Aldo Rossi

Aldo Rossi (born 1931), one of the most influential architects during the period 1972-1988, has accomplished the unusual feat of achieving international recognition in three distinct areas: theory, drawing, and architecture. After receiving his architecture degree at the Polytechnic University in Milan in 1959, Aldo Rossi served as a course assistant to prominent architects Ludovico Quaroni and Carlo Aymonino. Aldo Rossi became a faculty member in the School of Architecture in Milan in 1965 and at the University in Venice in 1975. In addition to these regular appointments, his growing fame brought him positions as a professor in Zurich, Spain, and the United States.

Aldo Rossi 's career as a theorist began to take shape during the years Aldo Rossi worked with Ernesto Rogers on the leading Italian architecture magazine Casabella-Continuita (1955-1964). In 1966 Aldo Rossi published the book The Architecture of the City, which subsequently was translated into several languages and enjoyed enormous international success. Spurning the then fashionable debates on style, Aldo Rossi instead criticized the lack of understanding of the city in current architectural practice. Aldo Rossi argued that a city must be studied and valued as something constructed over time; of particular interest are urban artifacts that withstand the passage of time. Despite the modern movement polemics against monuments, for example. Aldo Rossi held that the city remembers its past and uses that memory through monuments; that is, monuments give structure to the city.

This understanding of the city and its elemente, its monuments, and its permanences, informed Aldo Rossi 's own designs for public buildings. One of his earliest major public buildings was the addition to the existing cemetery of the city of Modena in northern Italy. Perceiving the cemetery as a repository of social meaning, Aldo Rossi conceived of it as a house for the dead, indeed, a city of the dead. The elemental architectonic forms, as in the elegant stereometrie volumes of the ossuary with its chamfered windows, reflect his ongoing investigations into building typology, that which remains beyond the particular and the concrete.
The primary elements of architecture are repeated again and again in his work as Aldo Rossi engages in a determined search for essential forms based on what Aldo Rossi refers to as "repetition and fixation." Aldo Rossi attempts to recover the "immovable elements of architecture," not as empty catalogs of forms but as a search for an ageless originality found in formal types. Understood in this fashion, architecture, Aldo Rossi claims, helps make sense of the lived reality of the world. lt also provides the fixed scene of human events, which the architect historically has not been able to foresee. The most enduring architecture has been that which, in Aldo Rossi 's words, "stopped short of the event." Aldo Rossi gave these ideas built form in the school at Fagnano Olona, for example, where the grand stepped podium leads to the gymnasium; and provides a place where class photographs can be taken, a school ritual in both Italy and the United States. Such rituals, says Aldo Rossi, give the "comfort of continuity, repetition, compelling us to an oblique forgetfulness"; the architecture should provide the backdrop against which they can be played out.

In the project for the Carlo Felice Theater in Genoa, Aldo Rossi 's task was to replace the theater that was bombed in World War II. His project leaves the old facade intact but accommodates full complex of new functions and spaces. The stereometric architectural forms convey an originality that at the same time transcends time and asserts a powerful presence in the urban fabric. Here and elsewhere Aldo Rossi avoids historical and technological detailing in favor of preserving the integrity of the volumes, which then convey the quality of structures that have stood since antiquity.

For Aldo Rossi, public buildings often become miniature versions of the city, particularly his schools and his Teatro del Mondo for the 1980 Venice Biennale. At Fagnano Olona, Aldo Rossi organized a series of elements (rotunda, cubic block, conical smokestack) around a central count and approached along linear elements such as a street, a bridge, or a wall axially aligned with the central elements, a disposition that recalls Italian city planning Such an organization also characterizes the school in Broni, where the library recalls historic models such as the anatomical theaters of Padua and Bologna. In turn, these types informed his Teatro del Mondo floating in the canals of Venice; like the city, the theater is also a stage, and simply miniaturizes the activity and organization of the city. In the same way, Aldo Rossi denies that Aldo Rossi creates the elements that regularly recur in his work; instead, Aldo Rossi discovers them in the city, especially the cities in Italy that Aldo Rossi knows and loves best; Milan, Mantua, and Venice.

