Saturday, 28 July 2007

Piazza del Cinquecento, Stazione Termini, Rome

Few significant new urban spaces date from the post-1945 period, although one major example would be the square and facade of the Stazione Termini in Rome, completed for the Holy Year of 1950. The original project was implemented by Angiolo Mazzoni from 1938-42, and the station was completed between 1947-50 by teams working under Eugenio Montouri and Annibale Vitellozzi. In 'Italy Builds', it is the one contemporary exception to the series of contextless object buildings, and with regard to its exploitation of its major contextual feature Kidder Smith gushes

“This fourth-century-B.C. wall in the very midst of this startling modernity emphasizes as nothing else could to the traveller the roots and never-dying cultural contribution of the most fascinating city in the world.” (Kidder Smith 1955: 232)

In the completed project a great glazed hall communicated directly with the piazza outside. The sense of contemporaneity this scheme produced was modified by two elements, the presence of a section of the Servian Wall which passed through the facade at an oblique angle and formed one boundary to the space, and the attachment of the new hall with its over sailing roof to the rather more monotonous forms of the station beyond designed during the fascist period. The asymmetrical vault of the main roof reflected the profile of the Servian Wall so that its silhouette could be appreciated by waiting passengers. The cantilevered roof and canopy were offset compositionally by the wall of office accommodation behind it, with ribbons of continuous windows coursing across the travertine facade which acted as a modern screen to the arcuated forms of the station side buildings. The cross galleria, open at either end and connecting into the street network of the city was identified as serving as a mid-twentieth century equivalent to Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, if without that structure’s enduring glamour. The axial arrangement of the earlier designs survives in the disposition of ticket hall and restaurant either side of the main through route, and the station can therefore be seen to represent the political situation of the country as an open, modern, democratic veneer was placed over a substantial fascist legacy. The openness of the new facade helped disperse passengers along the elevation to the Piazza del Cinquecento, although the original intended relationship to the public space has not survived the increase in road traffic at this important urban node. The Stazione Termini demonstrated that skill in the design of the public realm had not disappeared with fascism, and that new architectural languages could be used to create significant contemporary places.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Naples Network

From Piazza Moneoliveto looking towards the Guglia della Immacolata ...

... in the Piazza del Gesu Nuovo, and then along Via Benedetto Croce ...

...towards Piazza San Domenico Maggiore with its own Guglia.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Ponti a Napoli

The rooftop pool of the Royal (Continental) Hotel in Naples designed by Gio Ponti in 1953

Monday, 16 July 2007

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Piazza del Plebiscito, Naples

The dramatic neoclassical space of Piazza del Plebiscito in Naples has its origins in the largo adjacent to the Palazzo Reale where festivals were held by the Spanish viceroys during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, following the establishment of the Bourbon court under Charles III the city gained enhanced status as a royal capital, and archaeological enterprises had encouraged the development of neoclassical taste at the Naples court and a desire to emulate antiquity inspired the eventual design of the piazza, or foro as it was initially termed, in front of the palace. Its design (and to a greater extent its nomenclature) would reflect the seismic political events which affected Europe in the wake of the French Revolution. The expulsion of the Bourbon king Ferdinand IV in 1806, their replacement by Bonapartist kings (initially Joseph, Napoleon’s elder brother and then their brother-in-law Joachim Murat) and then the Bourbon restoration (as Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies) in 1815 would both delay work, and encourage a renewed impetus as each successive regime sought to emphasise their hold on power in a space directly outside their palace windows.

Despite this political turmoil however, the issue of architectural language was remarkably consistent, so pervasive was the archaeological taste. The initial project from 1808 for the ‘Foro Murat’ designed by Leopoldo Laperuta was for the palace facade to be confronted by a hemicycle of corinthian columns, recalling in a truncated form the design of Piazza San Pietro in Rome. Pairs of subsiduary buildings for the municipal authorities were designed to occupy the sides of the space between the palace and new colonnade. However, following the restoration Ferdinand held a new competition, for the ‘Foro Ferdinandeo’, in which the Rome-based architect Pietro Bianchi (1787-1849) triumphed. His project used the existing foundations to create a doric colonnade (more a la mode) and a circular church, San Francesco di Paola, as a votive offering of thanks for the restoration of the throne to the Bourbon dynasty. Paired equestrian statues of kings Charles and Ferdinand reinforced the dynastic message of continuity. The church is directly based on the ultimate neoclassical precedent, the Pantheon in Rome, but with significant adaptations. For example the ionic portico was required to combine with the lower side doric colonnades, and with pairs of small domes as side chapels helping make the transition between the colonnades and the great central dome. The ensemble was therefore firmly allied to archaeological motifs, but with the complexity of its pure volumes and sober lines was also convincingly modern. The interior continues the imitative manner with the employment of a corinthian order. Externally the ‘roman’ dome and the ‘greek’ colonnade were complemented by ‘egyptian’ lions, but the urbanistic effect was to complement the severe facade of the Palazzo Reale (later ornamented with a series of statues representing the roll call of dynasties who had held Naples), and frame to either side a view towards the Teatro San Carlo (Charles III’s great cultural contribution to the city founded in 1737) and the later Galleria Umberto I (1885-92), and on the other side out to the Bay of Naples. Completed in 1846, the piazza’s name would change again following the final expulsion of the notoriously despotic Bourbons in 1860, and the plebiscite with which the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies joined the new Kingdom of Italy.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Campanili in context

Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome

Sant' Ambrogio, Milan

San Giorgio in Velabro, Rome (with the Arch of Janus Quadrifrons in the foreground)

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Monday, 2 July 2007

Ecstatic figures

a copy of Bernini's 'Beata Ludovica Albertoni' from Sant' Andrea delle Fratte, Rome

Lycian Apollo from the Capitoline Museum, Rome

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Spatial Catechism, Rome 1996

"Eamonn Canniffe opera una rigorosa riflessione sulla geometria. A Roma, gli interni delle architetture sono sacri, vegliati dai Lari. E anche le architetture dell' interno sono sacre: il vuoto del Pantheon, la struttura legera del Ciborio, il volume del Confessionale. C'e in questo lavoro una chiara accettazione dello spazio-tempo einsteiniano: lo spazio e piu che semplice
dimensione metrica, e luogo per eventi, la visione puo abitarvi."
from Alberto Alessi and Francesco Moschini (eds.)
ARCHITETTURA DI-MOSTRA Instituto Europeo di Design AAM Architettura Arte Moderna Rome 1996
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