An architectural review of a location: Italy

The eye is frequently pleased with the fine art and splendid architecture of Italy. Apart from food, music, fashion, and art, the country is rich in breathtaking scenery and rich in the history of architecture that has shaped the landscapes of the city until 1861. After its division into small states, the architectural styles have changed into a highly diverse range. in architectural designs. The architecture of Italy spans almost 3500 years and is known for its wonderful achievements in architecture, from ancient Etruscan to modern and contemporary architecture. Influenced by the classical ideas of ancient Greek and Roman culture, the country has evolved with diverse architectural styles, with an estimated total of one lakh monuments of all varieties, such as museums, palaces, building statues, churches, villas, fountains, aqueducts, temples, historic houses, and archaeological remains. Italy has been the homeland of Palladianism since the late 14th century, when the Renaissance movement was founded. During this time, Italy has made enormous achievements in architecture, painting, sculpture, philosophy, technology, and exploration. Many noblemen’s country houses around the world were built under the influence of Palladianism, a construction style that inspired movements in neoclassical architecture. With the rise of colonial powers in the 18th and 19th centuries and the advent of globalization in the 21st century, the country has influenced educational and social institutions and made its way to the forefront of modernist and sustainable design.

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Image 1_Architecture of Italy_©image created by the author

Timeline of Italian architecture

The construction, which began in 313 AD, was intended to present history, prestige, and money, similar to the Arch of Constantine in Rome, which was built with bricks, marble, and concrete. Domed houses in Byzantine architecture style were popular and prominent features in Italy in 800 AD. The Romanesque style emerged in the 9th century, enhanced by its characteristics of simple round arches and simple plans of Roman basilicas that include the designs of Modena and Verona cathedrals. A mix of byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic styles can be seen in the structure of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, built in 832 AD–1094. By the 11th century, Gothic patterns and frescoes with their colourful designs became famous and were found in Orvieto Cathedral. Similar to this was Siena Cathedral, built in 1136–1382, with more of a Romanesque and Gothic influence.

Challenging the ideas and engineering of Brunelleschi’s dome, the Renaissance style known as “rebirth” began in the early 15th century, where the first masterpiece, a cathedral, was constructed in Florence and completed in 1436. This movement originated in Tuscany but advanced its way in artistic, political, architectural, cultural, and social terms. The Tempietto at San Pietro in Rome, designed by Bramante, is a hybrid of the classical Temple of Vesta. In the late 16th century, most Italian cities were remodelled after the Counter-Reformation, and palazzi, fountains, and piazzas were constructed. The first baroque style, which can be seen in the church of Gesù in Rome with its speciality of rich façade decorations, appeared in 1568 and later became the common style of churches in Italy. Andrea Palladio’s Palladian villas dominated Veneto until 1580, and its design style was later imitated for centuries around the world, becoming a prototype of neoclassical architecture. Gian Lorenzo Bernini was influenced by the baroque style and was tasked with redesigning the columns of St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City. In the mid-18th century, baroque facades were most common in Italian churches, mostly in southern cities like Naples, Ragusa, and Syracuse. The period of industrialisation that followed in the 19th century shaped Italian architecture with glass and metal structures such as the 865-foot Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

The race for the tallest building began, and in 1863, the impressive Mole Antonelliana in Turin remained the tallest structure in the world for a period of time as the economy of Italy was in great swing. New skyscrapers, such as the creative Torre Velasca, were constructed with the use of reinforced concrete. The Pirelli Tower in Milan, built by Gio Ponti and Nervi in the late 1950s and still dominating the Milan skyline, is considered the best example of modern Italian architecture. The timeline of modern architecture in Italy began in the year 2000, and it was articulated by rhythms of major political events, changes in governing regimes, and urban planning that marshalled official architecture of monuments, public buildings, and urban planning and set the pace for other building types, helping to shape modern Italian progress and traditional values balanced in service of the nation. Later, art nouveau experimentation and futuristic expressions were widely influential in architectural images. During the fascist regime, historic trends continued while interpretations of northern European modernist design were developed.

