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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Quartiere INA-Casa Tuburtino IV: a Postwar Suburban Public Housing Project

One of our favorite Rome guides is 200 Architetture Scelte: Il Moderno Attraverso Roma (200 Architectural Choices: The Modern Across Rome; pub. 2000).  Obviously in Italian, it has multiple authors: Gaia Remiddi, Antonella Greco, Antonella Bonavita, and Paola Ferri (I just noticed they are all women).  Our fondness for the book has less to do with its analysis of the buildings, which is often quite technical, perhaps meant more for architects than historians or tourists, than its "pointing out" function; without it, we would never have found some of its "choices."

And so it was that in the Spring of 2017 we found ourselves dismounting the scooter at kilometer 7 on via Tiburtina (the right side, going out).  We were there to see and experience a major housing development built between 1949 and 1955.  We've driven by this project dozens, maybe even hundreds of times, and never noticed it.  It has the feel of a protected suburban enclave. The project was coordinated by Mario Ridolfi. The dozen or so architects who designed parts of the project include Ridolfi and Ludovico Quaroni, the latter perhaps best known for a poster designed to commemorate an enormous arch for E42 at EUR, but never built.

When you see the gas station sign (at left in the photo above), turn right and park across the street from the "Snack Bar."

Quaroni and his colleagues designed and built 771 housing units on the site.  Many of the buildings are sited at odd angles to via Tiburtina and to area streets (and to each other), are of moderate scale, and--for public housing units--have a remarkably "homey" presence, to this day.  Despite the overall dimensions of the project. the dominant feeling is of a comfortable suburban community.  Exterior colors are in several shades of "terre romane" (Roman earth).  "INA-Casa" was a post-World War II government entity designed to provide subsidized housing, in this case for a class above working class. "INA" refers to l'Istituto Nazionale delle Assicurazioni, (the National Institute for Insurance), that managed the funds.  One of our favorite architectsGiò Ponti, was critical of the project, though most architects of the day were not.

If you park across the street from the bar on via Tiburtina and walk south, up the street, on via. D. Angeli, you'll find a Ridolfi-designed 2-story structure with an unusual stairway and an elevated second-floor walkway.  The building has this unusual look because of changes in the terrain. In suburban fashion, all units have exterior space.  Our book calls the building case a ballatoio (houses on a gallery/walkway).

Below, on via dei Crispolti, a winding/jointed 4-story complex by Quaroni and Mario Fiorentino.  Communal outdoor space at ground level.  Because the building is composed of several large units set at different angles, the result is that the interior units vary in angularity, from rectangular to octagonal.

At via D. Angeli and via L. Cesana, the tallest building in the complex at 7 floors (below).  Designed by Ridolfi, its distinguishing feature is the intersection at angles of three square buildings--a feature that can be hard to see from some perspectives and from ground level.

Communal outdoor space is a feature of several of the buildings.  When we visited, this space was being used by a group of older men.

Angular businesses, perhaps part of the original design:

There are other project buildings to the south and southwest--explore at your leisure. 

Pleasant as the INA-Casa project was, the most spectacular "find" of the day was a structure that stood in stark contrast to those around it.  This Brutalist masterpiece,  Santa Maria della Visitazione, was designed in the Mayan temple mode by Saverio Busiri Vici, who was active in Rome between 1960 and 1980.  It was completed in 1971. More on the church in a post to come.

The view from the church terrace showcases the surrounding community.


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