January 19, 2009

Webcasting to a Global Classroom

“The 2010 Imperative Global Emergency Teach-In” may influence education as much as the Climate Crisis

by Lucas Gray

Traditional education has revolved around a group of people gathered together in a single place to listen to a respected elder talk about their expertise. Whether it be an aboriginal tribe chief sharing traditions and heritage through fables, or an esteemed university professor lecturing about Post-modern American literature, for thousands of years this has been the model humans have used to disseminate information. Architecture has played a fundamental role in this traditional educational model. In today’s world buildings are the places of meeting and interacting at our educational institutions. Where once this was an advantage - bringing great minds and diversity together - it has become a limiting factor given our acclimation to worldwide communication with new technology.

Internet has revolutionized the way we access information and communicate with others. Technology is still being tested and adapted to best serve our educational institutions. Professors have slowly started using digital media in the classroom but not in such a way as to match the pace of technological advance. Administrators still question and struggle with how best to utilize and invest in new technology. However, as it slowly becomes more prevalent throughout the educational system the Internet and webcasts can reinvigorate what has become dry and dated.

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to be studying for my Master of Architecture degree at the University of Oregon when a group of architects, environmentalists and designers concerned with Climate Change held a unique event called The 2010 Imperative 
Global Emergency Teach-In. Over a quarter of a million people from 47 different countries gathered together on February 20th 2007 to participate in this revolutionary educational event - an interactive webcast where Climate Crisis and Design experts addressed an audience spread throughout world. The event preached the urgency of action and offered strategies to accomplish the goals needed to curb carbon emissions. To see a list of participants click here.

At the University of Oregon School of Architecture, students were huddled around televisions in the corridors, crowded into lecture rooms, stared at laptops at their desks and made impromptu lecture halls with projectors in stairwells. Video cameras were set up for students to ask questions to the speakers and interact with other participants around the world. It became an environment that encouraged dialogue between students and professors, students and their peers, professors and each other, and really tore down the walls of the traditional educational model. No longer was there a single solemn professor standing in front of, and talking at a group of half-asleep students. No longer was it even necessary for students to be in the same room. Instead it became a worldwide conversation - a sharing of ideas. Most importantly, it enabled anyone and everyone who is interested in the topic to tune in. It offered free information to everyone who was willing to listen and learn.

One of the unique aspects of this model of education is the interactive capability it provides. Competitions, workshops, and games were introduced at the 2010 Imperative event, which called for students to make short films, art projects, or essays to post on the website. This allowed the content and the message of the event to spread even more, incorporating the ideas of the thousands of participants. No longer was I learning the knowledge of one individual and his/her point of view but rather I had access to the thoughts, ideas and experiences of people from varying backgrounds, cultures, and climates. New points of view were brought up that our school might not have addressed due to its geographic location or socio economic condition.

When an event allows individual participants to add their input, there tends to be a breakdown in the review process to verify facts within each contribution. A professor has been hired because of his educational background and research work. Hopefully this qualifies him or her to teach their subject matter. This is not the case with user-generated content in a web cast situation. This particular event focused on a series of lectures by experts in the field and then allowed for questions and comments directed to those lecturers. In this particular scenario the additional content was secondary in importance to the primary speakers, which allowed for the well-researched message to come to the forefront. However, this may not always be the case with other Internet based platforms. Web casting may democratize information and education but may also dilute important messages with uninformed opinions.

This event opened my eyes to a new way of education; offering focused events and letting all interested people participate in an interactive way. No longer will education be reserved for those who can afford it. Coupled with the One Laptop Per Child initiative, education and information can be made readily available to all. The advantage lies in the fact that the knowledge available will also have all of humanity contributing to it. The information will evolve and grow to account for differing viewpoints and experience. It will allow students in Oregon to learn about environmental issues in Nepal and ask questions to and collaborate with students living and studying there. The opportunities are endless and outweigh the possible pitfalls of using the web to educate.

