical
Fort Bokar guarding over the western harbour area
With influences of classical Roman architecture and some of the principles Michelozzo learned from Brunelleschi, Palazzo Medici came to be seen as one of the finest examples of early Renaissance architecture, and a template to which future architects referred.

In addition to the Medici villas, Michelozzo worked on the restoration of the Palazzo Vecchio - originally the Palazzo della Signoria - and undertook a number of projects abroad, including a guest house in Jerusalem for the use of Florentine pilgrims.

In 1461, at the age of 65, Michelozzo was invited by the government of what was then the Republic of Ragusa - an independent maritime trading republic with ties to Venice - to work on the city walls of Dubrovnik and Ston, now part of Croatia.  His cylindrical Fort Bokar, which defended the western gate of Dubrovnik, was hailed as a masterpiece. 

Michelozzo might have remained there longer, but a dispute over his ideas for rebuilding the Rector's palace - the seat of the republic's government - after an explosion left it badly damaged led him to cut short his stay and return to Florence. 

With his wife, Francesca, who was 20 to his 45 when they were married, Michelozzo had seven children, two of whom, Niccolò and Bernardo, were educated by the Medici and grew up to occupy important positions in Medici households.

After his death, Michelozzo was buried at the monastery of San Marco.

Part of the beautiful frescoes by Gozzoli in the Magi Chapel at Palazzo Medici Riccardi
Part of the beautiful frescoes by Gozzoli in
the Magi Chapel at Palazzo Medici Riccardi
Travel tip:

For all its architectural significance, the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, which can be found on Via Camillo Cavour about halfway between San Marco and Piazza della Repubblica, has a relatively modest appearance from the outside, which is probably as a result of the laws in existence at the time governing public displays of wealth. It was completed in 1484 and remained a Medici property until it was sold to the Riccardi family in 1659, after which it was renovated and the magnificent gallery frescoed with the Apotheosis of the Medici, by Luca Giordano, was added. The palace was sold to the Tuscan state in 1814. Since 1874, the palace has been the seat of the provincial government of Florence and has housed a museum since 1972. As well as the gallery, the palace is also noted for the Magi Chapel, which was frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli and also contains an altarpiece by Filippo Lippi. Two statues by Donatello - a David in the courtyard and a Judith and Holofernes in the garden - are other notable works.

Piazza San Marco in Florence with the facade of the church of San Marco, part of the convent complex
Piazza San Marco in Florence with the facade of
the church of San Marco, part of the convent complex
Travel tip:

The Museo Nazionale di San Marco, which houses the world’s most extensive collection of works by Fra Angelico, the early Renaissance painter and Dominican friar, is an art museum housed in the monumental section of the mediaeval Dominican convent of San Marco, situated in Piazza San Marco. Situated in the oldest part of the building, which was modernised by Michelozzo between 1436 and 1446, it has been a museum since 1869. It also houses works by Fra Bartolomeo, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Alesso Baldovinetti and Jacopo Vignali. Michelozzo’s library, on the first floor, was the first of the Renaissance to be opened to the public, representing the humanist ideal of the Florentines. 

Also on this day:

304: The execution of Santa Giustina of Padua

1468: The death of condottiero Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta

1675: The birth of Venetian portraitist Rosalba Carriera

1972: The birth of celebrity cook Gabriele Corcos


Home




11 April 2023

Donato Bramante - architect and painter

Father of High Renaissance style left outstanding legacy

Bramante made his mark in Rome in the 16th century
Bramante made his mark in
Rome in the 16th century
The architect and painter Donato Bramante, credited with introducing High Renaissance architecture to Rome, died on this day in 1514 in Rome, probably aged around 70.

Bramante, who was also a perspectivist painter, worked in Milan before moving to Rome, where he produced the original designs for St Peter’s Basilica and built several buildings and structures considered to be masterpieces of early 16th century architecture.