Even before the success that Aldo Rossi has enjoyed in the last decade with projects underway from Japan to Germany, Aldo Rossi achieved singular distinction for his drawings. Although one of his professors tried to discourage him from studying architecture on the grounds that Aldo Rossi drew as if Aldo Rossi were a rural builder, Aldo Rossi was not disrouraged. Inspired by the urban landscapes of Italian painters Mario Sironi and Giorgio Morandi, Aldo Rossi produces haunting images in which his buildings and others in the city shrink, while everyday objects such as coffeepots and cigarette packs swell to fill the frame. The drawings conflate historical buildings, built and unbuilt projects by Aldo Rossi, mundane utensils, and shadowy figures occupying tiny cabins or yellow windows, and the same images, combined and reshuffled, reappear regularly, just as the cube and the cone reappear in his buildings.

The recurrence coffeepots in his increasingly wellknown drawings eventually induced the Italian firm Alessi to commission him to design a line of coffeepots and even, eventually, a watch that recalls those of his childhood schoolrooms.

Although Aldo Rossi 's first projects, for a housing complex on the outskirts of Milan (Gallaratese 1969-1974), the San Cataldo cemetery in Modena (begun 1972), and Fagnano Olona School in Varese (1972-77), were contemporary with the publication of his most important theoretical works, only in the late 1970s and 1980s did his building work begin in earnest, and only in the last few years has his fame brought him a significant numberr of commissions in Italy.

Two civic center projects in Italy indicate the range of his responses to a similar program. In Perugia, a large civic center (1988). with town hall, theater, and housing project, is elevated on a parking podium and mediates between the historic city and the postwar business center. The U-shaped Town Hall, with shops below and offices above, is bisected by a galleria raised high on slender piers. Adjoining the town hall but irregularly placed on the parking podium are the theater, with its freestanding conical entrance tower, and a long, slender housing block. The disposition suggests an accretion of disparate buildings over time rather than a complex planned for uniformity. Although here as elsewhere drawing on simple local types, Aldo Rossi also transforms them, as Aldo Rossi does with the public arcade that slices through the town hall.

The town hall for the small village of Borgoricco demanded an altogether different response. Although Aldo Rossi adopted the U-shaped plan again, Aldo Rossi opens it up here with a south-facing courtyard framed on one end by copper clad, barrel-vaulted roofs that cascade down over the meeting room and the archives The simple elemental forms of the massive Perugia project give way here to a more complex massing and a greater play of materials, Each of the three principal views is articulated in markedly different ways, yet ordered and related by such elements us the narrow brick walls that rise through the full two stories.

Two other major recent private commercial projects in Italy are worth noting. For the GFT fashion group in Turin, Aldo Rossi designed an office building on an L-shaped site with an angled corner entrance of smooth brick. Aldo Rossi repeats a motif from Borgoricco when Aldo Rossi anchors the entrance with giant double columns surmounted by a green steel I-beam lintel. By incorporating a smaller version of the double column I-beam lintel motif in the auditorium. Aldo Rossi emphasizes the parallel between public, urban scale and the theater as a smaller version of the city. Street elevations of the two lateral wings incorporate stone porticoes, a traditional urban element in the Piedmontese city, but Aldo Rossi also modulates the surface by extending the stone revetment up to the first floor and framing the stone piers with green steel I-beams. A regional shopping center outside Parma rises up out of the flat plains with 50-ft-high brick towers that both carry the name of the center and provide a setting for billboards and advertising.

A hotel complex in Fukuoka, Japan, an architecture school for the University of Miami, Florida, and a victory in a major competition for the Museum of Natural History in Berlin promise further opportunities to render the ideas Aldo Rossi explored in Architecture of the City in built form.