The 2010 Imperative 
Global Emergency Teach-In was a spectacular event that has grown into a movement to create change in the world. It was focused on influencing people to change their habits, lifestyles, and building practices to address the growing concern of Climate Change. However, it may also have revolutionized the way information is disseminated to people throughout the world – how technology can forever change humanity’s educational model and perhaps the architecture of our educational institutions.

January 13, 2009

The Jewish Museum

Berlin, Germany – designed by Daniel Libeskind
By Lucas Gray

The Jewish Museum in Berlin exploded onto the international architecture scene in 2001 with great fanfare. A truly unique design by Daniel Libeskind - the jagged volume cut by jarring windows is said to allude to the struggles and hardships the Jewish people have overcome throughout a troubled history. The design evolved from a deconstruction of the Star of David slowly evolving into its present form. This symbolic shape was disassembled and morphed into a long meandering building that bends and folds back off of the main street into a tranquil garden. It has an extreme contrast to the historic building it extends from and is an eye catching form that attracts visitors as much for the architecture as for the museum's content.

The exterior is truly captivating. The metal cladding has ever evolving moods as it reflects hues from the sky and surroundings. At dusk, the walls turn subtle pinks and oranges that contrast against the dark gray of the planes that face away from the setting sun. As the building twists and turns small courtyards emerge housing symbolic gardens or hard-scaped plazas. Wandering around the structure gives the visitor an ever-changing ambiance with tight sharp spaces adjacent to open airy gardens.

However, this bold statement as a piece of sculpture in the landscape loses credibility when seen from within. As a museum this building is a terrible disappointment. From the questionable curation, the quality and interest of the exhibits, to the confusing procession, the interior is rather poorly done. As you descend a dark yet beautiful staircase to enter the first exhibit space you expect to emerge in an interior that reflects the beauty and complexity of the exterior. Instead you are left feeling flat as a long straight corridor lit with fluorescent lights opens before you. Small exhibits and artifacts relating to the holocaust are inset into the gypsum board walls. The content and stories being told deserve to be celebrated in a more elegant space than currently exists. The materials feel cheap, the detailing is poorly done, and the lighting is atrocious. As was pointed out to me, Libeskind didn't design the exhibits. However, he was still responsible for choices of materials and detailing which fell short in my opinion.

A glimmer of hope arises as you move up another grand staircase that brings you to the start of the main exhibition space. Flying concrete beams pierce the three-story space above you and generate dramatic shadows and a feeling of intense movement. Looking back down after the hard climb offers an intriguing view of a unique architectural space. But the fact that it revolves around a 3 story climb up stairs limits its effect as many visitors just can’t physically accomplish it. It creates a terrible social injustice, especially with an increasing elderly Jewish population.

Once you do enter the exhibits you find kitschy displays, rather uninteresting artifacts and a space that is unemotional, unmoving, and rather unattractive. Its confusing as how to move through the exhibit, the lighting is terrible, and the small slashes of windows don’t let in natural light, don’t let out good views and reveal more poor detailing. More whitewashed gypsum board walls move you through the interior that is an ultimately forgetful experience.

Now I would be ready to give the architect Mr. Libeskind the benefit of the doubt. He was attempting to create a bold, unique form that symbolically related to a very touch history – especially here in Germany. However, since completion of this museum he has gone on too use the same jagged planes, slashed windows, and bland materials on dozens of projects since. I feel this takes away from the symbolism offered as an explanation for this outlandish form. From the Denver Art Museum, to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, to the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, Daniel Libeskind has created overly complex geometries without actually making great architecture. He has spent millions of taxpayers’ dollars without giving the people a building that will stand the test of time and become a symbol of their city’s culture.

January 11, 2009

Landscape Informing Design: the Architecture of Antoine Predock

by Lucas Gray
“The concept of architecture as analogous to landscape is something that has interested me for a long time.”
– Antoine Predock
Historically speaking the land has had a predominant influence over the architecture of a given culture. Availability of building materials as well as climate dictated designs. Landforms and other natural elements often influenced designs because of the advantages they gave for defending land, cultivating land, as well as often having religious connotations. However, because of technological advances we don’t have to worry about many of these issues in the developed world. Defense and agriculture aren’t major issues influencing the design of our buildings anymore, and even fundamental problems such as weather and climate aren’t addressed today as they were in the past because of technological advances in air conditioning, heating and other forms of climate control. Still, contemporary architects need to draw on something as inspiration for their designs and often they turn back to the landscape.