These include the Tempietto di San Pietro in Montorio on the summit of the Janiculum Hill, the Chiostro di Santa Maria della Pace near Piazza Navona, the Cortile del Belvedere and Scala del Bramante in the Vatican and the Palazzo della Cancelleria, located between Campo de' Fiori and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II.

Bramante was born Donato di Pascuccio d'Antonio in around 1444 to a well-to-do farming family in Fermignano, a town in what is now the Marche region, a few kilometres south of Urbino. He was also known as Bramante Lazzari. 

Little is known of his early life, although it is possible he worked on the construction site of Federico da Montefeltro's Palazzo Ducale in Urbino, having trained under its architect, Luciano Laurana.

He moved to Milan in 1476 and the first work definitively attributed to him was in Bergamo, 50km (31 miles) or so to the northeast, where he painted murals, notably on the facade of the Palazzo del Podestà in 1477. His mastery of perspective is thought to have been influenced by Piero della Francesca, his contemporary.

In Milan, Ludovico Sforza appointed Bramante his court architect on the recommendation of his brother, Cardinal Ascanio Sforza. His work there included the a rectory and cloisters of the Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio, which featured his characteristic use of arches, and alterations to the church of Santa Maria Delle Grazie - famously the home of Leonardo da Vinci’s fresco The Last Supper - where he added a cloister, a rectory and a dome surrounded by columns. 

Bramante's original design for the dome of St Peter's Basilica
Bramante's original design for the
dome of St Peter's Basilica
In 1499, however, Bramante’s time in Milan came to an abrupt end in 1499, when Ludovico Sforza was driven out by an invading French army. Bramante moved to Rome.

There, he immersed himself in the study of the architecture of ancient Rome, which would influence the style that became known as High Renaissance.

He became known to Giuliano della Rovere, the Cardinal who was the future Pope Julius II, his biggest patron. It was Julius who commissioned Bramante to build a new St Peter's, replacing the basilica erected by Constantine in the fourth century, which he envisaged would be the greatest Christian church ever constructed. 

There was a competition organised, which Bramante won with a design based on an enormous Greek-cross structure topped by a central dome inspired by that of the huge circular Roman temple, the Pantheon. However when Pope Julius died in 1513, his successor replaced Bramante with Giuliano da Sangallo and Fra Giocondo, and the commission then passed to Raphael in 1514, a few months after Bramante’s own death. It was not until 1547 that Michelangelo took over as chief architect, making substantial changes to Bramante's original plan.

St Peter’s Basilica apart, Julius II employed Bramante on many more projects, including whole complexes of buildings, fountains and street layouts as the pontiff set about a programme of urban regeneration. 

Among these, his Cortile del Belvedere - Belvedere Courtyard - a long, rectangular courtyard connecting the Vatican Palace with the Villa Belvedere in a series of terraces, linked by stairs, influenced the design of courtyards across Europe.

The Tempietto di San Pietro is considered a Bramante masterpiece
The Tempietto di San Pietro is
considered a Bramante masterpiece
His Scala del Bramante, meanwhile, though described as a staircase, was in fact a ramp, an innovative double-helix spiral connecting the Vatican's Belvedere Palace to the outside world of Rome. Lined with granite Doric columns and featuring a herringbone paving pattern, it was designed to allow Julius II to enter his private residence while still in his carriage.  

Two of Bramante’s most acclaimed masterpieces, those that earned him the description of Father of the High Renaissance, were the cloister at Santa Maria della Pace, commissioned by Cardinal Oliviero Carafa around 1500, with a magnificent upper gallery characterised by alternating Corinthian pilasters and columns, and the Tempietto di San Pietro, commissioned by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, a circular temple composed of slender Tuscan columns, modelled after the ancient Roman Theatre of Marcellus.

An extrovert character who wrote poetry and music, Bramante was a close friend of Raphael, in whose fresco The School of Athens he depicts Bramante as the mathematician, Euclid.




