Zevi’s architects. History and counter-history of Italian architecture 1944-2000

Exhibition at the MAXXI, Rome, 25 Apr — 16 Sep 2018

The exhibition Zevi’s Architects. History and Counter-history of Italian Architecture is based on the idea of uniting the figure of Bruno Zevi with a significant work designed by an architect or group of architects whom the great historian and critic supported and appreciated throughout his career. The exhibition, staged in collaboration with the Fondazione Bruno Zevi and curated by Pippo Ciorra and Jean-Louis Cohen (it will be at the MAXXI until 16 September), celebrates the centenary of the birth of one of the most eccentric and multifaceted personalities of the 20th century, a man who was able to combine work as a historian, teacher, architect and designer with the role of politician as well as radio and TV broadcaster. In the exhibition historical and biographical material is interwoven with the drawings, photos and models. The account of his life begins in the pre-war years when he attended the Liceo Classico Tasso in Rome, where he took part in the Littoriali, the artistic and cultural contests organized by the Fascist regime, and joined the leftist group headed by Ruggero Zangrandi where the difficult art of criticizing the regime apparently from within was being honed. After this came years of exile as a result of the racial laws, a university education at Harvard and his return, with the foundation of the Association for Organic Architecture which united a renewal of architecture with the needs of reconstruction.


Exhibition book:

Zevi’s Architects – History and Counter-History of Italian Architecture 1944-2000

List of architects included in the exhibition:

Luigi Agati

Franco Albini

Nello Aprile


Vittoria Cafiero

Cino Calcaprina

Leo Calino

Michele Capobianco

Iginio Cappai

Aldo Cardelli

Massio Castellazzi

Luigi Cosenza

Riccardo D’Alisi

Luigi Carlo Daneri

Giancarlo De Carlo

Mario de Renzi

Marcello D’Olivo


Carlo Fegiz

Mario Fiorentino

Wolfgang Frankl

Ignazio Gerdella

Domenci Gimigliano

Enzo Gori

Giuseppe Giorgio Gori

Federico Gordi

Marcello Guido

Franc Helg

Alberto Libera

Ameneo Luccichenti

Pietro Mainardis

Giovanni Michelucci

Carlo Mollino

Vincencio Monaco

Eugenio Montuaori

Riccardo Morandi

Luigi Moretti

Sergio Musmeci

Pier Luigi Nervi

Francesco Palpacelli

Luigi Pellegrin

Renzo Piano

Massimo Pica Ciamarra

Achille Pintonello

Gino Pollini

Ludovico Quaroni

Leonardo Ricci

Mario Ridolfi

Aldo Loris Rossi

Maurizio Sacripanti

Pietro Sartogo

Leonardo Savioli

Carlo Scarpa

Paolo Soleri

Studion Transit

Michele Valori

Vittorano Vigano

Anniblae Vitellozzi

Enzo Zacchiroli

MAXXI Rome – Link to exhibition

Perugini Bibliography

Perugini, G.

La forma in architettura. Appunti per una metodologia del rilievo, Perugini, G., A. Conti, Rome, 1953

Modelli Borrominiani, in S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini, Perugini, G., Università di Roma, Rome, 1962

Il Campidoglio di Michelangelo, rilievi a cura di Enrico Del Debbio e Perugini G., fotografie di Leonard Von Matt – Guglielmo De Angelis d’Ossat, Silvana, Rome 1965

Architettura sovietica della rivoluzione: manifesti documenti contributi : informazione sugli anni 1910-20 in U.r.s.s, Perugini, G., Edizione Nuova Dimensione, Rome, 1969

Perchè Loos, Perugini G., Rome, 1970

Progetti e ricerca, Perugini G., Edizione Nuova Dimensione, Rome, 1975

La Casa Albero. Un esperimento di architettura, Perugini, R.; Perugini, G., Ginevra Bentivoglio EditoriA, 2018

De Plaisant, U.

Le Iconi d’Oggi, De Plaisant, U., Bulzoni, 1975

Perugini, R.

La memoria creativa, Perugini, R., Officina 1985

Periplo architettonico. Saggi su teoria, pensiero e progetto nella storia dell’architettura moderna e contemporanea, Perugini, R., Ginevra Bentivoglio EditoriA, 2008

La lezione della storia. Architetti e contesti tra antichità classica e tardo Rinascimento, Peruggini, R., Ginevra Bentivoglio EditoriA, 2015

La casa albero. Un esperimento di architettura, Perugini, R.; Perugini, G., Ginevra Bentivoglio EditoriA, 2018

Perché Loos, G. Perugini, 1970

Book published by in 1970.

by Giuseppe Perugini; Claudio Bertolini; Massimo Nobilioni

Perché Loos

Available in:

ETH-Bibliothek Zurich

Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Bibliothek

Università degli Studi Roma TRE- Sistema Bibliotecario di Ateneo

Das Baumhaus im Pinienwald, Exhibition catalogue, 2019

Catalogue for the architekturgalerie am weissenhof exhibition in January – March 2019.

Link to architektrugalerie am weissenhof, Stuttgart

Link to AMAZON

La Casa Albero- Un Esperimento di Architettura, Raynaldo and Giuseppe Perugini, 2018

2018 Raynaldo Perugini published this small book collecting a series of texts and essays by his father to explain some of the ideas behind the Casa Sperimentale. It is avaialble on AMAZON Italy.

We translated parts of the text on this Website.

Link to AMAZON Italia

Casa Albero – Giuseppe Perugini, 1983

Raynaldo Perugini published a book colelcting some essays and writings of his father explaining the ideas and concepts behind the Casa Sperimentale – or like the family calls it – Casa Albero, the Treehouse.

The following text, kindly shared by Raynaldo,has been translated by us.

La Casa Alberto – Raynaldo Perugini

Casa Albero / Planimetry as a whole, short notes are in practice a sort of dutiful tribute to all those who have repeatedly asked me to publish my notes relating to a conference, which I held in 1979, dedicated to some research and I propose for an “architecture model”.  This is a theme that is particularly dear to me as it has been the occasion for a global and correct verification of many ideas and many design interventions that I have carried out during my architectural activity.  Activities that, as I have always claimed, must be above all and compulsorily understood as a constant, with the continuous, occasion of “research”.  In the specific case of this architectural intervention, which I called Casa Albero, I was offered the opportunity to carry out studies and experiments on the object to be carried out without all the constraints and conditions that generally accompany architecture.  And in particular, without time limits, this specific condition had the advantage of allowing me to be able to predetermine pause for reflection and verification without interfering with the development of the idea and its realization. 

