Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Our 6th Day Trip: Como

You probably know Como as a famous retreat for the wealthy who sip wine in the gardens of their private villas (wow this is starting to sound a little like us in Genova) and ride around the lake in their yachts. So after hanging out with good old Clooney, we spent the rest of the day experiencing the rest of what you don’t know about Como, the architecture of Giuseppe Terragni an important Italian Rationalist. 

Our first stop was Villa Bianca, a house that Terragni designed for his cousin. The building itself was, well, white and had a neat rooftop terrace, but besides that what was most interesting was the sculpture surrounding it. Contrasting greatly with the linear modern architecture was the modern sculpture which was slightly creepy but automatically provided our pictures with scaled figures, so that’s good. 

Moving onward and upward, we next visited the War Memorial by Terragni.
Although Terragni won the competition for this memorial, he was forced to change his design to replicate a sketch drawn by Antonio Sant’Elia--- the leader of futurism--- before he died in the war. So this monument is interesting because it is both futurist and rationalist, and thus greatly shows the very close correlation between these two movements. This monument has a very heavy and oppressive presence right on the edge of Lake Como, which actually suits its intended function perfectly- to serve as a constant reminder of all those who died during World War I.  

Next we went to what is considered the first modern building in Italy (disregarding the Ca' Brutta which no one really cares about), the Novocomum apartment building. Although this building is modern in many ways (its daring cantilever, curved corner condition, extensive glazing, etc.) what I thought made it seem more modern was its jarring contrast with the highly decorated building right beside it. Seeing this contrast even today exaggerates the simplicity of the Novocomum, and how it was highly innovative for its time, and still is. We followed this building with a little bit of fascism, my favorite part…. 

The Casa Del Fascio is a building in the center of Como which was meant to be a house for fascism, exactly as the title implies. Thus the architecture is full of propaganda to reflect the "clarity and honesty" of the fascist party. The architecture is simple and utilizes a lot of glazing and natural lighting so that you can literally see right through the bottom level of the structure, and you "know" what is going on at all times. However, this is a skewed perception, because if you count the column grid, there are a lot of rooms hidden from this, not to mention the other levels and rooms where they housed all the people who disagreed with the fascist party. 

Thus this building is an insane paradox, and actually works perfectly with its function, because the fascist party was the exact same thing--- a presented facade with an entirely different thing happening under the surface. The Casa Del Fascio thus perfectly reflects the contradictions of Fascism as well as serving as a model for how easily people could fall into Fascism's trap--- they were really rather good at propaganda. So maybe the architecture is not the best for architecture's sake, but it is one of the best correlations of form follows function that I have ever seen- even on levels that were not intended. 

We also saw a Nursery School in the Sant'Elia Quarter in which Terragni designed everything on the scale of an elementary school kid. Everything was so cute and tiny including the handrails, bathrooms, tables and chairs. It was also interesting how he took a city setting and added as much green space and natural lighting as possible to give the kids a great rural experience while in school. Actually the whole place is devoted to creating the perfect environment for kids to live and learn in, which I believe Terragni successfully achieved. All in all, it was a cool place. 

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