Gastprofessur Angelo Raffaele Lunati
The character of European cities has little to do with its monuments, but is determined above all by the repetition of buildings along the street or within the block, by the fine grain of singular facts and by their subtle variations. The city, especially the nineteenth-century metropolis, is an opus at different scales, as Hermann Czech writes: that of the block, that of the house and that of inner individual use. Mostly, architectural operations encompass the two last dimensions. But there are some special buildings that have instead the ability to hold together the two first scales: the urban dimension related to repetition, and that of the individual piece, forged by contingencies and adapted to specific circumstances. Such buildings can be the result of a construction of different elements over time, or can be the result of a synthetic design operation. But in both cases, each of them can be described as a building of buildings.
A building of buildings is the quintessence of urbanity as it stands at the intersection between the dimension of the single house and that of the collective construction; especially, because it has the capacity, due to its special articulation and good manners, to be formed by two or multiple elements, but at the same time to have a single figure, a unitary presence. Its complexity is the opposite of the iconic solitary object, indifferent to these diverse urban dimensions, being abstract compared to the morphological and expressive richness claimed by this special type of building. A building of buildings reacts consistently to the different times of the city, combining formal specificity, together with functional genericity, providing a durable urban response and, at the same time, the utmost adaptability of uses.
We could try to recognize different types of such special buildings, in relation to how their inner parts subtly or radically differ: some of them are formed by a blurring tension between two pieces, producing a kind of symmetrical overall figure, such as the Monadnoch in Chicago; some others programmatically ecompass different roles and expressions, such as the Casa-Torre Rasini in Milan or Otto Wagner’s pieces in Linken Wienzeile; other cases they produce a multiple tonal sequence, such as Asnago Vender’s block in via Albricci in Milan, or, differently, they provide diverse articulations resembling the historical variety, such as Aldo Rossi’s Berlin block in Schutzentsraße.
In this taxonomy, we will analyze some Viennese pieces and others more distant cases. In particular, we will analyze some special buildings in Milan, a paradigmatic anti-monumental city in which modern and ancient architectures are able to coexist in a natural way within a great “environmental” unity. These buildings are beautiful for many reasons, in the assemblage and subtle variation of their façades, in the relationship between the repetition of the single element and the typological variation, in the richness of uses and in the generousity of their interior spaces. Through their intrinsic variety, they already provide a sequence or an articulation, offering a continuous background to the vibrant life of the city but at the same time stating their singular expression and elegance.
Favoritenstraße dissects a quite long portion of the southern urban territory of Vienna, starting from the very heart of the historic city, quite close to Karlsplatz, till the Volkspark Laaer Berg. As often happens with relevant radial streets, it meaningfully describes different times of the city’s urban and social development, diverse densities and tones, successive transformations, within a linear continuity. At the beginning of the street, on the city center side, buildings and blocks were built densely since the early 17th century, after which the street continued as a dirt road to the Favoriten-Thor. The name Favoriten Linien Strasse appears on Vasquez’s Vienna map from 1830. In the 19th century, the character of the street changed due to numerous buildings dating from the era of the emperor Franz-Josef. Opposite the former Favorita Imperial summer residence, which now houses the Theresian Academy, an elegant residential area was built around the turn of the century. A little further away, after the crossing of the train line, on the western edge of the road at the intersection with Gudrunstraße, there is the Keplerkirche. One block further south, a market square was built after 1870, named Viktor-Adler-Platz, where a lively market is still present. The Reumannplatz interrupts the street at the southern end of the pedestrian zone, introduced in the 70s, making this section the lively center of the district. The Amalienbad, an amazing municipal indoor swimming pool, was opened there in 1926. The Per-Albin-Hansson settlement was built on the southern slope of the Laaer Berg in 1947–1977 on areas previously used for agriculture. It comprises more than 6000 municipal social housing. Vienna Central Station, recently completed, is located directly at the intersection of Favoritenstraße and the Gürtel at Südtiroler Platz. Around the station, large developments of office buildings and apartment blocks are now being built, providing a contemporary layer to the analyzed urban system. A new and dense city pushed forward by real estate developers is often made of new iconic presences, big “design” objects, focusing on their image rather than resonating with the urban richness all around. Areas of interventions will be scattered along this complex linear system, from the railway yards of Hauptbahnhof to the large housing settlements to the south. Following Favoritenstraße, we will analyze the monumental character of the city, along with the qualities of continuity and background of its streets and blocks. We will experience how architecture, even within a speculative process of transformation, can take its qualities and characters from a specific urban condition and how, at the same time, it can give something back to enhance that condition.
Angelo Raffaele Lunati
Emilio Aldo Ellena