I must also say that the collection of notes and graphic documents published here constitute only a minimal part of the material produced during the period between creation and realization, as well as the indications resulting from this experience.  In fact, the choice was made to favour the most significant works, also for obvious reasons of space.  A more exhaustive publication will follow in the future that will collect and make interested parties involved in all the phases of a complex creative process such as the one that originated the house.  However, I hope that what is published here is sufficient to stimulate an attitude of greater attention and awareness towards problems still unresolved in the field of housing structures, as well as re-proposing the reconsideration in terms of the topicality of the indications and results that have been handed down to us by the history of architecture). 

GIUSEPPE PERUGINI Rome, March 17, 1983

Tree / Plant House at ground level with the projection of the building The Tree House must be considered as an architectural object that stands as a real “model to life”.  Moreover, this concept is not new as there are some illustrious precedents in this field.  Suffice it for this to think of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s transposition on a real model of the Kröller Müller House, which was then to become a valid didactic tool, or to the experimental neighborhood of the Weissenhof in Stuttgart.  This example which, in addition to constituting a sort of synthetic repertoire of all the most advanced trends of the moment in the architectural field at European level, is configured as a remarkable expression of this “modelling” in scale 1: 1 which we are talking about. Thus, offering to objective criticism some of the most significant spatial experiences in the history of the Modern Movement.  Not to mention the fundamental experimentation with scholarship in the field of non-specific and object defined by Kurt Schwitters, a leading exponent of the Dada of Hanover, manifested consistently in his model of the true home – sculpture: the Merzbau

However, it should be clarified that this project experience which I am going to describe, while ideally linking to these illustrious precedents, has particular values ​​which are proper to it.  Conceived in the context of a series of proposals and operating schemes designed in 1968 with the intent to unlock, even without openly contesting it, the traditional typological configuration of the housing structure that has long since crystallized, and, at the same time, to overcome the assumption of the pre-constituted functional organicity, the basic idea of ​​the Tree House has come to open itself more and more to experimental initiatives of various kinds which have gradually emerged during the various phases that led to its realization.  Thus, among the alt, the perceptive assumptions were also taken into account, resolved – as already in the Memorial of the Fosse Ardeatine I designed in the 1940s – through the introduction or accentuation of particular scientifically elaborated corrective motifs that flanked by more purely structural features.  The final aim is not in “form” but rather in the possibility of proposing an architectural solution which contributes to solving some problems of the conscience with the convergence of a series of cues soon the susceptible tonic possibility and cues of different origins. 

The experimental principle that underlies the House, therefore, must be verified not so much by evaluating only the results achieved, but rather by proceeding with the analysis of the creative process, because it is precisely the latter that can reveal the correctness of the criteria that contribute to its final conformation.  In light of this, the “technical” structure of the architectural object is naturally based on the maximum of constructive essentiality, also because I agree with Mies’ theory that technique must not be “a field of games like it is not.  architecture, whose spatial dimensionality must always be correlated to the quality of life that takes place in it “. 

Furthermore, the particular principle of mechanization and total standardization applied here, which by nature allows to create a range of almost infinite aggregation possibilities – a real “non-finish-able” rather than an “unfinished” – thus allowing to obtain a wide variety of spatial articulations starting from a single rule, does not refer simply to the House Tree object as an end in itself but rather to the development of a real methodological process.  Evidently, on a superficial analysis, the abolition of the classic typological – functional criteria could raise some doubts, above all of an economic nature, being this particular aspect of the problem directly connected to the traditional principle of standardization of housing.  However, it must be considered that the growing complexity of our needs, which require ever greater flexibility, will necessarily have to take into account new factors in the near future, even if substantial differences are not yet perceptible.  Considering also the fact that the emancipation of the living space from the structure, a real conquest of the senses of architecture.  modern, it represents a significant step forward in all All these assumptions have been concretized here, as far as possible, during this “applied research” which, as I was able to say, is not proposed either controversially or as a solution to the alternative but, he simply wants to recall, albeit in an unspecific key, some traditional architectural parameters so that, appropriately rereading, for a more current position in the area of ​​contemporary design.

At this point it could be objected that the uniformity of the typological standard is actually being proposed in disguise and for this reason it is necessary to further clarify the basic concepts through further clarifications.  The “typological standard”, as it is normally understood, is synonymous with uniformity in all senses and foresees in its interior, and at the same time, a fruition considered optimal as uniform as possible.  In our case, on the other hand, the socio – economic aspect is resolved through an equitable distribution of the liveable space, but at the same time the user is also given greater freedom through an almost infinite range of organizational possibilities, in order to achieve a inhabited space with the indication of the “walls – furniture” optimal distribution of spaces and functions within its environment free from predefined schemes.  And this is why the service units – bathrooms, kitchen, stairs – have been designed as totally autonomous with respect to the main structure and do not affect, as we will see, the economy of living space, as well as the fixed furnishings.  All these functional elements – and in particular the bathrooms – were in fact conceived to be placed outside the main structure, “hung” where necessary, thus performing their traditional role in an autonomously and without interfering with any extensions or re-readings of a continuous “architectural context” evolution.


It must first be specified that the experimental process of the Tree House does not end in a single architectural object but extends to a complex of experiments consisting of three episodes, three “tests – object “.  The first is the real Tree House, the second is divided with the codename “Palla” and the third the “Cubetti”.  Three architectural proposals conceptually correlated in order to express three different ways of understanding the concept of housing unit.  Thus, to the naturally unlimited and indefinite – or rather “non-predefined” – structure of the Tree House, a “finite” object – identified through the spherical shape, a symbol of self-realization and cosmic perfection – and an object with linear variability, achievable by applying the principle of seriality. 

