The exhibition is part of a broader, wide-ranging programme which will include other important events at the Pinacoteca Civica and Novocomum in Como, and an international conference in Florence. The extraordinary visions and promises of the cities of the future designed by Antonio Sant’Elia included forms that really only took shape with the advent of the twenty-first century.
“Antonio Sant’Elia (1888-1916) The Future of Cities”
November 25 2016- January 8, 2017
Palazzo della Triennale
Viale Emilio Alemagna, 6, Milano
From Renzo Piano to the models created by MVRDV, Steven Holl, Vincent Callebaut, MAD and the very recent Google North Bayshore by BIG, Sant’Elia clearly appears as an inexhaustible source of inspiration, a century after his tragic death at the age of just 28 during the Great War.
The exhibition at La Triennale has been designed not just for a small specialised group of architects but for the general public, in order to make known the work of the man who wrote the Manifesto of Futurist Architecture, published in 1914.
A considerable corpus of original drawings will go on display for the first time in Milan. From the Pinacoteca di Como and from private collectors, they show the Città Nuova, a project for a great “new city” of the future, on which the young Sant’Elia was already hard at work in April 1914. These works were originally intended for the exhibition by the Nuove Tendenze group, which was put on in the rooms of the Famiglia Artistica Milanese in Via Agnello, Milan.
Taking inspiration also from the most advanced Art Nouveau artists, but without ever losing touch with the world around him, Antonio Sant’Elia created a jigsaw puzzle of urban forms on paper, in which the connections– bridges, covered paths and walkways – have the same importance as the houses, squares and stations.
This Città Nuova, later renamed Città Futurista (“Futurist City”), has a complete nervous system of quivering threads that lead vehicles on rails, powering freight elevators and treadmills, lamps and advertising signs: a metropolis that lives on electricity, like a vast hive in which the city is constantly on the move.
Based on a concept by Alessandra Coppa, Maria Mimmo and Valentina Minosi, the exhibition traces the brief personal life and career of Sant’Elia, in three sections.
The first, curated by Ornella Selvafolta, looks at Sant’Elia’s education and training. In the early twentieth century, Milan was going through a profound transformation in terms of housing and urban planning, as part of a network of international communications, and it was at the forefront of industrial development and technology. Despite the economic and social crisis of the late nineteenth century, the dynamic, transformational processes under way in the city were creating a climate that gave Sant’Elia and other Futurist artists a sense of modernity.
The second section, curated by Alberto Longatti, includes 40 original drawings from the Pinacoteca Civica in Como and from a number of private collections. They are arranged according to the various functions that make up Sant’Elia’s idea of a city. Power plants, bridges, stations and multi-storey buildings resonate in the rapid, stylised drawings that form the backdrop to the central halls, where there are also a number of models created by students from the Politecnico University of Milan.
The third section, curated by Fulvio Irace and Matteo Agnoletto, examines the direct and indirect legacy of Sant’Elia’s work on the urban vision of the twentieth century and on the new scenarios opening up in the twenty-first. The underlying theme is the powerful link with the city of Milan, with today’s metropolis – the city that builds the future (the “città che sale”) and that races ahead with boundless energy. It is itself Sant’Elia’s vision come true. The room ends with a totem installation by Alessandro Mendini, the last explicit tribute to the great master of Como.
The Triennale exhibition also has a prologue in the exhibition at the Pinacoteca Civica in Como entitled Antonio Sant’Elia. All’origine del progetto (25 November 2016 – 26 February 2017). This is to all intents and purposes a zero section that introduces the visitor to the work of Sant’Elia, with a selection of drawings he made in 1913. These show how he methodically identified simple architectural elements that later helped form complex creative solutions. The sequence of drawings also helps show how the primary elements come together to form architectural structures – and thus buildings – of varying complexities. These pure architectural forms form the basis for the design of his New City. To illustrate this work in the round, the drawings are accompanied by three-dimensional models, specially made for the occasion, which provide a much clearer visual idea and analysis.
Curated by Alessandra Coppa, Maria Mimmo, Valentina Minosi Exhibition design by Lucio Speca. Graphic design by Andrea Lancellotti. Catalogue by SKIRA