This paper addresses the socio-political ground(s) and the place architecture occupies in the first part of the twentieth century in Italy. Consequently, it addresses the effects of the post-World War II crisis in architecture.
“Time and space is dead” declares Marinetti, in the futurists’ manifesto, “We affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed.”
At the turn of the twentieth century, desire for speed causes clearing, agitation, and overturning of the stagnant marshy waters in which society finds itself. Speed is in the train(s) of socially driven movement(s) propelling towards a bright future, away from the past. War is a necessity!
A war of out-of-scale and unknown proportions, takes place across Europe. A war in which nations can’t be the real winners or losers, speed is! In the east, speed is in the avalanche of the socialist movement and its materializing in the state form, raising catalytic hopes everywhere else in Europe.
The effect of speed is inebriating for the likes of El Lissitzky, Melnikov, Golosov (and so on) who see the future in their works for a new society, including the Bolshevik state.
In Italy, the nation of the House of Savoy and the Holy See, socialism and its dialectic materialism forms the political argument. What prevails is the speed with which proponents and victorious Italians of the great war – initiators of the national fascist party, force through a clear governing agenda.
The clean slate of the fascist state, wants nothing to do with the immediate past. Instead, introduces the fascist way of life. Case Infantili, Case dei Balilla, Stadi, Città Universitarie, Case del Fascio, and Case Popolari should accompany the individual throughout one’s life cycle.
It is in the trenches of this war, Sant’Elia dreams of projecting speed into the future of architecture. The war is over, Sant’Elia lives in the nightmare/dream of the future. Fellow architects act on his behalf, carrying his futural vision.
Speed has a sweeping effect on architecture, like in the triumph of San’t Elia’s formalism. Architects see in technology the true potential for a new architecture. Finally, form can prevail.
The state appropriates an architectural argument. Demands a program and offers speed in the industrial production, crucial to the rationalist building. This is a game many architects are willing to play.
In closing, at a time of hyper-motion, what endures are two kinds of works:
1.Architectural exemplars that act as muses, outside of their former or present functions
2.Images in the form of buildings that fulfill requirements of program/agenda.
This paper abandons any dialectic argument, following instead a descriptive method, concerning the events and built works before, during, and after the wars. Through selected case studies, it demonstrates the transformations concerning the place of architecture amidst social and political ground(s).