The first of these “urban scale models”, the Tree House, essentially consists of a load-bearing structure, completely external to the functional spaces, created as an example of aggregation of a series of  standardized elements – beams, slabs and plates – which could be defined as a “structure – matter” in that it does not present any quantitative limitation of use and is likely to develop indefinitely in all directions.  The second “model”, the Ball, consists of a sphere of five meters in diameter internally equipped rationally as a housing unit.  The third “model”, the Cubetti, consists of a sequence of cubic spatial modules of three meters by three spaced by semi-modules containing the services through which you get a housing unit consisting of two rooms, kitchen and two bathrooms less forty square meters.

In this case it is a “cellular” experimentation organized according to the principle of the aggregation between modules and semi-modules possibly expandable also in height by overlapping.  Although apparently very different from each other, these three examples of experimentation are conceptually connected, as well as by precise modular choices, by the same purposes and by the same common values ​​aimed at proposing new criteria for the design of housing structures. 


When we aim to organize a didactic orientation system, we must necessarily put this system into reality.  And this is the case of Casa Albero, a cultural and architectural operation which, in transcending its objective characteristics, it proposes itself in a specifically didactic role.  If, in fact, he speaks of didactic architecture, or rather of the teaching of architecture through architecture itself, understood objectively, we must necessarily consider the more directly codifiable aspects.  And this neglects the dialectics of languages ​​and theories that are considered already acquired for a concrete evaluation of reality.  And the real, in turn, must present itself with clarity, without ambiguity, easy to read, so that by following the consequentiality of the operations, the synthesis that determined it can be recomposed.  It does not seem out of place to me at this point to refer to Mies’ reflections, as I believe that this will make the understanding of this aspect of my work easier.  The elementary synthesis, writes the German Master, “always finds its roots in the healthy world of primitive construction methods (…) In fact where can we find a greater structural clarity than in the free constructions of the ancients? (…) Where could one learn such a simple and healthy profession as that of the architect if not from these modest unknowns? “And above all:” this is no less true for steel and concrete, we must remember that it all depends on how we use it and not from the material itself. Every material is what we don’t make it be.

The Tree House, a real “continuum house”, is based on an elementary, primitive, and therefore easily understandable structure.  The Palla, with its historical form, proposes itself here with its vocation to abstraction, opposing the House with its modification by balancing its experimental criteria with a different reading station.  As it is well known, the sphere and classical form, which has repeatedly recurred in the course of history – just think about the visionary images, the sphere is one in the course of history the visionaries of Tree House / Cross Section II Étienne – Louis Boullée or Claude – Nicolas Ledoux -, but which with its synthesis escapes the succession of fashions and styles.  And in this case, to make it livable, another equipped sphere has been introduced, destined to fulfill all traditional functions, including furniture.  Furthermore, it was decided to reject the static nature that would have been generated if the glass cut that connects the two battles that compose it had been horizontal.  Thus, by tilting its barycentric axis, a further naturalistic motif was introduced, that is, a relationship for earth-sky that exalted its dynamism and tension.  A tension further strengthened from the outside by the bronze ideogram that draws a cosmic image on the white marble floor. 

Thus, if it is true, as Adolf Loos states in the essay “Architecture” of 1910, that “architecture arouses in the man of moods” and that “the architect’s task is therefore to specify the state of ‘soul “, it is equally true that when an architecture is open to provoking an emotion it is possible between transforming into an” architecture lesson “.  And this is basically of another of the characteristics of these architectural experiences. 


The structure, as you can see, is symmetrical with respect to a plane of symmetry that can be at the height of the human nail.  This is obtained by equating the structural door leaning with the hanging one, so the hooking elements of the plates that appear free in space are not perceived.  For this reason, the first sensation is that of levitation, but the view of the bearing structures through the voids determined by the offset of the plates themselves produces a sense of stability.  These two converging moods de facto determine a dynamic succession between abstraction and concreteness which provides, on a psychological level, a third state, synthesis of the two components. 

The effect that this state of affairs produces means that rather than being in front of a “container”, one has the impression, when confronted with the simultaneous presence of an interior – exterior, of an architectural object that is interpenetrated or even partially of nature. 

From this derives the denomination of Casa Albero. The house, even internally, does not have completely passable hierarchies, all visible.  There are two “exteriors’ that are actually usable and which refer to each other: A “below” and an “above “. What is above is like what is below.

 So, for the persistence of the memory, you have the feeling of an effective continuity, even formal, which, by reducing the elements of distraction to a minimum, favors the understanding of the project idea.  While A structural criterion of this type, which can be “tipped” in a single-storey oven, allows ideally following a potential overturning movement and fully appreciating the entire structure through a conceptual path. 


The modular plates, independent of each other, are connected to the structure – hung or supported – by means of cruciform steel brackets and are spaced by a transparent glass plate six centimetres wide.  The volumes closed with the cuts of light. This slit, which we find, symmetrically, on the ceiling and on the floor, also continues on the walls in order to create a linear continuity, a sort of “glass cage” of luminous glass, through which it is possible mentally reconstruct, in an obviously evocative way, the sequence of volumes that make up the building. 


To control the plane of symmetry further, the “House” stands on a stretch of water so that both the structure and the sky itself find a further chance to reflect.  Of course, the simultaneous vision of the sky also bears the reflected sky that derives from it, perceptible from inside the building through the slits that separate the plates and the glass parts that underline the staggering.  it contributes to further enhancing the sense of tension and “suspension” which constitutes one of the main characteristics of this architectural experiment.  Perception across the board.


 A premise is needed here: the characteristics of the load-bearing parts of the building, completely external, eliminate any static constraint and this consequently allows to be able to operate an almost unlimited choice of infill, This freedom of choice has led –  in the course of planning and above all in execution – to formulate a series of potential solutions among which the final choice was made.  A choice that in a certain sense recalls the observations of Adolf Loos who in his ‘Spoken into the Void” addresses the problem of “eliminating furniture” by postulating: “there are no modern furniture”.