The town of Fermignano can be found  a few kilometres south of Urbino
The town of Fermignano can be found 
a few kilometres south of Urbino
Travel tip:

Fermignano, Bramante’s birthplace, has a history that dates back to Roman times, when it was the location for the defeat of Hannibal’s Carthaginian army, led by his brother, Hasdrubal, in 207BC.  Significant buildings include the Delle Milizie tower and a Roman bridge over the Metauro river. A former paper mill located in Via Santa Veneranda used to be rented out by the Montefeltro family. The church of San Giacomo  in Compostela is an important historical monument with 14th and 15th century frescoes. A contemporary art gallery in the town is named after Bramante.

The rectangular Cortile del Belvedere, designed by Bramante, can be found in the Vatican City
The rectangular Cortile del Belvedere, designed by
Bramante, can be found in the Vatican City
Travel tip:

The Vatican City, which contains some of Bramante’s most significant work, occupies an area of 44 hectares (110 acres) within the city of Rome and has approximately 1,000 citizens. Since 1929, it has enjoyed the status of the smallest sovereign state in the world by both area and population. It came into existence when an agreement was signed between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See to recognise the Vatican as an independent state. The treaty - known as the Lateran Treaty - settled what had been a long-running dispute regarding the power of the Popes as rulers of civil territory within a united Italy.  The treaty was named after the Lateran Palace where the agreement was signed and although the signatory for the Italian government was the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, succeeding democratic governments have all upheld the treaty.


Also on this day:

1512: The Battle of Ravenna

1890: The birth of dictator’s wife Rachele Mussolini

1987: The death of writer and Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi


Home

 



22 March 2023

Vittorio Emanuele II Monument - Rome landmark

 ‘Altar of the Fatherland’ built to honour unified Italy’s first king

The Monument's multi-layered construction in white marble has earned it the nickname the 'wedding cake
The Monument's multi-layered construction in white
marble has earned it the nickname the 'wedding cake'
The foundation stone of Rome’s huge Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II was laid on this day in 1885 in the presence of his son and successor Umberto I and his family.

The monument, which took half a century to fully complete, occupies a site on the northern slope of the Capitoline (Campidoglio) Hill on the south-eastern side of the modern city centre, a few steps from the ruins of the Forum, the heart of ancient Rome.

Built in white Botticino marble, the multi-tiered monument is 135m (443 ft) wide, 130m (427 ft) deep, and 70m (230 ft) high, rising to 81m (266ft) including the two statues of a chariot-mounted winged goddess Victoria on the summit of the two propylaea. 

Its appearance has earned it various nicknames, ranging from the ‘wedding cake’ to the ‘typewriter’, although it is officially known as Vittoriano or Altare della Patria - the Altar of the Fatherland.

The Altare della Patria is actually just one part of the monument, at the front and in the centre, consisting of an inset statue of the goddess Roma and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where two soldiers guard an eternal flame.

Vittorio Emanuele II is commemorated with a huge bronze statue at the front of the monument
Vittorio Emanuele II is commemorated with a
huge bronze statue at the front of the monument
Above it is a large bronze horse-back statue of Vittorio Emanuele II himself on a central plinth in front of the broad upper colonnade.  The statue, 10m (33ft) long and 12m (40ft) high, is said to have been made with 50 tons of bronze obtained by melting down army cannons.

Officially opened in 1911 on the 50th anniversary of the Unification of Italy, the monument has become a national symbol of Italy, representing the values of freedom and unity, which are represented in the two chariots atop the propylaea - on the left is the Quadriga dell'Unità by Carlo Fontana, on the right the Quadriga della Libertà by Paolo Bartolini.

The Vittoriano has an important ceremonial role. On three occasions each year - on Liberation Day (April 25), Republic Day (June 2) and Armed Forces Day (November 4) - the President of the Republic lays a laurel wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to honour those who sacrificed their lives in the service of the country.