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Image 2_Valle dei Templi Agrigento Sicilia_ photo by Wolfgang Pehlemann©https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valle_dei_Templi#/media/File:Concordiatempel_Tempio_della_Temple_of_Concordia_de_la_Concorde

History

Italy is blessed with fertile soils and is easily connected to mainland of Europe. People began to settle in these lush landscapes around 800 BCE, and Italy began to thrive during the Iron Age, in particular the Etruscan civilisation in the northwest region of Italy, which was known as Etruria, which grew and became an ancient power. The Etruscans were famous for gladiatorial games, bright, colourful frescoes, and ironwork founded on archaeological surveys. They ruled major parts of Italy, and their culture was later adopted by the Romans. Etruscans were the first to begin architecture in Italy with brick and wood, which can be found in Volterra, Tuscany, Perugia, and Umbria. They built temples, city gates, aqueducts, and public streets, which influenced Roman architecture significantly. Around the 8th century BC, the famous Magna and Graecia introduced Greek architectural styles in Italy, creating colonies using more technologically advanced methods, which had a great influence on the Romans. By the 4th century BC, the Hellenistic age was given less importance, and a new era of theatres was built, with semi-circular auditoriums and stages built on hills. Many remains of Greek architectural wonders can be found in Italy today, notably in Calabria, Apulia, and Sicily.

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Image 3_AD 313 –The arch of Constantine in Rome. Mostly built in concrete, bricks or marble_©https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/08/0_Arc_de_Constantin_et_Colis

Ancient Rome

The Romans loved to build, and their impact on western civilisation and the rest of the world was long-lasting. The ancient Romans built cities in many parts of the world, including Spain, Africa, Italy, Asia, and Minor, making architecture a symbol of power and glory not only for Roman citizens but also for their enemies. In terms of style, they absorbed Greek influence more obviously and also gained a wealth of knowledge from the Etruscans, which helped in future architectural solutions in constructing arches and hydraulics. The invention of cement made the Romans differ from the Greeks, and with growing population densities, the ancient Romans were forced to introduce new solutions like vaults and arches with ample knowledge of building materials to achieve unprecedented success in the construction of huge temples, amphitheatres, aqueducts, and bridges. Prominent examples of it are seen in the Baths of Diocletian, the town walls of Lugo in Hispania, the Colosseum, and Roman aqueducts.

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Image 4_Ancient Rome_Colosseum of Rome_Photo by Mathew Schwartz_©https://unsplash.com/photos/XtWH3SxfK9U
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Image 5_Roman Forum, Via della Salara Vecchia, Rom, Italien_Arch of Septimius Severus in Forum Roman Forum_photo by Lilian Dibbern_https://unsplash.com/photos/h-5HUiKrteM

Byzantine Architecture

When the western Roman Empire fell in Italy, Byzantium was widely spread in Italy. A new type of trend in architecture was introduced where churches were built in the new Roman-Byzantine style in major cities. Byzantines were inhabitants of the Eastern Roman Empires, so the characteristics of this style remain the same as Roman with an eastern twist, with flat domes and gilded mosaics added. Inventing the new concept of the basilica in Rome, the Byzantines remained with long, rectangular structures designed in the style of ancient Rome, and additionally, rich paintings and mosaics were made to decorate the churches. The remains of this can be seen today in the cathedrals of CefaluPalermo, and Monreale, with their richly decorated churches. St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice is also a splendid wonder of Byzantine architecture in Italy. A later revival was achieved in the 10th century in the Romanesque style.

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Image 6_St Mark’s Basilica in Venice Italy_©https://www.walksofitaly.com/blog/art-culture/6-fascinating-facts-about-st-marks-basilica

Romanesque architecture

Masterpieces like the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Piazza Dei Miracoli and the Basilica of St. Ambrogio in Milan were built during this period. The plans of the structures remain in basilican style with projected porches and recessed doorways, and the structures were bold, open, arched, often two stories, resting on isolated columns, and placed on huge semi-grotesque lions, having a symbolic character. Walls were designed in the northern style, as seen in the Pisan cathedral, and windows preferred opaque decoration; wheel windows were rudimentary in pattern and prioritised carving decoration, as seen in Palermo, and timber roofs in the basilican style were frequently used and effectively decorated with colours.

