A petition for Ignazio Gardella

Can social networking save modern architecture?

In Milan, Casa Tognella by Ignazio Gardella, otherwise known as "Casa al Parco" (house in the park) (1947-'54), is the subject of a restoration project that has been approved and is under construction. If the architect had designed the house with a flat roof, today the possibility that the building will be raised one storey is feared that a group of architects, educators, and free citizens who decided to publicly oppose the project by publishing a petition of dissent on line. We publish the appeal of the petition's original signers.

Shortly before the end of 2010, one of us – from a list of friends in Ho Chi Minh City, Genoa, Milan and Florence, not all architects - ran a photo of the Casa del Parco by Gardella with scaffolding rising a couple of floors beyond the roof. After joking a little bit about it, even imagining it as a new move towards vertical Milan for Expo 2015 and since the very idea of adding a floor to one of the rare examples of significant European architecture produced in Italy during the second half of the twentieth century is decidedly grotesque, we first thought about using the social networks to call attention to this fact.

A telephone call to a journalist friend seemed a bit obvious, so we got stuck in the parallel world of online petitions - discovering by chance that people collect signatures to reinstate someone in Big Brother or Amici - and we have drafted a petition to demand the modification of an intervention that risks altering the equilibrium and meaning of the original building.
We then opened a blog to host the public images and documents we could find, but to carry updates and give access to the petition.
After, we received comments by email and posted them online including the aerial photo sent by Studio Gardella, who denies the existence of an attic for the Casa del Parco - born with flat roof.

Meanwhile, thanks to spontaneous linking on the web, in just a few days the target number of 100 signatures has tripled because of the uniqueness of the subject, in our opinion quite far from the "general public". Through the list of adhesions, next to the "normal" names appear authoritative ones who, against all evidence, felt the need to overcome - perhaps as a question of substance – the fragmentation which distinguishes this era in Italy.

With the petition, we call on the competent authorities to make a gesture of concern for this cult-building. To start (and hopefully to finish), it would be enough to publish the project because if it is a proper restoration, then proof should be provided in order to give the promoters their deserved merit.

From a technical point of view regarding the restoration of modern architecture, there are now many proven cases so that the issue can no longer be misunderstood. On the other hand, planning other types of interventions such as the Casa del Parco seems patently out of place unless we want to swell the ranks of "usual useful idiots" - those who, in such cases, enjoy debating an "interesting topic " that could be, for example, a project for a roof addition! Is it true, in fact, that architecture in Italy - particularly after World War II - was reduced to a story of personal episodes, notwithstanding everything, of isolated urban facts that became cornerstones of resistance in a context consciously or unconsciously aimed at self-destroying the landscape and shared values? So, is it not that these (not too many, unfortunately) episodes deserve a special approach - just as specific and special as the story that created them (just think of the role of the client, of Adriano Olivetti in Ivrea and Carlo Bo in Urbino) - in relation to the imposing built environment that was created in the former Bel Paese during that the same period based on unusual ideas and vague responsibilities?

For the moment, we seemed to understand that the Casa al Parco - appreciated and studied all over the world, today significantly republished here on DomusWeb with a piece by Gio Ponti from 1951– does not enjoy landmark protection. This is a strange fact, in a country and a specific sector – the building industry - that is exhausted by overlapping bureaucracies that do not always make sense. Perhaps it is even for this reason - we like to think – that so many people have spontaneously decided to support a "petition" that has the potential to become a case-study, and that, above all – it is worth recalling –requires the attention of the institutions regarding the collective importance of a private building, excellent fragment of Milanese and world history.

AhmedList: Giacomo Pirazzoli, Daniela Turci, Alessandra Cabella, Giulio Angelo Tortello, Francesco Rosadini, Paolo Clerici, Claudio Colla, Francesco Collotti, Amedeo Cilento, Anna Boato, Stefano Manfredi, FrancaMaria Fierro, Francesco Salvagno, Igor Biagini


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