Elegant, noble and rationalist: these are the adjectives that describe better Como, the city on Como Lake where we can find the most of the artworks designed by Giuseppe Terragni. The last adjective I used, rationalist, is the one that makes the town unique: the Rationalism movement proliferated in Como so far that it’s been defined as the Como Rationalist Movement.
Inspired by Le Courbusier and Van Der Rohe Modernism, and by the Russian Contructivism, in 1930 a group of architects from Politecnico of Milan founded MIAR (Italian Movement for the Rationalist Architecture): among those, there was also Giuseppe Terragni, the architect who made immortal the so called Como Rationalist Movement.
What to see
Just few steps away from the Duomo of Como – a beautiful building of XV century with a cupola designed by Filippo Juvarra in 1600 – you can find the building that can be considered as the Manifesto of Rationalist Movement. Casa del Fascio, designed by Terragni between 1932 and 1936, puts together all the norms of the movement: a facade organised on the basis of proportion of the golden section, combined with a solid structure in concrete, like in Modern architecture. This mix of classical architecture and modern materials creates a system of alternance of volume unique in the world, that this building a milestone of modern architecture. Today Casa del Fascio is the headquarter of Guardia di Finanza.
source images: MAARC • hiveminer
picture by Giovanna Silva, 2015
Close to the beautiful lake embakment of Como, rises the Novocomum building, a modern apartment complex with rooftop designed by Terragni. In this case too, the facade follows well curated proportions, and it is made even more interesting thanks to the angle shape that looks like an ocean liner: in the original project, this part had a different colour from the rest of the building, but the renovation made this detail less evident.
The story of Novocomum is very curious: in 1927 Terragni presented the draft of the project to the Municipality, he designed a building with a neoclassical structure and the idea was approved. When the scaffolding was removed the Rationalist facade was discovered and it was inspired to the Labour Association Zuev of Moscow, designed by Golosov, and it was a real scandal. A commission was nominated to decide what to do, and after several sessions, the building was declared “not damaging the public decency”. Some years later, the Novocomum was classified as one of the symbols af the Rationalist Architecture. Today the Novocomum is still an apartment complex, housing offices and private residences.
images by stefano galli
In south Como, near Via dei Mille, there is another artwork made by architect Terragni: asilo Sant’Elia, a kindergarten designed according to the principles of the Rationalist architecture. Here we find again the proportion of golden section that creates a precise pattern, similar to the one of Casa del Fascio. In this case however, the building has only one floor and its major peculirity stands in the relationship between outside and inside: huge windows gave the impression of a school “in dialogue” with the world outside, letting in the light and the colours of the environment. A completely original idea considering that was designed in 1935.
Pinacoteca Civica di Palazzo Volpi
In the hearth of Como, the Pinacoteca Civica hosts a stunning collcetion of drafts, sketches and designs of Terragni and the other artists of Como Rationalism. A permanent exhibition showcases the artworks. Among the documents we find also the Archive Sant’Elia, that gathers all the note of Terrgni for the creation of the perfect city.
In Cavour Square, the main square of Como, the Hotel Metropole e Suisse is a very famous design hotel. The facade of the first two floors has been renovated by architect Terragni in 1927.
picture by Giovanna Silva 2015
The building of Hotel Posta is one of the first designed by Terragni: the project was rejected several times and he had to soften the Rationalist style of the artwork, with several neoclassical details. The inside is perfectly designed to match the attention to the proportion of the outside and the design of the architect.
When visiting Como
The perfect time to visit Como is from september to april, when tourists are fewer than usual, and the umid heath is not too much heavy. On the website of MAARC, the Virtual Museum of Abstractism and Rationalist Architecture, you can find several events about this architectural movement.