While I’d planned to focus on Milan, Turin, and Venice’s cultural and architectural evolution, I should mention that this weekend Italians have been distracted from the important business of shopping, soccer, texting, and smoking. O Silvio! Former billionaire prime minister Silvio Berlusconi faces yet another scandalo with the recent mysterious death of Iman Fadil, a model whose forthcoming tell-all was said to expose untold titillations at Silvio’s bunga-bunga parties at his private villa. Other exotic models-turned-authors are also reportedly ready to cash-in on Italy’s latest Satyricon.
In Milan and Turin, the question “What happened to yesterday?” kept me on a daily search to find art among the 1930s artless authoritarian era. Both cities were architecturally decomposed by Rationalism’s politically-inspired attempt to unite Italy’s city-states by demolishing the diversity found in centuries’ old buildings to make room for widened thoroughfares framed by regimented utopian facades and uniform rectilinear arcades. On the Grand Canal, I fixated on “Saving Venice?” During what was probably my 15th stay amid the lagoon’s chandeliers and choppy waters, I was overwhelmed by the influx of exploitative tourism, chain stores and hotels, selfie sticks, and billboards. The Grand Dame’s distinction has deteriorated into the banality of a theme park, its piazzas turned into mall food courts.
Decades ago when the Veneto was still occupied by Veneziani, I wrote a graduate paper on Piazza San Marco’s byzantine ever-changing architectural history, admittedly spending several days drinking Bellinis at Harry’s Bar shuffling postcard views and images. Today, rather than Blame it on the Moon or Acqua Alta, I sense too many buildings have been horribly overdeveloped, much like the collapse of Havana. Behind many of the facades, could structures be disintegrating as much from excessive horizontal and vertical subdivision (Greed) as they are from Acqua Alta?
Meanwhile, Milan’s 58th annual Internazionale Salone del Mobile is set for April 4-19 as exhibitors welcome 400,000 designers from nearly 200 nations to the city’s Rho Fiera fairgrounds. This past week I stopped by influential design curator Rossana Orlandi’s studio to preview a few offerings. If hotels are now overbooked, satellite fairs are scheduled for the pleasures of Moscow in October and Shanghai the following month. Also, probably never too soon to set your calendar for the 2019 Venice Biennale.
Here are some images of 2019 Milan Fashion & Design, 1930-2019 Milan & Turin, and “Saving Venice?”
Rossana Orlandi Via Matteo Bandello, 14/16
In June 1940, Italy joined the Axis forces in the war. Two years later, allied bombing began in Milan and Turin, resulting in the destruction of more than 20% of the buildings. While factories and infrastructure were targeted, collateral damage included many prominent cultural buildings. Milan’s new Master Plan took effect in 1953.
Before the intrusion of Rationalist architecture during the 1930s, Turin, Italy’s first capital, had an enriched stylistic history, fostered by Italy’s royal House of Savoy.
Marcello Piacentini & Via Roma, Turin
Milan’s Porta Nuova and Tre Torri districts have become showcases for the world’s notable starchitects, including Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid, and Arata Isozaki. In the fall, the first Italian Apple Store opened in Piazza Liberty, designed by the acclaimed Foster + Partners firm that recently garnered notice for its Norton Museum of Art additions and renovations. The rectangular glass cube entrance is surrounded by a fountain with vertical jets within 25-foot glass walls, providing the virtual experience of walking into a fountain without getting wet.