Contemporary materials and technology do play a major part in the design process but ultimately architecture remains influenced by the same forces as it has for thousands of years. The mountains and deserts of the southwestern United States as well as other major geographic elements like the Pacific Ocean, the sky, local waterways, local wildlife, and the desert play a significant role in the development of Antoine Predock’s buildings

Before beginning his designs, Predock constructs large collages that conjure up images relating to the site and explore connections to local history and geography. Often his designs take on forms that are clearly inspired by features of the surrounding landscape - such as mountain ranges in the distance, the Pacific Ocean, forests, streams, the desert or other natural phenomena that surround his sites. For Predock, landscape is not something just to gaze upon. It is a great deal more than simply a collection of views. His collages consist of photographs, postcards, rocks, plants, animal skeletons – anything found on or around the site that conjures the spirit of the place. He believes that each site is timeless. Everything from the past and present, from folklore to contemporary technology is included as possible influences on the forms his designs may take.

Four projects demonstrate how Antoine Predock has taken different approaches as he works in varying Landscapes. The American Heritage Center in Laramie, Wyoming responds to the large flat valleys and distant mountains. The Ventana Vista Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona demonstrates Predock’s response to the American dessert. The Turtle Creek House outside of Dallas, Texas shows his response to the deep south and how he incorporates his buildings into woodlands and streams. And finally the Venice House outside of Los Angeles, California demonstrates the relationship between his building, the nearby ocean and the surrounding urban context. These four projects all have vastly different climates and terrains. Antoine Predock successfully drew from the surroundings to create responsive designs to all four unique landscapes.

The American Heritage Center, Laramie, Wyoming

This design is viewed by Predock as an “archival mountain with a village at its foot.” The building’s axis lines up with the two highest visible mountain peaks - Medicine Bow Peak, in the Snowy range, and Pilot’s Knob, part of the Laramie range. This axis marks an historical rendezvous point for Native Americans as well as a for French trappers and early American settlers. Now it has become a place of intellectual and social rendezvous. Whenever Predock designs, he addresses the larger natural and mythic context and content of a site and program.

A web of site-specific alignments anchors the building into the campus and the immediate landscape. The complex consists of a main building in the shape of a large cone with block like surrounding buildings. This become an abstract representation of a mountain with a small village at its base. The buildings at the base are long terraced flat roof buildings. These structures are meant to recall the architecture of the pueblo Indians. The cone is a mountain, standing alone in a sweeping vista framed in the distance by two mountain ranges. Like ancient temples this structure contains a symbolic significance in its form and orientation.

Predock always weds the symbolic forms of his buildings with the practical and useable aspect of design. This site is in the center of a wide valley between two mountain ranges that channels wind. To protects his building from these wind forces he designed the block buildings as long and low structures that are protected by the cone and a wall of trees. The cone itself is detailed like an airplane wing to be aerodynamic. Openings in the cone are kept as small, deep and limited. The top of the cone is an observation deck and a chimney - releasing smoke from the giant hearth that makes up the central shaft of the cone. From a distance the place looks like a strange volcano spewing smoke into the night sky.

Ventana Vista Elementary School, Tucson, Arizona:

Located near the Catalina Mountains and the Sonoran desert, the School consists of small courts and pathways that are arranged around the two-story library building. The skyline of this school is designed to have a clear reference to that of the mountain range behind it. This "city for children" suggests ageless ruins, thought of by Predock as a direct confrontation with the inhospitable environment of the southwest desert.

