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Pride in Modesty

Pride in Modesty: Modernist Architecture and the Vernacular Tradition in Italy

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Pride in Modesty
    Book Description:

    Pride in Modestyargues that ordinary, often anonymous, everyday things inspired and transformed Italian art and architecture from the 1920s through the 1970s.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9846-8
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Foreword: The Extraordinary Role of Ordinary Things
    (pp. xiii-xxii)

    One of the world’s truly astounding modern buildings opened as the Crystal Palace on the occasion of theGreat Exhibitionof 1851 in London. Colossal in every way, but delicate and almost evanescent in its effects, its canopy melted into the cloudy sky, the way Camille Pissarro later painted it, while shrouding mature trees, fountains and enormous orchestras under its gossamer web of glass. While blending into the weather, it also created its own climate and atmosphere. Where modern nations proffered their products to a new kind of public that shared metropolitan anonymity and ancient curiosity, who would have expected...

  5. Ringraziamenti/Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxiii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-24)

    Italian modernist architecture and urbanism of the twentieth century emerged in a cultural context characterized by distinct and competing regional traditions, unified primarily by a deep-seated agricultural heritage that had since antiquity coexisted with the urbane aspirations of city dwellers.² American architects and theorists Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour noted in their study entitledLearning from Las Vegas(1972) how the vernacular and classical traditions coexist in Italy: “The Italian landscape has always harmonized the vulgar and the Vitruvian: thecontorniaround theduomo, theportiere’slaundry across thepadrone’s portone,Supercortemaggioreagainst the Romanesque apse. Naked...

  7. 1 In Search of Italianità: Ethnography and National Identity
    (pp. 25-56)

    Italy’s national unification, with Rome becoming the capital of the kingdom in July 1871, took place in the context of a political sea change that swept Europe, transforming empires into nations and altering relationships among countries throughout the Continent and around the world.² Neither was Italy immune to the quarrel over “Style-Architecture and Building-Art” that defined European architectural debates in thrall of historicism during the last decades of the nineteenth century.³ To be sure, the ideological search for a language of national identity and the “challenge of tradition” powerfully propelled the arts.⁴ During the fractious years following unification, classicism, in...

  8. 2 The Picturesque Revival: Rusticity and Contextualism
    (pp. 57-91)

    With the impetus of the end of the First World War the 1920s witnessed an ongoing debate surrounding the role that the vernacular tradition could play in shaping Italian architecture and urbanism. Taking Gustavo Giovannoni’s lead, Marcello Piacentini distinguished between “aristocratic” and “peasant” art.² In 1921 Piacentini collaborated with Giovannoni and Vittorio Morpurgo (1890–1966) on mounting a modest yet topical Mostra di arte rustica (Exhibition of Rustic Art) as a way of fostering debate around the new possibilities that “rustic art” could offer to contemporary designers.³ All three architects and curators gravitated around the Associazione artistica fra i cultori...

  9. 3 Tabula rasa and Tradition: Futurism and Rationalism between Primitivism and Mediterraneità
    (pp. 92-127)

    Discourses on primitivism, the vernacular, andMediterraneitàplayed a vital role in shaping futurism and rationalism in Italy between the 1920s and early 1940s; these concepts helped artists and architects combine the abstract qualities of the machine with organic, natural qualities of the vernacular tradition, while engaging competing notions ofItalianitàthat surfaced during the fascist regime.³ Although the futurist and rationalist movements were fundamentally at odds, from the mid-1920s onward, their trajectories coincided in a shared appreciation of vernacular traditions that invoked authenticity and the notion of origins. The ideal ofMediterraneitàwas grounded in a dialogue with Italy’s...

  10. 4 Engineering versus Architecture: The Vernacular between New Objectivity and Lyricism
    (pp. 128-164)

    From the mid-1930s, a small but vocal group of Italian rationalist architects and engineers, including the likes of Giuseppe Pagano and Ignazio Gardella who identified with neither futurism norMediterraneità,turned toarchitettura ruraleor rural architecture in their search for new design methods. Heeding the admonitions of Austrian architect and theorist Adolf Loos (1870–1933), who revered vernacular buildings but abhorred the picturesque, these architects and engineers embraced modernity and nationalism while eschewing the overtly chauvinistic overtones of fascist ideology. Identifying with the rationalist elements in both the classical and vernacular traditions of the Italian peninsula, they rejected monumentality...

  11. 5 Continuity and Reality: The Vernacular Resumed in Postwar Architecture and Urbanism
    (pp. 165-195)

    The collapse of the fascist regime coupled with the destruction of Italian cities and its countryside during the Second World War created a backdrop of anxiety and poverty which challenged postwar efforts to rebuild. The spectre of the Holocaust and atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki added to the mixture of anxiety and hope for renewal that permeated those years. Collaboration with the fascist regime had tarnished the reputations of many Italian architects both at home and abroad, despite mostly unsuccessful attempts of left-wing fascists to persuade the regime to adopt the progressive platform of the rationalist movement. Unlike progressive...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 196-210)

    Like an underground river that meanders through the crevices of the bedrock, only to surface occasionally and disappear once again, the ubiquitous presence of vernacular architecture was a continuous presence in Italian modernist architecture and design. In recent decades, the unregulated orinformalbuilding practices associated withabusivismo(illegal building activity) and the sprawlingcittà diffusa(diffuse city) that has gradually filled in the territory between major Italian cities with its endless rows ofvilliniand uninspired commercial vernacular cluttering the roadside has produced little of architectural interest. On the other hand, the timeless vernacular buildings of the different regions...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 211-280)
  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 281-318)
  15. Index
    (pp. 319-341)