27 May 2019

Milan’s design culture: life stories as told by the Franco Albini Foundation
Franco Albini: the city

“Architecture is like our conscience. There’s always a moral problem at the root of architecture”,
Franco Albini, 1954

Franco Albini was deeply committed to the field of social housing.

“This was a mandatory field for Albini … as if he were taking a moral stance in a battle in which he takes part because the most onerous commitments of his profession cannot be ignored …”
(Matilde Baffa, La Casa e la Città Razionalista in “Zero Gravity. Franco Albini. Costruire le modernità”, La Triennale di Milano and Electa SpA, Milan 2006).

Albini’s pre-war social housing architecture was informed by references to a European culture still unaffected by the prevailing mood and the rigorous preparation of typological schemes that followed precise distribution and aggregation rules.

The specific nature of his contribution to the post-war architectural field allows us to identify a fresh and precise approach to design matters, a very real “challenge.”

Fabio Filzi District, 1936-38

“Within the disordered mosaic of Milanese habitations this district stands out as a rare exception … a district of low-cost homes without monumental tares has been turned into an unequivocally clear and exemplary lesson in town planning.”
G. Pagano, Un’Oasi di Ordine, in “Casabella Costruzioni”, December 1939

The project was the upshot of a competition run by the Istituto per le Case Popolari di Milano which began to branch out in 1932 and involve the Rationalist architects in a sector – that of low-cost housing – that was absolutely crucial to the future of the city of Milan.

“The houses were laid out in parallel rows on a north/south grid. This layout meant first of all that all the homes could be separate from each other; and secondly that the courtyards could remain completely, constantly and immediately ventilated, preventing the build-up of smells and the formation of damp on the walls; thirdly that the building could be exploited to the full by doing away with those wasted spaces that always ensue from the intersection of volumes at right angles to each other; and lastly because it lends an extremely pleasing look to the entire area … and a sense of space, of fresh air, and healthiness that makes one want to live there.”
Studio Albini technical report

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