Piazza d’Italia is located in New Orleans, USA. This icon of post-modern architecture was designed by Charles Moore and completed in 1978. This place is a memorial as well as a public space which is a manifestation of Charles Moore’s idea of an inclusive architecture, which according to him can speak to and be enjoyed by each one. The piazza was considered an urban redevelopment project that was considered as a memorial to the city’s Italian citizens.
It was declared an architectural masterpiece even before it was completed. Piazza d’Italia began to rapidly deteriorate because of rapid development in the surroundings. It was also referred to as the first postmodern ruin. The complete restoration was accomplished in 2004.
Design Of The Piazza
This site initially was meant for people with Italian heritage. It included a temple-shaped pergola, a triumphal arch, painted stucco over a steel frame, a campanile, curved colonnades, and an island-shaped in the form of Italy.
A highly pictorial approach was taken by Charles Moore in designing the Piazza. Around the fountain, the colonnades, arches, and a bell tower is arranged in a curving formation. Brightly colored structures were trimmed with classical orders.
The paved structure is textured and the play of light and shadows across the plaza is mesmerizing. Interesting views are created through various openings which then create a spatial experience for the visitors moving through the colonnades. The neon accents and uplighting highlight the space at night.
This monument was to the achievements of Italians and hence has references directly from Italian culture, from its urbanism to its geography, everything is represented. The colorful, cartoonish approach by Charles Moore is considered to be a joyful tribute to the piazza.
His agenda was inclusive and democratic and he wanted his buildings to inspire joy and connect to people irrespective of their creed or race. The inclusivity was largely acknowledged.
Sincerity in Piazza
Piazza d’Italia is found to be scenographic and theatrical. The cynical use of signs and symbols adds humor to the piazza. The fountains liked by Moore spew water from their mouth, pursed in gleeful smiles, in arcs on the plaza.
The sensitivity towards the landscape during the design of Piazza d’Italia makes it a work of landscape architecture too. A great discipline and admiration of landscape can be found in the Piazza. The decorations are inside out and the symbols of culture and heritage are spatialized to become a landscape.
Layering black and white stones, the fountain is shaped in the topography of the boot of Italy. A pattern of radiating cobblestone and granite is seen in most of the circular plazas which reference the Italian Piazzas that is the city square.
The structure referencing roman forums, yellow arches, red colonnades, arched doorways with Latin script is the main focus on the plaza. The red colonnades represent the five orders of columns from the classical period. A yellow bell tower provides access to the plaza from the street. This is an eccentric illusion that is peppered with a burst of colour.
A colorful scenography that is highly inspired by ancient Rome can be seen in the Piazza. The funny fountains in which water is spilled by Moore’s face add a special feature to it.
The material used in the piazza draws special attention to it. The ionic capitals are made of stainless steel, acanthus leaves by jets of water. The entire ensemble is lit up with neon lights. Ordinary materials and elements which were out of context were used.
The project for Piazza d’Italia was fragmented. The buildings on the west were demolished. Initially, it was supposed to be a closed circular plaza but ended up being an open space.
Piazza d’Italia struggled as an urban space exactly after its completion because no public or private service for funding it. In the mid to late 1980s, the piazza rapidly declined. The fountain was rarely operated and the neon lights stopped functioning.
In 1987, the adjacent street was heavily damaged by fire, which created a large surface parking lot. By 2000, Piazza d’Italia was cited as a postmodern ruin.
In 2002, plans were announced to restore the piazza when the adjacent center was converted into a hotel and 1 million dollars was given to restore it. In 2004, the first renovation was completed and the fountain was restored, the piazza was functioning well. Even though the fountain was rehabilitated, the campanile or the bell tower was badly deteriorated and was removed from the site.
Between 2013 and 2018, the second renovation was completed which was led by Mayor Mitch Landrieu.