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Image 7_interiors of pisa cathedral in Milan Italy_©https://fineartamerica.com/featured/interior-of-pisa-cathedral-jon-berghoff.html
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Image 8_Renaissance groin vault in the church of Santa Maria dei Carmini in Venice_©https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groin_vault#/media/File:Santa_Maria_dei_Carmini_(Venice)_-_Volta_a_crociera.jpg
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Image 9_The Duomo and the Leaning Tower in the Piazza dei Miracoli, Pisa_Photo by Alexey turnkov_©https://unsplash.com/photos/AF36q06J8fQ

Gothic Architecture

Between the 13th and 16th centuries, the Gothic style was more commonly associated with construction techniques in Italy, primarily from northern parts of Europe, particularly Burgundy, now known as East France. The style can be distinguished easily with pointed arches rather than round ones and the height of the building being half of its width. This style was further developed in artworks and sculptures. Because new advanced French gothic technology was not used, Italians were obstinate in using gothic with their old tradition, and the Benedictine Cistercian order became the primary bearer of this style.

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Image 1 0_Milan Cathedral is the fourth-largest church in the world_©https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architecture_of_Italy#Romanesque_architecture
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Image 1 1_Gothic architecture _©https://www.brittany.com.ph/blogs/the-basics-of-italian-architecture/

Renaissance Architecture

This style is owned and originated in Italy, superseding the Gothic style during the 14th and 16th centuries. Its features changed the perspective in music, art, literature, architecture, painting, sculpture, and philosophy. The buildings of this style were more precise in their mathematical calculations and ratios; symmetry, proportion, beauty, and harmony were emphasised as characteristics of this style to make buildings more pleasing aesthetically. Columns, pediments, arches, and domes are imaginatively used in buildings of all types. The artist focused more on the concept of humanism and naturalistic portrayals and more people around them. The remains of the masterpieces influenced buildings worldwide that, include St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Tempietto in Rome, and the Dome of Florence Cathedral. The father of Renaissance architecture, Filippo Brunelleschi, was interested in linear perspective and achieving harmony in the form of buildings, as he gave importance to classical proportions, simple geometry, and harmony, which later became a new architectural language with prime considerations in Italy.

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Image 1 2_The tempietto of San Pietro in Montorio, Rome_©https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architecture_of_Italy#/media/File:Tempietto,_Haupteingang.jpg
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Image 13_Florence cathedral_©https://www.brittany.com.ph/blogs/the-basics-of-italian-architecture

Baroque and Rococo Architecture

The art of building richly decorated church facades emerged at the end of the 16th century during the Baroque period and progressed through several phases until the 18th century.This style was more theatrical in appearance in Italy, with intricate details in designs and facades such as that of Santa Croce in Lecce. The concept of baroque aims to enrich urban spaces like streets and public squares with theatrics. Structures were constructed with logic, and decoration was added after their completion. During this period, Italy had a plethora of monuments and fountains, and Michelangelo was considered an exponent of the baroque style. The contribution of his crafts and design can be found in St. Peter’s Basilica. The baroque decorative style featured more vivid frescoes, gold statues, and concave shapes, as evident in the enchanting Trevi fountain in Rome.

Rococo style was more intricate and more graceful than baroque. The architect Francesco Borromini, a baroque architect, strove to make his designs lighter and less oppressive with swelling, curving shapes, and terra-cotta construction, which in the early 18th century became hallmarks of this style emphasising the interaction between light and structure.

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Image 14_original works of late Baroque architecture is the Palazzina di caccia di Stupinigi (Hunting Lodge of Stupinigi),_photo by Paris Orlando_©https://www.italyreview.com/italian-architectural-styles.html

Neoclassical architecture

It is tricky to distinguish neoclassical style in Italy with triangular pediments, straight lines, and supporting columns similar to ancient Greek and Roman because it was a revival of classical Roman style that began in the early 19th century as a reaction to baroque and rococo style. Everything from villas, palaces, gardens, interiors, and art began to adapt Roman and Greek themes during this movement. The theme of the buildings was based on “La Rotunda,” the masterpiece by Andrea Palladio, and the lost cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were themed on Rome and classic Athens. The style is evident in the buildings: Luigi Cagnola’s Arco Della Pace in Milan and the San Carlo Theatre in Naples.