In fact Loos writes: “ …Only those modern furniture that can be moved are modern. All the furniture that is fixed to the wall, which therefore cannot be moved, as it is already clear from their nom are therefore real furniture: chests and wardrobes, glass cabinets and sideboards, today practically there exist more (…) We were said that in every age the wardrobes and the cupboards had been conceived  according to the modern spirit, designed according to the spirit of their time and that therefore it was the task of creating these things even today according to the spirit of our time. This was a wrong reasoning. Because, since the wardrobes no longer exist today, it is possible that there are modern ones “.  And therefore “What must the truly modern architect do? He has to build houses in which all that furniture that cannot be moved disappears into the walls. (…) The walls of the house belong to the architect. Here he can do this who wants “.  This is the spirit with which the equipped modular system that constitutes the walls of the Tree House was conceived.  But, it should be noted, that Loos’ words have not been reported here to defend the solution adopted but rather to demonstrate that it is also possible not to “make the furniture that cannot be moved disappear” in the walls, choosing instead, as is the case, to create walls with what plastic value of our construction and rear curtain walls have been defined as “fixed furniture”.  In fact, the plastic value of our Finished by the insertion in the Qulin concrete infill panels made out of work which become, from time to time, wardrobes, bookcases or containers with vainness and which make up the walls, an internal space that appears visually more g than it really is.

The assembly of these elements was carried out by means of suitably threaded steel bolts.  Once fixed, the cohesion between the various modules was then strengthened by glueing with bituminous materials.  This system would ideally allow for a potential constant variability of the walls through the interchangeability of the modules – full, cable, wardrobe, etc.  – which can be applied at any point and at any time.  This extreme flexibility is obviously reflected as an important factor on the freedom of use of the living space.  The truly “mobile” furnishings, on the other hand – beds, sofas, tables, chairs and armchairs – are obviously isolated from the walls and free to characterize the inhabited environment in a completely autonomous way.  In this sense, a model of “totem bed” has also been hypothesized which, placed vertically during the day, can – once this is the case – open to give space to its normal functions.


The infill which, as we have seen, is conceived as a set of modules that provide practically limitless combinations. It allows you to insert openings in the walls wherever you deem it appropriate, as well as as mentioned above, possibly changing the with figuration over time.  the glazed modules – with fixed or openable glass – can in fact be combined in various ways, according to the principle adopted for the walls, in order to create real “volumes of light” that project both into the interior space both towards the outside. 


Considering that, as already specified, the care ale of Casa Albero consists in the ace of freedom of aggregation of spaces, this obviously implies that there are no destinations before stay, lunch, bed, etc.  – and that therefore all service minds are “hung” to the structure.  In fact the scale as much as the bathroom elements – built outside on and in turn standardized – can be fixed to slabs at any point of the building their presence is required.  


The bathroom module has a deliberately you shape and is based on maximum simplicity and intentionally functional eco-friendliness and economy. In fact, it basically looks like a reinforced concrete casing containing standardized plastic sanitary appliances that can close at the moment the shower is activated.  The latter is presented as a circular tube with nozzles from which jets of water pour out which together create a particular effect.  It has also been thought, possibly, to add to this system a parallel ring of jets of hot air aimed at drying the user, just as part of the floor is removable, thus leaving space for a small bathtub.  Scheme of the functioning of the bathroom


The inspiring principle of their construction is the system of potters.  In fact, the first step is to carry out an excavation aimed at obtaining the space to make the initial mind the guiding form, which is also facilitated here by the sandy soil.  A vertical pole is then fixed in the center with a welded iron sheet suitably shaped so that, by rotation, the desired shape can be obtained.  After a first rotation of the shaped rod, which regulates the excavation, always rotating, plaster is thrown which, depositing itself on the walls, thickens and creates the real counter form.  Then we proceed with the installation of a steel reinforcement made separately and fix a galvanized iron circle on the upper part of the resulting form.  At this point the initial foil is replaced with one of reduced dimensions, determined by the thickness that is intended to be given to the element to be made and then the concrete is cast by still rotating the rod on itself until the cement has purchased a certain consistency.  After the time necessary for the setting of the cement, it is necessary to dig around the counter form that is pining, thus releasing a perfectly finished object which is then removed with the crane and moved for laying. It is a substantially very simple system which, as in this case and if the conditions exist, it can also be carried out on site. The two half-caps that make up the Ball were also made in the same way but with further precautions. In fact, after having made the two parts that they constitute it, a particular COSTITU support structure was made up of a series of “U” beams – suitably pie gates – and large C in galvanized metal, while, as we have said, the choice to tilt the glass junction point made it possible to avoid a sense of static nature that a horizontal solution would have generated.  The structure of the house and the ball under construction Scheme of the construction technique of the services and the ball.

Given the purposes that these short notes propose and the small space available, I think I will not have to go any further by recalling here the purposes and the “old-fashioned” method of the treaties whose purpose was to allow the dissemination of ideas, elements and their explanation.  I understand perfectly well that Casa Albero can appear at first sight as an object in its own way eccentric, like the dream of a visionary architect, but I hope that whoever reads these lines will recognize its true meaning, its true role, which  it is that of “mo of the experimental”, finding in the compositional choices made the concretization of all those values, even symbolic or unconscious, which have always been part of the very idea of ​​Architecture.


The house of Fregene provided the pretext for a series of experiments elaborated on the theoretical level. 

1 – Experimentation of the unfinished.  Through a series of models, a structural design has been determined that preserves its in-organicity and allows growth in all directions – infinitely. 

2 – Abstraction of the architectural void.  The empty tectonic arch is only evoked through the surfaces hanging on the beams, independent of each other.  The voids (interspaces) have been determined so that the architectural void is never perceptually determined as a volume. 

3 – The psychological effects (reversal of static sensations in dynamics) have been experimented through the determination of a horizontal symmetry plane whereby the structure overturns in a mirror sense.  The sky is evoked by its reflection on a mirror of water placed under the structure. 

4 – The functions / services are linked to the structure in an absolutely autonomous way, even formally.  The closure of the liveable vertical spaces occurs through containers and movable glass elements according to a preventive study of the positions that takes into account the perspective continuity.  The suggestion of the empty tectonic arches is accentuated by mirroring walls placed in particular conditions. 

5 – The contrast between finite and unfinished has been experimented by contrasting the aforementioned structure with a spherical volume placed in a related point and determined through a series of theoretical considerations. 


