Architecture is not composed solely of building, projects and drawings, there are also certain intellectuals, theorists and historians who with their critical, civic and also political commitment helped influence national and international architectural affairs throughout the 20th Century.
“Zevi’s Architects. History and counter-history of Italian Architecture 1944-2000”
25 April – 16 September, 2018
MAXXI – National Museum of XXI Century Arts
Via Guido Reni 4A , Roma
On the occasion of the centenary of his birth, MAXXI is devoting a major exhibition to Bruno Zevi and “his” architects: Zevi’s Architects. History and counter-history of Italian architecture 1944-2000, at MAXXI from 25 April to 16 September 2018, produced with the Fondazione Bruno Zevi and curated by Pippo Ciorra and Jean-Louis Cohen. On show together with magazines, books, posters and audio and video documentation of his work are materials relating to the built projects of 38 of the architects he promoted, from Carlo Scarpa to Pier Luigi Nervi, from Piero Sartogo to Renzo Piano and from Franco Albini to Maurizio Sacripanti.
The exhibition presents materials drawn from MAXXI’s invaluable archive resources, the Fondazione Bruno Zevi and other authoritative national institutions such as the IUAV of Venice, CSAC in Parma, the Fondazione Michelucci and many other private archives. It focuses on the multifaceted figure of Zevi – lecturer and histories, critic, politician, designer, indefatigable “agitator” of the cultural debate and great communicator – and the architects who, in the various phases of his life, he chose to support and promote. Among the themes emerging from the exhibition are also the crucial role played by Zevi in various phases of the national and international architectural debate and the vital importance for him and for the whole of Italian architecture, of the relationship between architecture and political activism.
ZEVI’S ARCHITECTS, in the museum’s Gallery 2, has been organized across three principal levels of narration. The first is an “illustrated” summary of Zevi’s biography, reconstructed through his words and his public actions. The second presents a selection of projects and architects published in his books and magazine, commented on in his own words. The third level tackles his acrobatic activism in the field of the communication of architecture: writer, editor, consultant to broadcasters and publishers, curator of epochal exhibitions (such as those of Michelangelo and Brunelleschi), Bruno Zevi explored the length and breadth of the communicative possibilities of architecture and in many cases proved to be a pioneer, particularly in the field of low cost publishing and radio and television broadcasting.
The exhibition has been structured as a large studio, with tables, shelves and bookcases. The walls feature a number of key citations from the great critic, alternating with photographs, videos, books and magazine capable of recounting his commitment and his multiple interests. All this acts as a backdrop to drawings, models and visual materials that, distributed on tables and various supports, illustrate projects by the many architects involved. Throughout this exhibition, Bruno Zevi talks to us about the project by way of printed texts, his unmistakeable voice and television images.
The wealth of material is lent order by a long illustrated timeline of his life, with his works, key encounters (with Frank Lloyd Wright , Adriano Olivetti, Ludovico Ragghianti, Lionello Venturi) and his hard-fought battles. Four focus presentations further enrich the timeline: Thinking the modern city, which describes Zevi’s vision as a “planning heretic”; Exhibiting history, dedicated to the epochal exhibitions he curated, Biagio Rossetti (Ferrara 1956), Michelangelo (Rome 1964) and finally Brunelleschi Anti-classical (Florence 1964); Communicating Architecture, which traces his natural vocation for communicating, diffusing and supporting architecture via magazines, books, newspapers and other media; lastly, Zevi against that evokes the polemical contrary nature he displayed in both the political and architectural fields.
Franco Albini, Giovanni Michelucci, Carlo Mollino, Luigi Pellegrin, Mario Ridolfi and Maurizio Sacripanti are just a few of the 38 architects featured in the exhibition. Their projects, published and supported by the critic, accompanied Zevi through over the 50 years of his critical and militant career. Among the projects are a number of recognised masterpieces of Italian architecture: the Bridge over the Basento built at Potenza between 1967 and 1976 by Sergio Musmeci, the Venezuela Pavilion in the Giardini at the 1953
Venice Biennale by Carlo Scarpa, the multi-purpose building in via Campania, Rome by Lucio Passarelli (1961-1964), the immense volumes of the Burgo Paper Mill in Mantova built by Pier Luigi Nervi (1961-1964), and the Monument to the Martyrs of the Fosse Ardeatine by Mario Fiorentino built between 1946 and 1949, the “La Martella” village by the group led by Ludovico Quaroni at Matera (1951-54), and the Church on the Autostrada by Giovanni Michelucci (1961-64).
ZEVI’S ARCHITECTS also sheds light on the role of Bruno Zevi within a essential phase of the history of post-war Italian architecture, a period of incredible vitality and commitment to which the Roman historian played a leading role in all the crucial moments: from the debate over reconstruction to the creation of the APAO (Association for Organic Architecture), from the reorganization of the INU (the National Urban Planning Institute) to participation in the great Olivetti projects, through to the creation of the In/Arch (the National Institute of Architecture) and the foundation of two major periodical such as Metron and L’Architettura. Cronache e Storia.
The exhibition also documents Zevi’s direct and militant activism in the political life of the country and the battle to bring democracy to Italy in the years of the Second World War. Active in spreading anti-fascist propaganda in the years of his exile, from Boston, New York and London, an unrepentant member of the Partito d’Azione from its birth, a Socialist, a member of parliament with Pannella’s Radical Party, ever open to polemics and debate. The extensive catalogue, curated by Pippo Ciorra and Jean-Louis Cohen has been conceived to complete the documentation relating to the exhibition and the chosen projects, with an overview of the author’s influence and interests on the international stage.