The Sublime Remains of the Recent Past

The resort created on the initiative of Enrico Mattei in the Dolomites for the employees of National Hydrocarbons bears witness to the Italian economic miracle and the great era of Italian postwar architecture.

Photo: Università Iuav di Venezia – Archivio Progetti, fondo Edoardo Gellner

Photo: Università Iuav di Venezia – Archivio Progetti, fondo Edoardo Gellner

In a famous aphorism of the 1930s, the great Italian critic and essayist Edoardo Persico – who died mysteriously during the most oppressive years of fascism – defined architecture as “the essence of things we hope for”. This decidedly positivist view of the architectural profession was pronounced in the speech-manifesto “The Prophecy of Architecture”, and was probably inspired by a verse from the “Divine Comedy” in which Dante defines faith as “the substance of things we hope for”. It is possible to imagine how this vision, or expectation, in relation to the architectural profession highlights a typically Italian mood, an attitude that characterises much of its post-war architectural culture. Indeed, the project in action has often been understood by Italian architects as being analogous to a missionary spirit, albeit in a secular sense: the project is intended as a tool for the construction of reality, society and future life, in its etymological sense of pro-jacere (to throw, to throw forward into the future). The calling of an architect is thus seen not only as a profession, as a technical universe available to the community, but as a life mission, described via drawings, writings, theories and visions that promote – for forms and spaces – that which is hoped for (le cose sperate).

Photo: Università Iuav di Venezia – Archivio Progetti, fondo Edoardo Gellner

The complete article is published in Winter 2015 issue of Piranesi No. 37/Vol. 23.

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