Although the architecture is sometimes criticized as stark, Predock argues that the desert is about power and loneliness and thus the building should not be cute. The entire complex is designed at a scale designed specifically for the ages of children occupying it. Predock designed the school to be built on many different levels that corresponded to the topography of the site. Each level became a “neighborhood that was part of the overall city for children”

There is a tent-like white canvas structure that makes reference to the nomadic occupation of the desert. A “Solstice Wall” contains openings of various angles and shapes allowing sunlight to penetrate it on specific days – such as Cinco de Mayo or the Winter Solstice. As light pours through, it highlights plaques embedded in the ground that make reference to historical events. This feature of the architecture allows students to be constantly aware of the passing of time and the sun becomes a teaching tool. These features are a direct result of the influence on the social history of the site as well as the specific environmental conditions. The apertures also frame specific views of the landscape making the wall both an observatory and a beacon.

The actual classrooms and activity rooms are all separate buildings. Each building has its own function. There is a structure for each grade level and two large buildings which house the library - in the center of the site - and the Activities center - with the canvas tent covering it. The courts and paths created by the voids between these structures become one of the most significant parts of this design. Each open space focuses on a different form of discovery. They each focus on important learning activities such as vegetable gardens or places for animals. Unique and fun design features are introduced - spy holes into classrooms, the Solstice Wall - and create distinct geographic identities for these open spaces. They also allow the desert landscape to be incorporated into the complex.

In one of the highest classrooms there is a mirror against the top of a wall oriented at a 45-degree angle that acts as a periscope and reveals a panoramic view of the nearby mountain peaks. Another feature that connects the building and the landscape is the walls of the fourth and fifth grade classrooms. These walls are made up of large glass garage doors that can be rolled up and allow the courtyard and the classrooms to become one large interior/exterior social/teaching space. Here the concepts of indoors and outdoors, building and landscape are blurred to the point that the landscape and architecture become one and the same.

The second and third grade courtyard revolves around the “Sorcerer’s Terrace,” which covers a space for reading. This space is referred to as the desert Kaleidoscope. Covering the area is a shallow dome with desert specific cultural artifacts cast inside a series of acrylic skylights. By gazing through these from below or walking over them from above the young students encounter a spectrum of desert images.

Turtle Creek House, Dallas Texas:

This House - a “theater of the trees” - was a response to the client’s passion for bird watching. The site is at the convergence of two major continental bird flyways. Two distinct facades relate the house to the surrounding landscape in contrasting ways. The first facade confronts the main approach to the house. It consists of large planted limestone block terraces that ground the structure into the landscape. The ledges suggest geologic parallels to the Austin Chalk Formation that runs north south through Dallas. Thus the view from the street is a solid mass of concrete stucco and these terraces. The cave-like entranceway cuts through the terraces to the main house. The ledges are filled with local vegetation that attract birds to the site. When arriving at the site the birds are there, waiting to greet the visitor. The second facade is more open to the surrounding woodlands and overlooks Turtle Creek. It is made up of huge glass windows that allow the surrounding landscape become a part of the interior. Viewed from the outdoors the highly reflecting glass and steel brings the landscape onto the exterior of the house. A giant mirrored steel plate on the front elevation is angled perfectly so that a nearby tree becomes part of the main façade.

The interior consists of open, sharply angled, bright spaces with huge glass walls overlooking Turtle Creek. Thin metal columns with glass spanning between them, hold the solid walls 6 inches off the floor to create the appearance they are floating. This makes the house seem light and airy. The entranceway that cuts through the limestone terraces opens into a large room that separates the house into two wings. From this room there are ramps, stairs and bridges that cause a processional movement into the rest of the house. A central “sky ramp” projects out of the entry room into the surrounding canopy of trees. This bridge gently slopes upwards toward the sky. It touches the ground lightly with a steel support system, allowing the terrain to naturally flow beneath it. This ramp is meant to act a physical and spiritual link to the bird’s natural habitat. It leads the viewer into the foliage at the treetops where many birds build their nests. Joining the habitat of local animals with that of humans brings together the natural landscape and the built one.

The site contains three strong natural formations that influenced the design. The landscape here is a place where woodlands, prairie and stream overlap. Also the location is a unique place where eastern and western bird habitats converge, and it is located along the north south migratory paths. This site is an ideal place for observation and participation in this ritualistic procession of birds. The rooftop is covered with broad walkways and open terraces that provide ideal and picturesque views of the surrounding woodlands and the stream that flows near the house. Predock also incorporated a circular rooftop “arena” built as an interior room that becomes an observation area for the exterior world.

