Showing posts with label Fascists. Casa del Fascio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fascists. Casa del Fascio. Show all posts

18 April 2024

Giuseppe Terragni - architect

Major pioneer of Italian Rationalism

Terragni's Casa del Fascio in Como, completed in 1936, is considered a modernist masterpiece
Terragni's Casa del Fascio in Como, completed in
1936, is considered a modernist masterpiece
The influential architect Giuseppe Terragni, who was a pioneer of the modern movement in Italy and a leading Italian Rationalist, was born in Meda, a town in Lombardy between Milan and Como, on this day in 1904.

Terragni's work tends to be associated with the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, although some students of his work have questioned whether he should be considered a Fascist architect.

He was a founding member of the Gruppo 7, a collective of seven Italian architects whose aim was to move Italian architecture away from neo-classical and neo-baroque revivalism towards Rationalism. The group produced a manifesto spelling out their aims. 

Terragni’s most renowned work is the Casa del Fascio in Como, also known as the Palazzo Terragni, which was constructed between 1932 and 1936 and is considered a masterpiece. 

Other notable works include his war memorials at Como and Erba, the Posta Hotel in Como, a number of apartment buildings in Como and Milan, a Casa del Fascio in Brianza and another in Lissone, and the Antonio Sant'Elia nursery school in Como.

Terragni's career and life were cut short by World War Two
Terragni's career and life were
cut short by World War Two
With fellow architect Pietro Lingeri, he designed the Danteum, a proposed monument in Rome to the Italian poet Dante Alighieri structured to reflect his greatest work, the Divine Comedy. The monument, in the event, was never built.

Terragni’s father, Michele, was a builder and owner of a construction company. His mother, Emilia, arranged for him to live with members of her family in Como so that he could attend lessons at the Technical Institute of Como, where he enrolled on a mathematical physics course.

He graduated in 1921 and enrolled at the Royal Higher Technical Institute (later Polytechnic of Milan), where he graduated in 1926 before he and six fellow students - Luigi Figini, Adalberto Libera, Gino Pollini, Guido Frette, Sebastiano Larco Silva and Carlo Enrico Rava - signed the document that united them as the Gruppo 7, which the following year expanded into the Italian Rational Architecture Movement (MIAR).

In the same year, 1927, the magazine Rassegna Italiana published the four articles considered to be the manifesto of Italian Rationalism. Terragni was one of the seven signatories.

With his brother, Attilio, Terragni opened an office in Como in 1927. His first original building, a collaboration with Luigi Zuccoli, was the Novocomum apartment building in Como (1927-29), designed in European avant-garde style with elements of German expressionism and Soviet constructivism. 

Between 1928 and 1932 he created the War Memorial in Erba, a town east of Como, the first modern war memorial in Italy. He moved from there to start work on the Casa del Fascio in Como, which fronts on to Piazza del Popolo on Via Alessandro Manzoni, opposite Como’s majestic duomo, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, with its 15th century Gothic facade and a 18th century cupola by Filippo Juvara.

Terragni's Monumento ai Caduti in Erba was the first modern war memorial built in Italy
Terragni's Monumento ai Caduti in Erba was the
first modern war memorial built in Italy
The Casa del Fascio, which enthusiasts see as a milestone of modern European architecture, forms a perfect prism, its height corresponding to half the base. It owes it expanse of glass to Terragni himself, who followed the Fascist regime’s instruction to create a building that was accessible and without secrets, declaring that "the concept of visibility, of the instinctive control established between the public and Federation workers predominates in the study of this Casa del Fascio". 

In 1933, Terragni joined Lingeri in opening a studio in Milan, where they designed a series of apartment houses, including the Casa Rustici in Corso Sempione, the broad boulevard that links Piazza Firenze with the Arco della Pace, and the Casa Toninello in Via Perasto and Casa Ghiringhelli in Piazzale Lagosta, both in the Isola district, north of Porta Garibaldi railway station.

Back in Como, in 1936 he built the Antonio Sant'Elia nursery school, for which his design was characterised by large bright spaces that he hoped would create a sense of happy freedom. It formed part of a social programme aimed at helping working-class women escape from domestic drudgery and giving children a healthy, hygienic environment, open to greenery, play and education. 

He and Attilio retained their office in Como until Giuseppe's premature death at the age of just 39, the result of the physical and psychological consequences of being called up to serve with the Italian Army on the Eastern Front. 

Terragni was ahead of his time in giving children a large, airy play area in his Sant'Elia nursery
Terragni was ahead of his time in giving children
a large, airy play area in his Sant'Elia nursery
Attilio was the Fascist Podestà (mayor) of Como when the Casa del Fascio, built as the local party headquarters, was commissioned,

Until 1940 Terragni was fully active and had many works in progress, including the Danteum, the project for the development of the Cortesella district of Como, the Casa del Fascio and the complex Casa Giuliani Frigerio, which some consider to be his final masterpiece.

Everything changed, though, when Italy entered World War Two. Terragni received his call-up papers and was assigned to an Italian army unit destined for the Eastern Front. 

After the Italian advance disintegrated near Stalingrad, Terragni suffered a nervous breakdown.  He returned to Como but in July 1943 he collapsed and died at his girlfriend's house, having suffered a cerebral thrombosis.

His body was buried in the family tomb in Lentate sul Seveso, a neighbouring town to Meda. 

Terragni's architectural legacy, though brief, left a significant impact on modernist architecture in Italy, and his works continue to be studied and admired for their innovative approach and design excellence. 

Meda's Church of San Vittore is an important example of Lombard Renaissance architecture
Meda's Church of San Vittore is an important
example of Lombard Renaissance architecture
Travel tip:

Meda, where Terragni was born, is a town in the province of Monza and Brianza in Lombardy, around 26km (15 miles) north of Milan and a similar distance south of Como. Nowadays a centre for furniture production, it was originally established around a convent built on a mound (meta in Latin) from which it gets its name. The territory was held by the Visconti and Sforza families until coming under the control of Spain, France and the Habsburg empire before becoming part of the Kingdom of Italy. The town’s 16th century Church of San Vittore  has a series of frescoes by Bernardino Luini. 

The Casa Ghiringhelli in Isola
is one of Terragni's buildings
Travel tip:

Isola, the district of Milan where Terragini and Pietro Lingeri collaborated on a number of apartment buildings, is regarded as a somewhat trendy, up-and-coming neighbourhood, a former working-class area that has taken on a vibrant hipster feel. Easy to reach via Milan’s metro system, it is perfect for travellers who want to experience an alternative Milan. It has a lively art scene with plentiful street art, especially along the underground tunnel connecting the Isola and Garibaldi metro stations. As well as such public art installations, Isola has many art galleries that remain largely undiscovered by the tourist crowds who flood to Milan for its most famous art galleries. Isola is home to Ratanà, considered by some to be one of the best restaurants in all of Milan, where Milan-born head chef Cesare Battisti brings a signature twist to typical Milanese dishes. 

Also on this day:

1446: The birth of noblewoman Ippolita Maria Sforza

1480: The birth of notorious beauty Lucrezia Borgia

1902: The birth of politician Giuseppe Pella

1911: The birth of racing car maker Ilario Bandini