Critical examination of the monument through the survey


The Institute of Monuments Design and Relief plans a series of studies concerning the work of Francesco Borromini in Rome.  Our investigation is part of this framework which, on the basis of the important work carried out together with the students of the course, tries to characterize the essential aspects of Borrominian architecture.  An unfinished work was chosen because in it the structure appears in its nascent state and reveals, among other things, the aspirations and direction of the artist in the original phase of construction.  The work presents itself in an intermediate moment between the design and the complete realization, so that it points out the methods and the organization of the construction site, in addition to those technical precautions that the architect prepared for the installation of the finishes in stone, while the building appears already perfectly defined in its spatial synthesis. 

Anticipating the results of our work we can say that precisely through the relief of this monument and through the comparison of it with other Borrominian works both we have come to the conclusion that they seem to us well founded, even if only partially convergent with those of the current critical trends.  In fact, we have discovered how all the buildings of the Borromini since their inception express the characteristics of a deep conscious rationality, which hierarchically organizes all the elements.  It also seemed to us that an ever-constant relationship was established between the language of Borrominian architecture and the environment in which the monuments are immersed.  In the following pages, illustrating this relationship, we will come to define Borromini ‘s architecture in terms different from those of traditional criticism which has, in its most authoritative currents, defined as “illusionistic” and “capricious”.  To comfort us in an interpretation of Borromini’s architecture which we would rather qualify as “realistic” came another order of considerations.  The study of the monuments showed us that they were not conceived as spectacular forms intended to stimulate those dramatic suggestions of which the seventeenth and the Counter-Reformation were pleased, but that rather they were conceived as functional life centers, tending to cleverly articulate the structures in view of a practical end to which they always remain subordinate.  Borromini ‘s architectural work also presents a profoundly unitary organization: all the individual elements underline the unity of the building, a rich game runs between them of interdependencies governed by geometric relationships, almost a magniloquent period governed by skilful syntactic ties.  An imaginative but rationally disciplined work.  It seems so unfounded to define Borromini as a personality who “gave delirium” – it is the definition of the Militia – that is, as a personality who “a donné les plus grands modèles de bizarrerie” – is the definition of the rational listical encyclopedias of the eighteenth century – but it seems equally inaccurate  by virtue of what we have mentioned above, the judgment, although fascinating of modern criticism;  the Hempels, the Sedlmayr, the Argans, do not deny that irrationalism but, perfectly coherent with the new historicistic mentality, translate that irrationalism into a characteristic that appears neither as positive nor as negative;  Irrationalism thus becomes the essence of a mentality, according to Argan, not adequate to the times, since it would be the proof of a “neo-mannerist attitude, which, while decidedly devalues ​​all the naturalistic or broadly cognitive contents of the form, aims to entrust to the extreme the function and value of style “.  It is good to see how what we maintain is in disagreement with the interpretation of the distinguished scholar, who seems to sin in excessive interpretative refinement by postulating in Borromini a symbolism of the neo – Platonic brand substantially adhering to a similar neo – platonic symbolism of the Michelangelo architecture.  Similarly, always according to Argan, to the Caravaggesque youth symbolism; in our opinion, none of this is found in Borromini.  It did not seem that what Argan defines as a symbol that translates into allegory is a pretext for leaving the repertoire “fundamentally naturalistic of classical proportions and orders and for identifying individual forms for their own content, isolating them from the traditional proportional and perspective context “.  Borrominiana is not a paratactic period, on the contrary, it is a period full of syntactic bonds;  it is not an abstract symbolism proper to a restless mentality, it is instead a rationalism that is “realistic” in the aforementioned sense.  It is not restlessness determined by an inability to adapt, on the contrary it is continuous research, sometimes dramatic, intensely experienced, to determine an ever-greater relationship with nature and the environment.  It is therefore a “naturalistic” architecture (although we prefer to call it “realistic”).  We agree with Argan that Borromini in this search for new contacts with nature, with the environment, with the urban complex goes through a phase of “identifying” the elements, we would say of an original transformation of the traditional structures. But this identification is never an end in itself, it does not tend to express a conception of the world, but rather to achieve a real purpose: the building as a place of life. 

Therefore, it is never an isolated element but is always subjected to the organism.  This is the size of the Borromini, the importance of his research: a technical solution, a decorative element, a cornice, a pillar, a breaking of space, an accentuation of the projections are never a function of pure plasticity or  painting;  everything is always in function of the organism, of its systematicity, but even more and even better everything is in function of the environment in which the organism is inserted.  The examination of the works that Borromini designed in the most varied and constrained Roman environments, in the most complex and difficult conditions of space (urban constraints, insertion in works already started by other artists) revealed to us how the architectural solutions have always been determined  from these external and environmental elements.  Thus the planning organization is the result of a wise consideration of the space available, within which Borromini had to insert his work.  Given this premise, Borrominian architecture can no longer be judged as an end in itself, as a suggestive sculpture elaborated in the solitude of an abstract environment, but as the solution of contingent and ever new problems.  All aspects of the Borrominiana construction – be they a facade, a cloister, a dome – are influenced by the planimetric layout and demonstrate Borromini’s masterful ability to adapt his rich inventiveness and the vein of his language to all the iron needs of the de facto environmental conditions. 

The relationship between the Borrominian work and the environment is also demonstrated by another factor: light.  A complete exploration of Borromini’s entire architecture allowed a preliminary observation: the parts of the building, for example the facades, have a different configuration depending on the exposure and orientation of the surfaces.  When a facade is exposed to the north, the particular lighting conditions impose a “forcing of the masses”, that is, a greater accentuation of the overhangs, the adoption of marked curved surfaces and everything that allows a total exploitation of the light.  On the other hand, if we examine a facade facing south, this intense play of the masses is attenuated and the facade is strongly designed, the overhangs are very light and barely hinted, while only the horizontal moldings retain a certain plastic value. 