House in Venice:

This house examines the relationship between land and water. It focuses the inhabitants on the ocean by setting up a series of vantage points that varying glimpses of the sea. The site is very long and narrow, 30 ft by 90 ft and was a strong contrast to the nearby ocean, which is a vast open space with dramatic horizon line. Predock dealt with this contrast by creating a plan with a diverging perspective fostering a condition that brings the ocean closer. This view is capped by a massive 9’ x 14’ window, framed in red, which is mounted on a giant pivot. When this pivoting window is open sea breezes permeate the house with the smells and feel of the salty ocean air. Immediately adjacent to the red-framed window is a small triangular area with thick concrete walls where one can stand and gaze through a three quarter by twelve-inch deep fragment of glass cast into the concrete. Through this sliver of glass a kaleidoscopic view of the ocean, the sky, and the sand is revealed.

Predock’s idea was to encounter the sea from an “alleyway.” The long site between other houses evoked the feeling of an urban alley. The use of concrete as the main material for the house further enhances this architectural analogy. The rear facade is on a small street consisting mainly of opaque glass with two small terraces that overlooking the street. The garage door is made of a reflective material, which mimics the life of the street. The front façade opens onto a boardwalk that separates the house from the beach. A polished granite wall covered with a film of water at the front of the house creates a symbolic bridge to the nearby ocean. It is a constant fascination for the people passing by on the boardwalk who are able to walk up and touch the smooth waterfall. This wall is the first contact you have with this house. Its material is a recollection of the natural bedrock of the Los Angeles basin and the water brings a physical interaction between the architecture, the people and the vast ocean.

Allen, Isabel. Structure As Design. Rockport Publishers. Gloucester, Massachusetts. 2000 – pg 24-29
Collins, B. and Zimmerman, E. Antoine Predock Architect 2. Rizzoli, New York, New York. 1998. – pg 136-151
Frampton, Kenneth. Technology Place & Architecture. Rizzoli, New York, New York. 1998 – pg 224-227
Jodidio, Philip. Contemporary American Architects Vol. II. Taschen. New York, New York. 1996 – pg 128-141

January 7, 2009

Fascism Builds: Nationalism in Italian Modern Architecture

by Daniel Toole

The cultural landscape of nationalism is one closely related to the State and its institutions, for example the edifices standing in the Mall of Washington D.C. or the Reichstag in central Berlin. These buildings, through their presence and site, act as indicators of the polity of the nation. As exhibits of pride and power, these built forms not only house the people and possessions of the state, but also create an image of the government to be understood by the governed. Throughout history, architecture has been used for political propaganda. The Greeks were arguably the most successful with this gesture, explaining the dominance of the classical Greek orders in the Roman Empire and many other contemporary cultures’ institutional facilities. Building is a necessary part of any culture and becomes beautiful through its meaning and relationship to humans and nature. The work of the early twentieth century Italian avant-garde movements of Futurism and Rationalism express a relationship of the State to architectural design through a progressive and rigorous nationalism.

In explaining the complex phenomena of modern nationalism, Craig Calhoun posits that when a “novelist (or painter or composer) presents his or her work as embodying the spirit of the nation; this is different from presenting it as the work of a rootless genius or cosmopolitan citizen of the world” (Calhoun 22). This idea exists due to the shared community that nationalism brings about in groups having similar cultural values and customs in common. The fascist reign of Mussolini in the first half of the twentieth Century sought to unify the Italian people under the State with no exceptions whatsoever. This included syndicates or groups for artists and craftspeople that were comparable to trade unions. Through the development of artistic movements and manifestoes, was created a series of architectural and aesthetic movements glorifying the dynamism of the contemporary city and its contemporary Fascist populace.

