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Sunday, July 19, 2020

You-Can't-See-it-Anyway Series: I Gemelli Romani, via Guattani

Our latest effort to deal with the fallout from covid-19 takes the form of the "you-can't-see-it-anyway" series, where we present accounts and descriptions of Rome "attractions" that one couldn't get into even if there were no covid-19. Many of these were and are visitable and accessible only through the once-a-year Open House Roma event (except, of course, this year, thanks to covid-19).

Today's effort along these lines is stretching the concept just a bit, because it's possible--even likely--that an aggressive tourist could get into the first floor of the building--but the first floor only.

The building has an unusual name: I Gemelli Romani ("the Roman twins"), which we'll explain in a moment. It sits at via Guattani 9, a street lined with large villas and ordinary apartment houses, running perpendicular to via Nomentana on Rome's near-north end. The folks who designed it were pleased that it didn't fit in with its neighbors, pointing out some pride that the "impetuous" structure resisted alignment with nearby villas.

Since its construction in 1954, the building has housed the Lega Nazionale delle Cooperative--the "national association of cooperatives." The Lega/LNC was founded in Milan in 1886, at a time when cooperative associations were more common than they are today. The LNC was disbanded by the Fascists (along with all other cooperatives) and reconstituted after the war under article 45 of the Italian Constitution, which recognized the social role of cooperatives. The League includes many cooperative associations, including ones for consumers, housing, and retail. The building on via Guattani is its principal seat.

The building not only houses a national organization of cooperatives. It was designed by a cooperative association of architects and engineers: CAIREPRO (Cooperativa architetti e ingegneri progettazione). CAIREPRO was founded by 9 young men in 1947 in Reggio Emilia (where the HQ remains) and 2 more were added in 1961.

Seven of the founders of CAIREPRO
The building has several distinctive features.  The upper floors are supported by massive exterior columns of reinforced concrete--a material coming into common usage at the time (in the Palazzetto dello Sport, among other buildings) --which allow the first floor interior to be column-less. The brickwork--here and there quite complex--is understood to be special too, contributing to the design.

Most unusual, the plan consists of two trapezoidal areas--the "gemelli Romani," or the Roman twins--one at each end of the building, connected by an inset central section that houses the stairway and elevators.

The "gemelli"--one on each end.
The near end of the building consists of a meet-and-greet area, lobby, and social center. My recollection is that the shiny blue ceiling was a later addition.  Much "busier" than the original.

The author of this post, taking a mirror selfie. 
As built, it also included a lovely spiral staircase, but this has been, unfortunately, removed.

Removed!  How could they?!
The far end of the building is an auditorium with a brutalist look (before the word brutalism was coined).

The auditorium, as it looked in 2019: the concrete painted (bad!),
much of the ceiling covered (probably by projection equipment), windows
at the end covered (a shame). 
Exterior view of the auditorium. 

The staircase leading to the upper floors (which are more ordinary in layout) is not without elegance.  A nice banister in wood.

And on the top floor, below, flying buttresses over walkways--and views of the neighborhood, a neighborhood that includes Luigi Pirandello's former home and a villa occupied (we were told) by Galeazzo Ciano - bottom photo.


1 comment:

Richard Peterson said...

Dear Bill,

A fascinating and sophisticated design by interesting architects I had never heard of.

Here are my never seen anyway buildings:

Palazzo Farnese.
Palazzo Pallavincini-Rospigliosi, Galleria Pallavicini and garden loggia for frescoes.
Villa del Bosco Parrasio, Via di San Pancrazio 32
Villa Medici Garden.

I bet you've been to all of them,

Best wishes to you both from Melbourne,

Richard Peterson