To our investigation, therefore, the Borrominian facades appear differently articulated: those exposed to the north, vibrant and sinuous, linear and drawn, those oriented towards the middle of the day.  Yet the observer does not feel a contrasting emotional charge: the different facades have the same expressive intensity.  The truth is that Borromini is an artist, in the broadest sense of the word, and as such tends to constantly express his world and his poetics, to affirm his style, and for this he uses himself, with full mastery technique and adherence to reality, of all the means that nature offers him.  Two exemplary constructions that reflect our thesis are the facade of the Church of San Carlino alle Quattro Fontani completely exposed to the north and that of the Oratorio dei Filippini facing south.  The one is almost backlit and is only hit by the setting sun at sunset, the other is totally exposed to the light, mostly coming from above.  And in fact, to obtain the same intensity of expression, Borromini definitely highlights the vertical structures in San Carlino while accentuating only the horizontal recurrences in the Hour thorium of the Filipinos.  The design of the second church is reflected in the plasticity of the facade of the first church. 

For this reason we would say that the architectural forms in Borromini are essentially instrumental.  Another commonplace of traditional criticism is that which affirms the existence of a profound rift between Renaissance classism and Mannerism on the one hand, and Baroque conceptism on the other.  This opposition was expressed in the most radical way by Wöllflin, whose criticism, however outdated, still finds considerable consensus today.  However, it is useful to take as a starting point of our discussion the schematization of the five pairs of opposites which, according to the historian, should characterize that fracture:

1) linear – pictorial;  surface vision;  in-depth vision; 

2) Vision on the surface and in depth; 

3) closed form – open form; 

4) absolute clarity – relative clarity; 

5) multiplicity – unity. 

Apart from the criticisms that can be addressed to any schematization, and therefore also to this, in particular, there are specific reasons for not fully agreeing with it.  In the first place, the pictorial of Borrominian architecture, as we have seen, is not in opposition to the linear conception which is also present in that architecture.  In the complex of his work, in fact, there is a subtle interplay between the two elements that cannot be considered as absolute data of a closed and dogmatic aesthetic conception.  On the contrary, plastic and pictorial are tools for a practical function.  They are essentially the different aspects of the “real”, but precisely because they cannot represent each other without the whole “real”, which on the contrary lives precisely by virtue of the instrumental ambivalence of the two.  The same goes for the second dichotomy on which, however, there is still something to be said, especially in consideration of the fact that with that opposition of vision in-depth it implies a substantially scenographic quality of the Baroque and Borrominian architecture.  The vision on the surface, moreover, and the vision in depth are in close relationship with a pretended opposition that pivots on the different functions of the projecting elements, that is, it benefits from a pretended opposition between conceptions that feel the value of the planes differently.  The first speech takes us to what we have already said about light, the second instead to what has been said about the pretended scenographic needs of Borrominian architecture. Another qualifying opposition, according to Wöllflin, is that between closed form and open form.

But the opening of an architectural form, at least in Borromini, is always in function on the one hand of the objective conditions of light, on the other of the need for insertion in the surrounding environment.  Without dwelling on the penultimate opposition between a purported classical absolute clarity and a barely relative clarity, an opposition that essentially repeats the old judgment of irrationality, we definitely arrive at the last point which seems to us the most important.  According to Wöllflin, Baroque architecture is expressed as a need for unity as opposed to the multiplicity of classical architecture.  It should be noted that the Borrominian unit (but the discourse can also apply to all Baroque architecture) is not a unit that excludes the multiple but is a unit that organizes the many pieces, it is a hierarchy of geometric values, unitary but individual.  The architectural building is ultimately an organism.  Nor to say that classical architecture excludes this characterization; it is only a question of a different way of conceiving the multiplicity together; it is a different organicity;  finally, it is a profoundly different enhancement of the analytic and the synthetic.  But in reality under this whole series of oppositions two substantial ones are implied: the first – already discussed several times – is the traditional one between irrationality and rationality.  The second from which belongs more than the other to the world of architecture is that between statics and dynamics: the dynamism of the baroque building would be opposed to the substantially static classical building.  According to Wöllflin in the Baroque world, (and in the Borian one), solidity and durability would falter.  In particular, the first that expresses the idea of ​​balance and symmetry through the horizontal and vertical sides would lose all value.  Substantially in agreement with this interpretation is also found the Argan, according to which “Borromini transforms the plastic theme into linear, the closed form in continuous form, the downward thrust into the opposite upward thrust” (1).  Different conclusions have emerged through the survey we have made.  The dynamic and the static, in fact, if understood in the sense of lesser or greater accentuation of solidity do not count as a differentiating element of two opposing epochs.  The baroque dynamism, and in particular borrominiana, is never achieved with prejudice to statics, but on the contrary it translates into a different order of equilibrium plans. 

This is the case, for example, with regard to the horizontal and the vertical which is another reason highlighted by criticism (2) in connection with a substantial change of “spirituality”. 

Here too, the same argument that we made on the site of the dichotomy between plastic and pictorial applies, even here in the final there is no unitary qualification of Borrominian technical language.  As we have already observed, the buildings with the facade facing south have a greater and more violent accentuation of everything that is horizontal with respect to the vertical; the cornices; the string courses highlight their plasticity through the horizontal plane.  It is obvious that this formal attitude of Borromini is once again linked to the incidence of light.  In this case, coming from the light from above, the light’s dark light of the molding is enhanced if this molding follows the horizontal plane.  On the contrary, all the limbs in the vertical direction are barely whispered, they are geometrized, while those in the horizontal direction take on the most varied movements, In Santa Maria dei Sette Dolori the problem is reversed.  Horizontal recurrences do not exist, vertical reliefs are the ones that take on the greatest importance.  In fact, here the illumination comes from the plane of the horizon and it is as if the facade had in some sense undergone a ninety-degree rotation. 