The first of these groups, Futurism, is the “group around which innovations unfold in Italy” (van Doesburg 225). This group of painters, sculptors, and architects celebrated the post-Industrial Revolution city with its loud noises, speeding trains, and sensual speed. This movement was spread through a continual series of manifestoes, essays, exhibitions, and the association with the Fascist party before the March on Rome. The futurist ringleader F.T. Marinetti was put in jail with Mussolini for interventionism, in 1915 after burning eight Austrian flags in the streets of Rome. This coupling of the movement’s leaders with the Fascist movement’s Ill Duce created an incredible relationship between art and politics. With the rise of futurism and the coup d’etat of Victor Emmanuel III’s democratic monarchy, a synergy of art and State arises in lieu of this new aggressive nationalist regime. The relationship of the early Futurists to Mussolini’s fascist regime is clearly exemplified when Marinetti claims, “Therefore the futurists, heralds of the contemporary Italy, honor the futuristic temperament of their national leader” (van Doesburg 225). Out of the futurists arose an architectural movement heralded by the “L’Architettura Futurista Manifesto” (Manifesto of Futurist Architecture) from the mind of Antonio Sant’Elia, who is the notorious driving force behind this sect of the Futurists bent on creating a new architecture for the new Italy. In this manifesto he demanded a break with the architecture of the past and that all “whose origins are in Egyptian, Indian or Byzantine antiquity and in that idiotic flowering of stupidity and impotence that took the name of neoclassicism be destroyed” (Sant’Elia). This begins to depict an architecture of the constructivist nationalism that Hobsbawm and Ranger define as newly invented traditions and movements to mobilize the people of the nation for unification, and thus control. Sant’Elia’s violent description of an architectural aesthetic continues in saying that it must be an architecture “whose reason for existence can be found solely in the unique conditions of modern life, and in its correspondence with the aesthetic values of our sensibilities. [It] cannot be subjected to any law of historical continuity. It must be new, just as our state of mind is new” (Sant’Elia). This politicization of avant-garde aesthetics results in many beautiful projects that celebrate the city, the industrial nature of mass transportation, and the new dynamism of the Third Rome under the leadership of the Mussolini.

Sant’Elia’s work began to receive national acclaim with his sketches of La Citta Nuova, the futurist city. These sketches were published in 1914, the same year in which his Manifesto of Futurist Architecture was published (a year before he was killed while fighting Austria in the trenches of Monte Zebio). This city, no doubt influenced by the new western conurbations of New York City and Chicago, was composed of multilevel streets with suspended bridges and step-backed skyscrapers linked by suspended aerial sidewalks combined with the Parisian terraced apartment building [type] (Etlin 92) (fig.1, 2). This city drew influence from the published images of the west but took this influence and made it something Italian, a city for the new state of mind and being. This depicts the tendency of the futurists, and artistic movements in general, to extrapolate various other movements and make them something new, or in this case something nationally charged. The dynamism and alliance of the Futurists with the Fascist party lead to the development of a whole breed of future-seeking architects who designed in the name of the new State. After futurism ended with the death of many of its proponents during the battle with Austria, rationalism arose in its place. This occurred at the same time the International Style began to flourish in other parts of Western Europe including France, Britain, the Soviet Union, and Poland. Rationalism’s alignment with fascism was in great contrast with the strong socialist ideals behind the international style that would essentially dominate the public sphere of avant-garde architecture for many decades to come.

Armed with the momentum of La Citta Futurista, this next group of radicals set out to put an end to the “empty formalistic archaism” that dominated Italy as a remnant of the architectural pride of the Roman Empire (van Doesburg 254). This leans again towards the constructivist ideals expressed by Hobsbawm in the discrepancy between the primordial and constructive tendencies in the production of new generations of nationalisms. The new group of young architects are part of a new order under a new leader and in a new age, thus they learn from the past, but create a new built environment, one of progress and speed which they begin to identify with the qualities seen in Mussolini’s Fascism. In his critique of the formative years of the Rationalists, de Stijl artist Theo van Doesburg writes of the emergence of an architecture “working from the new demands of life [that] will be at the same time a new expression of the reformed Italy and also a historic document for posterity” (van Doesburg 254).

