Saturday, 29 September 2007

Aldo Rossi: La Nuova Piazza, Fontivegge, Perugia

As yet incomplete, Aldo Rossi’s project consisted of a broletto or public building, a residential block, a theatre building and a commercial block arranged around a piazza which spans over the road connecting to the station. The decision to accommodate car parking as a basement deck allowed for a new ground plane to be established which would be free of traffic, but followed the sloping terrain typical of traditional piazze in the region, such as Piazza IV Novembre in the same city. But far from integrating itself into the dramatic topography of Perugia, the new piazza sought to re-establish the centre at a lower and more accessible altitude, even to the extent of imitating the positioning of the individual elements of the city core. So as the piazza rises, the centrally placed fountain is flanked on the left by a public building and on the right by the dense urban wall or residential element, with the as yet to be constructed theatre closing the progression. This apparent contextualism is subverted by the realisation that the ground on which the new piazza stands is an artificial topography, the ‘authenticity’ of the plan form, its historical grounding, not extending to the section. The individuality of the elements that Rossi designed for Fontivegge suggests that his analysis of traditional urban forms found expression in the design of the new urban components yet, as he had asserted in 1966, an imitation of these forms would not itself ensure success. His new buildings are dumb structures awaiting the accretion of meaning which only the layering of history can provide. In the meantime the vacancy of their forms requires appropriation by the citizens whose attitude is one of apparent indifference to the surroundings, or at least a complete acceptance of them as organic parts of their lives, the buildings and piazza providing the surfaces against which daily and ritual activities are set.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Triumph of Titus

The depiction of the celebrations of the siege of Jerusalem on the Arch of Titus in Rome.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Friday, 21 September 2007

Richard Meier: Museo dell' Ara Pacis, Rome

Linked from the Dutch site
Linked from the site
Linked from the Italian site

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Plastic colonnades

An installation used as the setting for a spectacular celebrating the work of the fashion designer Valentino, built on the podium of the Temple of Venus and Rome.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Piazza Ducale, Vigevano

The town of Vigevano, situated south-west of Milan across the River Ticino, is commanded by the fortress developed by successive Milanese rulers. It was the birthplace in 1451 of Ludovico Maria Sforza, also known as il Moro, the Regent and Duke of Milan who developed the new piazza in a single campaign between 1492 and 1494. As it survives today, Piazza Ducale is very different from Bramante’s original scheme, although it is still largely defined by the arcades he introduced. They form now a continuous range around north, west and south sides of the piazza, which measures roughly 50 by 130 metres, with the concave baroque facade of the duomo forming the fourth side. In their original condition, however, the arcades would have been broken in the south-western corner to provide an access ramp to the ducal rocca. The upper surfaces are decorated with painted antique architecture, including triumphal arches which indicate the connections to adjacent streets.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Modena 8 September 2007: Addio Pavarotti

Images of the romanesque cathedral of Modena, where the requiem for Luciano Pavarotti was held today, prior to his burial at the San Cataldo cemetery.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Three pieces of Piacentini: Piazza della Vittoria, Brescia

Piazza della Vittoria, completed between 1929-32, was the final result of a large planning exercise to improve the functioning Brescia, a rationalisation which was abandoned due to expense in favour of the rhetorical monumentalization of an area of the historic centre, medieval in date and deemed an obstacle to progress. However, functional planning was suspended in favour of a more overtly representational scheme, though the immediate reason for the site of the new piazza was the demolition of an existing unhygienic quarter. The new public space thus created glorified Mussolini directly, being completed to celebrate his tenth anniversary in power, but the variety of its profile and materiality attempted to obscure the fact that it was entirely constructed within a few years.

Paradoxically, despite the attempt to portray an organic but deceptive history, each element is treated as an individual monument, with peripheral connections through ground floor arcades to form the enclosed civic realm that had been favoured by Sitte. The purpose of a public forum was signalled by the honorific position provided for the modern mean’s of communication, the post, telegraph and telephone office, but also by the placing of an orator’s podium or aregno decorated with scenes of Brescian progress up to fascism, and standing at the foot of a small tower (“of the revolution”) which was originally adorned with a portrait relief of Mussolini on horseback. Diagonally opposite the aregno, a 12-storey office tower, the torrione, provided the largest single element in the piazza.

The diagrammatic quality of this ornamentation and the simplicity of the overall planning strategy is ameliorated by the picturesque massing of the elements. The axial view towards the post office is varied by the asymmetrical pairing of the tower of the revolution in marble and the brick mass of the office tower. These three elements then frame and dominate the views of the square, the torrione suggesting a certain aggressive power, the tower of the revolution rather unsubtly in conflict with the dome of the baroque cathedral beyond in Piazza del Duomo, and the post office portico producing a dull echo of the Roman capitolium. It has also been suggested by Richard Etlin that the early version of Piacentini’s post office had referred to precedent in the three bayed form of the renaissance Palazzo della Loggia, whose barrel vaulted roof was visible in profile behind the post office in the neighbouring Piazza della Loggia
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