Light is therefore what predominates in the Borromean work; also in function of it are the technical solutions, the determination of the architectural characteristics.  In the panorama of current criticism, this emphasis on the value of light is nothing new.  Argan argues that “Borromini’s examination of the style highlights an essential element, which would be difficult to designate otherwise than with the critical term generally used for Caravaggio’s painting: luminism.  This term which indicates a particular way used by the painter to illuminate his figurations, seems difficult to transfer to architecture, always bathed in natural light “.  Already from this characterization of the Argan, however, it can be seen how light is not taken in its right value.  It becomes an illusory means, that is, it becomes a means for a pictorial construction.  “Luminism” taken as an essentially pictorial term, that is, as a means of naturalizing the dimensionality of the painting, cannot coincide, as it does not coincide, with the light-building relationship of Borrominian architecture.  Here, in fact, it is a question of inverting the connection: light from an instrument becomes a cause.  Here then is explained the origin before the position not only of Argan but of all contemporary criticism (Muñoz, Sedlmayr etc.).  Once the light is lowered to luminism, once the cause becomes an instrument, one needs to give a purpose to this instrument, and this is

found in what is only consequence: the movement of the mass, the rupture, and ultimately the drama, the tension.  If we reestablish the “real relationship”, this hierarchy of values ​​will present itself in a different way.  Not only that, but we will also have a substantially different characterization of Borromini’s personality, which becomes a personality linked intimately to architecture, intended as the application of scientifically studied and rationally applied problems and technological solutions.  In our opinion, there are very few reasons to speak of the “tormented” Borromini.  Of course, we are well aware that with this we have not exhausted the critical discourse, in reality what we wanted to do here is only the practical verification, through the survey, of the reasons that are traditionally accepted as valid to qualify Borromini.  Although sometimes we have expanded the meaning of this verification to the general discourse it is because, in our opinion, from the relief we can and must pass on to a series of more complex considerations.  The emphasis highlighting the technical fact must be substantiated by the reasons that this underlies.  In this plan, of course, our analysis has a little the value of the “invasion”, but ours, rather than conclusions, are traces, methodological cues which however require further development. 


Very often it happens to the Borromini scholar to detect interventions by foreign operators inserted in various ways in the works of the Maestro.  These interventions, carefully analyzed by us, have shown us even more clearly that characteristic of organic rationality that we have already indicated as peculiar to Borrominian architecture.  The details, in the Borrominian building, are never an end in themselves, but are always related to unity.  So that any foreign element however inserted, either remains completely isolated (so the original unit is never interrupted) or is absorbed by the whole in which it is neutralized.  During the process of the survey carried out by us in the monastery of Santa Maria dei Sette Dolori they discovered and gradually recorded some singular anomalies, of subtle discrepancies between the various parts of the building.  But it was more a question of vague sensations which were however compensated by the total intuition of the monument which proved to be fundamentally harmonious.  At the moment of the graphic reconstruction of the building, the plan revealed the existence of two settings, one extremely linear, the other more flexible and wise: the one that at first it had seemed almost an overlap of two worlds and, continuing the analysis, it revealed itself as a harmonious insertion of a new complex within an existing plot.  The importance of the whole organism is precisely in the knowledge with which Borromini’s rich language has managed to adapt within an obligatory geometric scheme. 

The luxuriant and exuberant life of the church, almost bursting from the limits that enclosed it, tends to concentrate on itself the essential values ​​of the whole plant. Thus that flourishing translates into a centrifugal pressure which shapes the external wall according to its thrust, and this (here is the Borrominian dynamism) loses its value of mere conclusion and transforms itself into a functional element with respect to that thrust.  It should be added in this regard that, unlike other Borrominian constructions, the thrust component is not determined in a unidirectional sense and is distributed equally in all directions.  But the most important observation that our investigations suggest is the following: the geometric repertoire of Borromini does not originate from emptiness; has its root precisely in that primordial geometry of the pre-existing plan. This formidable ability to adapt the Borromini can often mislead those who approach the architectural monument without the aid of historical documents, even pushing them to attribute to Borromini the complete paternity of works that are partially his.  Hence the need to read up on what is also possible in terms of news sources.

As for S.  Maria dei Sette Dolori a review of the rich documentation in the Monastry Archive led us to discover a document that confirms our interpretation, that is to say it appears that Borromini intervened in the factory at a later time, at the invitation of the Count of Carpegna, friend  and benefactor of the Lombard Master, to give a new direction to those works that the client did not see carried out with due skill by another builder, perhaps this master Bartolomeo Checci. 

The original designs by Borromini

In addition to the measurement and graphic representation, the investigation of the environment and all the other interesting research, the survey must not neglect the study of the original drawings that refer to the work, because these offer the possibility of documenting the initial aspects of construction.  Very often any original design is intended as an absolute definition of the work, so that whenever there is a discrepancy between this and the realization, a shadow of doubt is left hanging even on the authorship of the monument or some details of the same.  Those who know the design process deeply are aware of the different value that must be given to these documents which have a relative meaning, which only constitute studies of partial solutions which must be checked from time to time in reality and which are subjected to all reworkings dictated by necessity or inspiration.

This general observation has a particular value for Borromini, whose drawings almost always have a significant meaning because construction projects would be called preparatory studies for scientific research and for a geometric synthesis of spaces.  The absurdity therefore to seek in Borromini’s drawings that correspond to the historically determined solutions it is known that instead of the plastic accurately executed in wax and wood existed which gave the artist the possibility of controlling his inventions on a three-dimensional plane.  On the other hand, the complexity of its spaces would hardly have allowed an effective and vivid graphic representation. As far as the works of Santa Maria del Sette Dolori are concerned, we know that there were many designs that were lost and a wooden model.  (See the notary inventory of Borromini ‘s assets drawn up after the Maestro’ s death).  Only two studies have survived in the Albertina Art Gallery in Vienna.  Analyzing these drawings one immediately notices a clear discrepancy between some details of the graphic scheme and the work made in Rome.  For example, the door designed by Borromini in the ellipsoidal body was never built.  But its location (in the graph) suggests a very different planimetric articulation of the complex that Borromini hypothesized, then replacing it with other solutions.  But isn’t this continuous search for the ideal solution the practice followed by every architect?  On the other hand, studying the monument we must admit that the current arrangement of the door is the best and most valid solution between the possible, and therefore we will have to recognize the existence of the relative executive and definitive design of the work.  The workmanship of the marble exhibits of the door is certainly mediocre but the essential lines clearly recognize the characteristic of the Borrominian design.  Also in the side door, contrary to what traditional critics say, we seemed to recognize some typical motifs of Borrominian architecture, even here, without a doubt, the modification made in the execution of the design does not cancel the characteristics of the master’s architecture Lombard, which continue to leak despite the deformation.


