Showing posts with label Matera. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Matera. 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


31 December 2015

Festa di San Silvestro – Feast of Saint Sylvester

Celebrating with a meal of pork and lentils for a prosperous New Year

New Year’s Eve in Italy is known as the Festa di San Silvestro in memory of Pope Sylvester I who died on this day in 335 in Rome.

People gather in squares all over Italy to celebrate the arrival of the new year.
New Year celebrations in Rome
Photo: Zabbo (CC BY-SA 3.0)
It is not a public holiday in Italy but it is a festive time everywhere, with firework displays, concerts and parties.

One custom still followed in some parts of Italy is throwing your old things out of the window at midnight to symbolise your readiness to accept the New Year.

The bars and restaurants are busy with residents and visitors enjoying drinks and meals before seeing in the New Year in the main square when the bells ring at midnight.

Popular menu items include cotechino (Italian sausage), zampone (stuffed pig’s trotter) and lenticchie (lentils).

Pork is said to represent the fullness or richness of life, while lentils are supposed to symbolise wealth or money. Many Italians believe the coming year could bring prosperity if these foods are eaten on New Year’s Eve.

The President of the Republic delivers an end of year message from the Quirinale in Rome, which is shown on most Italian television channels during the evening. There are live concerts in the open air in many squares throughout Italy, some of which are televised.

Sylvester I was pope from 314 until his death in 335, an important time in the history of the Catholic Church.

Some of Rome’s great churches, the Basilica of St John Lateran, the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem and the old St Peter’s Basilica, were founded during his pontificate.

The Basilica of San Silvestro in Via del Gambero in Rome
The Basilica of San Silvestro
in Via del Gambero in Rome
Travel tip:

San Silvestro in Capite, the Basilica of Saint Sylvester, is a church in Rome dedicated to Pope Sylvester I. It is in Piazza San Silvestro on the corner of Via del Gambero and Via delle Mercede, on the other side of the Tiber from St Peter’s. Dating from the eighth century, it was bestowed on English Catholics by Pope Leo XIII in 1890. It is now known as ‘The National Church in Rome of Great Britain’ and mass is regularly celebrated in English there.

The southern Italian hill town of Matera in Basilicata
hosts the 2015 New Year's Eve convert on Rai Uno
Photo: Giuseppe Rinaldi (CC BY 2.5)
Travel tip:

Piazza Vittorio Veneto in Matera in the southern region of Basilicata will be the location for the New Year’s Eve concert, ‘L’Anno Che VerrĂ ’ (‘The Coming Year’), which will be shown live on the Italian TV channel Rai Uno from 21.00 tonight (31 December, 2015.) The historic city of Matera is to be the European capital of culture in 2019.