A book and an unusual journey to an Italy far from clichés

Inheriting the present” is the title of a necessary work dedicated to contemporary Italian architecture. In fact, it is the first scientific mapping of architectural production on the national territory from 1945 to today, with the aim of protecting and conserving it.

The full title of the book is in factInheriting the present. Knowledge, protection and valorization of Italian architecture from 1945 to today(Magonza Editore, 2024), promoted by the General Directorate for Contemporary Creativity of the Ministry of Culture and by the Fondazione Scuola dei Beni e delle Scienze Culturali.

The volume, edited by Stefania De Notarpietro, Alessandra Ferrighi, Eliana Garofalo and Luciano Antonino Scuderi, returns the proceedings of the two study days held in Rome on 11 and 12 October 2022, in which the results of the researchInheriting the presentwere presented, the result of the collaboration between the General Directorate of Contemporary Creativity and the Fondazione Scuola dei heritage and cultural activities, following 20 years of work and the creation of an online platform open to all with scientific supervision which has led to standardizing the data into easily consultable sheets.

But the book and site actually open the doors to a thousand questions and a thousand thoughts on what it means to protect and conserve architecture, naturally ending up asking what architecture, memory, time and territory are.

Cataloging the contemporary is already a complex operation and the work of "normalizing" the data required establish seven criteria on the basis of which to select the works worthy of attention, in a certainly composite and non-uniform panorama, starting from a census promoted by General Directorate of Contemporary Creativity of the Ministry of Culture.

Naturally, the buildings must have had a role in the evolution of construction, introduce and experiment with significant innovations and play a role in the urban context in which they are inserted, as well as more obvious criteria such as appearing in publications academic, in sector magazines and about the importance of the author.

The purpose of this selection is then protection. A subtle and complex question at the same time, first from a regulatory point of view because there are no laws that can avoid transformations or demolitions, then from a more philosophical point of view.

It is about architecture and architecture must be habitable, therefore, as Ferrighi further explains, it must be possible to adapt and refunctionalize it: they are not works of art, but works to be used and experienced. This is therefore the meaning of the title of this book, Inheriting the present: what does it mean to have contemporary works to leave to the future?

A very first response could be to make this work a tool for travel. The result would be an itinerary in an unusual Italy and away from clichés. It's a misuse, sure, because it wasn't intended, but a lot of fun.

We selected seven unmissable stops that take us from the Lido Comunale Genoese Zerbi created by Pier Luigi Nervi, Elisa La Face, Vincenzo Ziparo to Reggio Calabria, up to Brusson, in Valle d'Aosta, to see the Colonia Montana Olivetti of Claudio Conte and Leonardo Fiori.

The lido di Reggio Calabria was built between 1957 and 62 and its Tower Nervi, as it is usually called, is a real gem, a polygon of 16 sides all with windows thanks to a system of metal uprights and glass that allow a continuous relationship between inside and outside (including an interesting view of the sea front but also of the city). The development of the establishment starts from here on two lines of cabins that redesign the coast (while following its trend).

Bari, to be precise Noci, retains the church of Santa Maria Assunta and its service center, designed by Plinio and Paolo Marconi between 1959 and 1963. A large complex with unusual shapes designed by the two architects, father and son, which develops in particular in the building for worship, a load-bearing masonry structure with a conical vault with a decentralized axis with an elliptical plan and variable thickness. The sail on the facade and the bell tower were created using reinforced concrete and brick in an experimental way, in a game that almost seems to give a new interpretation of Southern Gothic.

Termoli (Campobasso) is teatro delle Rotonde sul mare by Antonio De Felice (1979/84), an architect who was able to express a lot of himself in the city and who in this work of redevelopment of a public area engages passers-by in a game of crossed attention. The mosaic flooring tells a story and forces you to slow down, in order to think about the surrounding landscape which on one side overlooks the ancient village and on the other, with your back to the ancient church of Sant' Antonio, overlooks the Adriatic Sea with the first bathing establishments from the beginning of the 20th century. The area is adjacent to the Colombo seafront and heads towards Vasto, in a sequence of public spaces that interact with each other.

Lignano Sabbiadoro with its coastline hosts the Beach Pavilion designed by Giovanni Avon and built between 1955 and 1956. The project envisaged 12 seaside resorts but then only three were built, all of them crushed close to the seafront and with a symmetrical structure that has the center in a cylinder from which two wings of cabins start at 60 degrees, as if to embrace the beach. The flat roof of the cylinder gives a futuristic touch to the structure, made of simple materials: concrete and exposed bricks that decorate the facade.

In Lido di Spina Comacchio (Ferrara) there is a small wonder, the Remo Brindisi Museum House designed by Nanda Vigo in 1973. Born as the Remo Brindisi Alternative Museum, the building was conceived to contain the art collection of Brindisi and at the same time be a holiday home. The space is created in a cylindrical structure designed by the chrome handrail of a circular staircase which determines its volumes, between walls and white tiled floors. The stairway and ground floor areas are used for works while the two upper areas are used for private use. In a game of volumes, lights and transparencies, Nanda Vigo inverts the rules by plastering the outside and tiling the inside and letting the lush vegetation of the garden enter through every opening.

Molino di Falcade is a small mountain town in the province of Belluno which houses the studio for the sculptor Augusto Murer, created by Giuseppe Davanzo between 1971 and 72 The building is tailor-made to meet the creative needs of Murer, who did not want to see the mountains from the studio windows: they would have intimidated him during the creative process.

Thus the Latin cross plan which divides the spaces according to the functions, the area for woodworking, that of plaster and the one, double height, for sculptures with a mezzanine for drawing (and to observe the sculptures from above), it is illuminated by strongly splayed windows to let in light without seeing the outside and ventilated by circular vents in the wall.

Large windows and two skylights facing north guarantee uniform light during the hours of the day, while different floors indicate the functions of the laboratories, in light stoneware and wooden planks. The studio is on the first floor and can be reached by an external staircase or an internal spiral staircase that connects it to the living room and a space for guests, but also suitable for displaying works.

A vault allows you to conserve the most precious materials, while an external storage area, protected by a shelter, houses the logs, which can be observed during their seasoning, which can then be transferred to the studio thanks to a hoist. The exteriors are also interesting because they are made of cubic modules which make the internal division of spaces explicit.

The province of Aosta, in the locality of Brusson, is home to the Colonia Montana Olivetti designed by Carlo Conte and Leonardo Fiori and built between 1955 and 1963. A monument to summer holidays and that The idea of ​​the factory understood not only as a workplace but as an environment of social aggregation.

A place capable of enhancing the person, thanks to a system of services described by Adriano Olivetti with these words: «The system of such services tends to give each of its activities the immediate meaning of a benefit or an adjustment of the worker to the factory and his place, but rather the more complete one of an integration capable of giving man back his responsibility for choice and judgement".

The building expresses all this by relating to the territory, both for the materials and for the continuous reference to the landscape which in turn is intertwined with a pedagogical and social idea of ​​architecture .

The first objective is to make the children staying at the facility interact with each other and with the natural environment. Thus the internal environments are separated but at the same time communicating with mobile wings that encourage meetings and relationships.