Formally, the Rationalists aligned themselves with the fascist State with the First Italian Exposition of Rational Architecture held in the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome in March and April of 1928 (Etlin 313). This exposition followed the work of the most important group of Rationalists, seven young architects calling themselves the Gruppo 7 Milano with the dictum of “our movement has a single, high motive: the desire to bring Italy to its position even in the mother art that is architecture” (Etlin 313). The work presented by these architects was very simple and minimal much like the international style in other parts of Europe, but began to take on a unique monumentality as they began to receive commissions from the State for larger civic and institutional buildings. This became a sort of key to success for the Gruppo 7 and during the last ten years of building under Mussolini (before his expulsion) the Rationalists, particularly the Gruppo 7’s work became known as the “Architecture of the Regime”. Mussolini inaugurated an exhibit of Rationalist work on March 30, 1931 where the Rationalists produced a six-point manifesto that not only proclaimed an allegiance to Fascism, but also “revealed the profound personal reasons that were prompting many of [them] to take Fascism seriously”.

"The architecture of the age of Mussolini must respond to the character of masculinity, of force, of pride in the Revolution. The old architects emblems of an impotence that we cannot accept. Our movement has no moral purpose other than serving the Revolution in hard times. We invoke Mussolini’s confidence so that we will be able to realize this."
This quote establishes the link between the devotion to the avant-garde ideals the movement faced with architectural design and their nationalism and commitment to being part of the “organic” State of Fascism (Etlin 386).

Of the many civic projects constructed from 1931 to the early 40’s in the Imperial Rome decade for State architecture, no building exemplified more the relationship of modern architectural design to the Fascist State than Guiseppe Terragni’s Casa del Fascio at Como (fig. 3). Terragni was one of the Gruppo 7 hailing from Milan but would go on to become the most famous member for this building and a small selection of other built and unrecognized projects including the mausoleum to the great Italian poet Dante, or the Danteum.

The Casa del Fascio, as explained by Terragni was designed with “Mussolini’s concept that Fascism is a house of glass into which all can look”. This building was to function as a symbol of Fascism not merely by analogy between Mussolini’s dictum about the house of glass and principles of Rationalism, but to create a place for this definition to occur in the form of public gathering space at the front of the building. The immense use of glass on the exterior as well as the location of the room Directorio Federale (provincial directorate) within plain view in the courtyard established little boundary visually between those on the inside and those looking in. This was another of Terragni’s design goals. However, the monumentality of this structure exhibits the masculinity expressed in the Rationalist manifesto of 1931 with its regimented set of proportions and rigid use of concrete as structure and skin. In order to further the power of the experience of its users, Terragni demanded for marble to cover much of the surfaces of the ground floor as well as other important spaces throughout the building. This was a beautiful piece of modern architecture that the Italians could be proud of, at the same time being a Fascist monument to the nation as it sat in a very historically significant piazza in Como where many could assemble and be addressed by Ill Duce (Etlin).

These two generations of creatively fueled artists depict important phenomena of design and its relationship to the people of the area it inhabits. The parallel relationship of Futurism, Rationalism, and Fascism expresses the notion of nationalism fueling creativity as well as creativity fueling nationalism. It is important to take note of the political power of buildings, and the built environment, for it is a powerful tool in creating institutional senses of government for leaders to inhabit and make decisions while relating out to their nation. These two Italian movements are directly linked with the nationalism celebrated and propagated by the reign of the Fascists and Mussolini in the first half of the twentieth century.

Works Cited
Calhoun, Craig. Nationalism. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis Minnesota. 1997.
Crispolti, Enrico. Attraverso L’Architettura Futurista. Galleria Fonte, Modena Italy. 1984.
Etlin, Richard A. Modernism in Italian Architecture, 1890-1940. MIT, Cambridge \ Massachusetts. 1991.
Schumacher, Thomas L. The Danteum: A Study in the Architecture of Literature. Princeton Architectural, Princeton, New Jersey. 1985.
Van Doesburg, Theo. On European Architecture: Complete Essays from Het Bouwbedrijf 1924-1931. Birkhauser Verlag, Berlin, Germany. 1986.

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