It also houses the Museo Centrale del Risorgimento Italiano al Vittoriano, the museum that commemorates the decades-long struggle for Italian unification, known as the Risorgimento.

The idea of building a permanent monument to Vittorio Emanuele II was first mooted soon after his death in 1878, when a Royal Commission set up to have responsibility for the project invited architects to put forward their ideas in a competition.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the Italian president lays a laurel wreath on state occasions
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the Italian
president lays a laurel wreath on state occasions
The winner was a French designer, Henri-Paul Nénot. However, the idea of entrusting a non-Italian with what would become a symbol of the nation provoked such fierce opposition, not least because Nénot’s entry was one he had previously submitted for a project in Paris, that the contest was declared void and another one staged.

After the Commission could not decide between designs submitted by the Italians Manfredo Manfredi and Giuseppe Sacconi, and the German Bruno Schmitz, a third contest took place, which was won by Sacconi, an architect from Le Marche, whose design envisaged a neoclassical interpretation of the nearby Forum.

Such was the scale of the project, including the vast Piazza Venezia that the monument overlooks, a wide area of mediaeval and Renaissance streets and buildings had to be demolished. A small building to the right of the Vittoriano, at the foot of the stairway leading to the adjoining Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara Coeli, is all that remains.

Building proceeded slowly and was still some way from complete when Sacconi died in 1905. The project was continued by Gaetano Koch, Manfredi and Pio Piacentini and though it was inaugurated during the international exhibition for the 50th anniversary of unification in 1911, it was not considered complete until 24 years later.

During this time, the body of the Italian Unknown Soldier was placed in the crypt under the statue of the goddess Roma. This took place on Armed Forces Day in 1921, when the remains of an unidentified soldier killed in the First World War were interred in a solemn ceremony and the eternal flame was lit.

Finally, in 1935, the monument was declared to be fully completed with the addition of the museum of the Risorgimento, which occupies the space between the propylaea on the upper level. 

The entrance to the Museo del Risorgimento can be found on Via San Pietro in Carcere
The entrance to the Museo del Risorgimento
can be found on Via San Pietro in Carcere
Travel tip:

Open to the public since 1970, the Museo Centrale del Risorgimento Italiano - the National Museum of the Risorgimento - takes visitors on a tour of the Risorgimento in 14 stages, beginning with the Napoleonic period at the end of the 18th century and ending with the First World War, marking major events such as the uprising known as the Five Days of Milan, the two wars of independence and Giuseppe Garibaldi’s Expedition of the Thousand. It celebrates the roles of Garibaldi, the revolutionary philosopher Giuseppe Mazzini, the politician Cavour (Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour) and Vittorio Emanuele II himself. Visitors access the museum via an entrance on Via San Pietro in Carcere, to the rear of the monument.

Rome's ancient Forum, an area of extensive ruins, is one of the city's most popular attractions
Rome's ancient Forum, an area of extensive ruins,
is one of the city's most popular attractions
Travel tip:

Rome's historic Forum, the ruins of which can be found immediately behind the Vittoriano, was at the heart both of the ancient city of Rome and the Roman Empire itself, the nucleus of political affairs and commercial business, a place where elections took place and great speeches were made.  The site fell into disrepair with the fall of the empire and over time buildings were dismantled for the stone and marble, with much debris left behind.  Eventually it was abandoned and became overgrown and was used mainly for grazing cattle.  Attempts at uncovering and restoring buildings began in the early 19th century and the process of excavating areas long buried continues today.  The impressive and extensive ruins are now one of Rome's major tourist attractions.  The site opens at 8.30am and closes one hour before sunset and visitors should allow at least two hours to explore.

Also on this day:

1837: The birth of ‘La Castiglione’ - mistress of Napoleon III

1921: The birth of actor and director Nino Manfredi

1986: The death of fraudster Michele Sindona


Home