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Image 15_The Neoclassical Tempio Canoviano in Possagno_Photo by Philips Shäfer_©https://www.italyreview.com/italian-neoclassical-architecture.html

Modern architecture 

It is understood in terms of rupture and rapid innovation as the modern era challenges the resilience of tradition and the elasticity of modernity. Italy is a rich museum of history and tradition; it is a genius characteristic of changing the dynamics of history and adapting to modern terms; this has always been like an oxymoron; it is understood in terms of rupture and rapid innovation as the modern era challenges the resilience of tradition and the elasticity of modernity. The realm of modern architecture had three phases: art nouveau, fascist period, and post-war construction, in which the architectural language moved away from classic historical principles and attracted more towards functionalism and no ornamentation, with Zaha Hadid and Renzo Piano as the main pioneers. The free movement with liberty style was dubbed “art nouveau,” Exponents included Giuseppe Sommaruga, author of Milan’s Palazzo Castiglioni. Antonio St’Elia and a group of seven other architects developed a new architectural language in opposition to the art nouveau movement in futurist architecture, which rejected the avant-garde themes and revived the art of the past. This period is also known as the “Fascist Period” and was later outranked by the Novecento Italiano, later adopted by Giuseppe Terragni and evident in the Casa del Fascio in Milan. This movement influenced Marcello Piacentini’s simplified version of neoclassical architecture, which can be seen in his works on Rome’s Via Della Conciliazione.

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Image 16_period of 1900 contemporary Italian architecture_© https://prezi.com/ifqtiudl-7bc/contemporary-italian-architecture/
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Image 17_period of Fascist regime_©https://prezi.com/ifqtiudl-7bc/contemporary-italian-architecture/

During the Fascist regime, which was also Italy’s most productive period in terms of architecture, historicist trends continued while interpretations of northern European modernist design were developed, and their interaction enriched our understanding of both. With the reconstruction of political systems after World War II, architecture also underwent a revamp along the essential lines of construction and social functions. Contemporary architecture in Italy is viewed in the context of its own rich historical endowment as well as global architectural trends. 

References:

Architecture, (2010) Michaelangelo. Available at: https: www.michelangelo.net/architecture/

Britanny (2019) The Basic of Italian Architecture.Available at: https://www.brittany.com.ph/blogs/the-basics-of-italian-architecture/ling

Castex,Jean (2008) The architecture of Italy. Published by Greenwood Press.Available at: https://books.google.de/books/about/Architecture_of_Italy.html?id=xwsouAAACAAJ&redir_esc=

Fletcher, Banister. (2009) The characteristics of Italian Romanesque architecture, Available at: https://victorianweb.org/art/architecture/romanesque/italian2.html

Kirk, Terry (2005) The Architecture of Modern Italy:vol II the visions of utopia-1900.Published by Princeton Architectural Press, Newyork. Available at: https://archive.org/details/The_Architecture_of_Modern_Italy_Volume_II/page/n3/mode/2up?view=theater

Cartwright,Mark (2020) Renaissance Architecture.Available at:https://www.worldhistory.org/user/markzcartwright/

Protani,Dion (2021) Italian Architectural Styles. Available at: https://www.italyreview.com/italian-architectural-styles.html

Author

Salma sultana graduated master’s in architecture from the Iuav university of architecture Italy, born in 1992, and obtained her bachelor's from India, she works for her own architecture practice named Zahaa designs. She likes to be a curator of architecture exhibitions also curated for the la biennale exhibition in Arsenale in Venezia. She a Ph.D. student of a german university in Brandenburg working on historical architecture conservation her final achievement in the field of architecture is to create an innovative sustainable solution for concrete and bring awareness by joining a teaching profession in the sustainable architecture department.

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