Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea,
Milan, Italy, 1947-54, 1994-96 (reconstruction)
The PAC, designed by Ignazio Gardella between the late forties and early fifties, was inaugurated in 1954 as the exhibition venue of twentieth century civic art collections. It was the first modern Milanese building constructed from scratch to house a museum, but already from the end of the seventies it was used as a site for temporary exhibitions. Almost completely destroyed in the terrorist attack of 1993, the pavilion was rebuilt by the studio of the same Ignazio Gardella in 1996. The story of the pavilion’s construction began immediately after the war, when the Municipality of Milan decided to build a new pavilion of the Gallery of Modern Art on the site of the ancient stables of Villa Reale, which were destroyed by bombing in 1943. After a series of preliminary proposals, Ignazio Gardella presented his final project in 1949 and in 1950 work began. The new building, which was met with great interest by architectural critics, preserved without altering the remaining existent façades facing toward via Palestro and toward the Villa Reale, reusing the trapezoidal ruins of the ancient horse stables. The only façade which was redesigned, with extraordinary modernity, is the one overlooking the outside garden. Internally, the exhibition spaces are divided over three different floors. The first – originally intended for paintings – includes a series of parallel rooms closed diagonally by the external perimeter wall and open towards the central area of the gallery. Each of these spaces, covered by trusses supported with iron pillars and originally illuminated by a system of skylights and a false thin metal strip ceiling, are perceived as independent rooms in the shape of elongated hexagons. The second – the sculpture gallery – is a rectangular room with large windows that look out onto the garden and through which the outside light enters and winds around the works of art. The third floor, originally accommodating drawings and prints, is the upper gallery and is accessible by a cantilevered staircase that leads to the long balcony overlooking the rooms below. Despite being subdivided, all of the rooms are extraordinarily flexible and adapt to housing an assorted range of exhibitions – art, design, photography and graphics installations – without forfeiting the perception of spatial unity and fluidity. During the last reconstruction, the false ceiling made from thin aluminium strips was restored after being removed in the late seventies. This ceiling, however, and the air conditioning systems required by modern exhibitions have obscured the skylights in areas where the natural light filtering through contributed to intensifying the sense of ethereality of the interior space.The façade facing the garden is divided horizontally into two sections: the lower section is dominated by the emptiness of the long windows outlined against metal pillars, while the upper section is characterised by a continuous wall covered in dark red ceramic tiles against which a woven metallic grid, which slides up and down by means of a visible pulley system, is superimposed. In front of the façade, the group of sculptures “the seven wise men” by Fausto Melotti have been displayed since 1987.
Alessandria, Italy, 1933-1938
The Dispensario antitubercolare is a symbolic Rationalist building in Alessandria, Italy, designed by Ignazio Gardella and Luigi Martini and built between 1933 and 1938 to house out-patient clinics, a small short stay ward and tuberculosis analysis laboratories. The centre is located in a vast hospital area which comprises the Vittorio Emanuele III Sanatorium (1928-38), the provincial hygiene and disease prevention laboratory (1933-39) – also works of Gardella and Martini – and the Cesare Arrigo children’s hospital, including the paediatric wing created by Gardella during the post-was period (1954-57). The architectural structure, built in the shape of a rectangle with a reinforced concrete structure marked by a rational module, is based on a free plan: at the entrance, a large waiting room lit by a concrete and glass wall leads to the visiting area and laboratories, while the upper floor, dominated by the open space of the solarium terrace, houses a small ward and offices. The caretaker’s accommodation, now converted into out-patient rooms, was also located on this floor.A sense of horizontality dominates the main façade, summarising the character of the entire building, while the vertical structure, set back from the edge of the concrete frame, remains hidden from view on the outside; the uniformity of the concrete and glass panels on the raised floor is broken by a band of small windows, while the first floor features a lattice brick wall concealing the solarium and service staircase. The architectural latticework is reminiscent of traditional Piedmontese or Lombardy farm houses. The extraordinary light geometric forms of this element allows for brief passing views of the inside to be caught and for air to circulate. These contrasting features create a dialectic between the rigid modularity of the rationalist frame and the vitality of the language of traditional rural architecture, “a precious play of latticework and colour without colours” which expresses a substantial identity between memory and abstraction, contrasting with the monumental rhetoric of many contemporary architectures. This natural ability to combine abstract forms of modernity with the figurative values of tradition – to the point of constantly creating new expressive scores, authentic textures – became a common feature of Ignazio Gardella’s work, constituting a point of reference for Italian architecture post-World War II.Immediately after completion of the centre, government authorities required for the design to be changed. As a consequence, the elegant entrance staircase, which was initially positioned in an asymmetrical manner and lacked handrails and side pillars, was rebuilt at the centre of the façade, in order to divide the waiting room’s large open space in two separate areas for men and women. The restoration work carried out by Ignazio Gardella’s studio in the nineties restored the entrance to its original position, re-establishing the geometries of the relationships which the building was famous for and returning it to Italian architecture in its original form.