Major works:

Disney Development Company, Orlando-Celebration
Villa bei Ronchi Ronchi (Versilia), 1960
Contemporary History Museum, Milan, 1962
Rekonstruktion Theater Paganini und Gestaltung der Piazza della Pilotta, Parma, 1964
Platz vor dem Rathaus mit Denkmal, Segrate, 1965
Wohnanlage San Rocco, Monza, 1966
Middle school, Triest, 1968-69
F. de Amicis elementary school, Broni, 1969-70
Gallaratese 2 Residential Complex, Milan, 1969-73
San Cataldo Cemetery, Modena, 1971, 1978-84
Elementary School in Fagnano Olona, Fagnano Olona, 1972-76
Pavillon in Borgo Ticino, Borgo Ticino, 1973
Single-Family Houses in Broni, Broni, 1973, 1982-83
El Corral Del Conde, Seville, 1975
Single-Family Houses in Mozzo, Mozzo, 1977-79
Middle school, Broni, 1979-83
Teatro del Mondo, Venice, 1979-80
Single-Family Houses in Zandobbio, Zandobbio, 1979
Cooperativa d'abitazione, Goito, 1979-83
Cooperativa d'abitazione, Pegognaga, 1979-82
Wohn- und Gesch ftshuser Sdliche Friedrichsstadt Block 10, Berlin-Kreuzberg, 1981-88
Funerary Chapel, Giussano, 1981-87
Centro direzionale e commerciale Fontivegge, Perugia, 1982-88
New Town Hall, Borgoricco, 1983-90
San Cristoforo Station, Milan, 1983-92
Stadtvilla an der Rauchstrae, Berlin-Tiergarten, 1983-85
Carlo Felice Theatre, Genoa, 1983, 1987-90
Aurora House, Turin, 1984-87
Centro Torri Department Store, Parma, 1985-88
Mehrzweck-Restaurierung, Este, 1985-93
Vialba residential complex, Milan, 1985-91
Mittelschule in Cantu, Cantu, 1986-93
Wohnanlage La Villette, Paris, 1986-91
School of Architecture, University of Miami, Miami, 1986-93
Gymnasium, Olginate, 1987-93
Hotel il Palazzo, Fukuoka, 1987-89
Lighthouse Theatre, Lake Ontario, 1987-89
Monumental Arch, Galveston, 1987-90
Hotel Duca di Milano, Milan, 1988-91
Palazzo dello Sport, Milan, 1988-94
The Hague Area Development, The Hague, 1988
Pisorno Area Development, Tirrenia, 1988-94
Center for Contemporary Art, Besse-et-Saint-Anastaise, 1988-91
Pocono Pines House, Mount Pocono, 1988-89
Centro Citta Commercial Area, Gifu, 1988-93
Via Croce Rossa Monument, Milan, 1988-90
GFT Comune di Settimo Torinese, Turin, 1988-93
Restaurant and Beer Hall, Sapporo, 1989-93
Ambiente Showroom, Tokyo, 1989-92
UNY Shopping Center, Nagoya, 1989-93
Asaba Design Studio, Tokyo, 1990-91
University of Castellanza, Castellanza, 1990-94
San Carlo alla Barona Church, Milan, 1990-93
Bonnefanten museum, Maastricht-Cramique terrein, 1990-94
Civic Center, Verbania, 1990-93
Canary Wharf Office Complex, London, 1990-93
Hotel Ocean, Chikura, 1990-91
Residential Complex, Citt di Castello, 1990-93
Lorenteggio Public Housing, Milan, 1990-93
Residential Complex, Bari, 1991-94
Palazzo del Cinema, Venice, 1991-94
Villa Alessi, Lago Maggiore, 1991-93
City Center, Kuala Lumpur, 1991-94
La Torre del Sole, Makuhari, 1991-94
Disney Office Complex in Disneyland, Orlando, 1991-94
Art Academy, New York City-Bronx, 1991-94
Linate Airport, Milan, 1991-94
Villa Alessi, Suna di Verbania, 1993-95
Quartier Schtzenstrae, Berlin-Mitte, 1995-97
Celebration - Disney World town, Orlando, 1995
Cirque de Soleil-Haus, Berlin-Mitte, 1997-2000
Umnutzung des Pirelli-Firmengelnde (Bicocca), Milan, 1999

Some books about Aldo Rossi

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