Description of the work

The land on which the monastery stands is irregular in shape with only two parallel sides. It is located on the slopes of the Janiculum, along the lonely Via Garibaldi which connects Porta Settimiana with the Church of S.  Pietro in Montorio.  Access to the monastery is only possible from via Garibaldi and takes place through a large portal equipped with a splendid gate, probably made on a design by Borromini.  The vast space in front of the building is completely isolated from the environment by means of a high fence wall which follows the course of the road to the north – east, while to the north – west it limits other properties.  The main facade of the monastery has only the wall structure and is devoid of decorations.  The large brick wall curves in the central part and adheres to a cylindrical surface whose more protruding generators are connected to the lateral wings of the facade by means of the extension of two radial planes. 

The lowered vault is characteristic of other Norse Borromean works.  The shape of the chapels is linked to that of the ellipsoidal elements of the main facade.  The main altar originally had the rearmost wall and the sacristy was accessed directly from the choir.  The portico consists of a series of vaulted covered spans, whose external arches have been closed and the openings replaced by doors; a goggle window illuminates the rooms located along the porch.  We conclude by noting that inside the monastery there is a fountain that was probably made on the original design of Borromini, “although in the execution it was considerably simplified and altered”. 

Some documents on the construction of the Church –

Act of appraisal of the factory (kept in the Convent Archive).  From the document drawn up on 3 August 1646 we learn the name of the builder – master Bartolomeo Checci and c.  – and that of the Architect:.  .  .  the factory was designed, ordered and managed by the very illustrious Mr.  Francesco Borromini (sic) Architect.  .  .  .  In the same document are reported the clàusole related to the conduct of the work whose administrative direction is entrusted to two experts: the architect Del Grande trusted by the client Camilla Virginia Savelli Farnese and Mr.  Domenico De Quartis trusted by the manufacturer. 

– The first state of progress of the works bears the date of 29 September 1646 and the only signature of the architect Del Grande.  (attached to the estimate).  – On 29 November 1618, the internal plastering work of the Church was entrusted.  (contract preserved in the archives of the monastery) – On November 15, 1658 the construction work of the monastery was entrusted to the chief master Marcantonio.  (contract kept in the archives of the Monastery, – According to the state of progress on 8 July 1662 2 November 1663 – 22 October 1665 – 26 January 1667 the stonecutter works were carried out under the direction of the architect Contini (executor Vincenzo  Guidozzi) .These works include those relating to the construction of the marble frames of the external doors which were therefore made before Borromini’s death, – There are also some diary pages and various fragmentary writings, without any reference, which still provide data  fundamentals on the origin of the building From the purchase of the land it is deduced that the land purchased by Camilla Virginia Savelli Farnese was not free of real estate even if there were some unimportant constructions

Some considerations on the building

The vestibule, although perfectly coherent to the facade of the church, it fulfills a particular role which is that of mediator of the pre-existing constraint is the new concept.

It is a pivot of a geometric order, with a substantially compositional function, which once again demonstrates how Borrominian architecture always translates into different original solutions depending on the environmental situations.  The church with a longitudinal scheme looks like a vast room, whose elements coincide with the spirituality of the place, but particularly of the time.  The band that surrounds the whole church internally at a certain height, linking, so to speak, all the individual parts and following the architectural motifs plastically, goes around the niches of the altars, bypasses the classic moldings added and resolves into elaborate designs.  Its value, as it is easy to conclude, consists above all in accentuating the plasticity of the architectural structure by drawing.  Once again, therefore pictorial »and« plastic »find themselves inserted in a subtle game of interdependence and pass between each other.  In the plan of the church we discover the meaning of geometry in Borrominian architecture.  It turns out that that is strongly character “centralized” of the geometric pattern that does not, however, presents as a whole unit, but it develops hierarchically according to an analytical process of geometric values.  Thus a scale is formed in which the values ​​arise almost by budding, without autonomous life but despite everything they are identified, without a single scheme that reabsorbs them. 

On this scheme which, as can be seen, focuses on articulation rather than unity is the profound sense of the syntactic order and consequent refusal of a parallel periodic by juxtaposition.  It is in a way the return to a courtly style, to that courtlyness typical of the classical world, which loves a rigid pre-established hierarchy and rejects as unnatural a mixture of orders and therefore of styles.  But from the classical scheme it differs in its realistic attitude.  Furthermore, the rigidly monochromatic conception, which results in a constant use of white, with its pivoting essentially on the drawing, entails a severe geometrization, also accentuating its scientific rigor.  Ultimately therefore from the plan of the church it is possible to draw those conclusions that we had anticipated.  During the survey procedure we discovered (but more than discovered it was confirmation), how the work is greatly facilitated by the constant recurrence of the reasons.  A precise calculation, a series of perfectly established and definable, almost schematizable occurrences are the work of a rational mentality that organizes its creation in such a way that every single apparently “bizarre” will is never left to the mind, but it is the result of a calculation;  once analyzed, an indentation serves as a model for all analogues.

The perspective in Borromini

 A problem of considerable importance for the interpretation of seventeenth-century architecture is that of the so-called scenographic and illusionistic aspects of the Baroque. 

The resources of perspective that architects of the time often make use of are not intended as a means of expanding the space.  If in painting and scenography perspective resources can create a dimensional illusion, architecture cannot aspire to these results because it allows such an experience of space to make those illusions absurd.  Rather, one should speak of optical corrections, and understand them as artifices that want to conceive matter and as elements of the total harmony of the building.  Borromini made use of the perspective games also in a scenographic and illusionistic sense, but only when the composition is exclusively a function of the vision, that is when the spaces beyond which the prospective escapes are prolonged cannot be controlled or enjoyed from man.  But when Borromini conceives an organism, he leaves these amusing games to introduce a wide range of corrections expressed in the most different ways: from the correction of the planes to the chiaroscuro accentuation of some elements, to the skilful orchestration of the rhythms.  We have an interesting example in the church of Santa Maria dei Sette Dolori.  In this the frame surrounding the environment follows a plan which in some moments abandons verticality to move freely in space.  Here the optical correction allows the achievement of an extraordinary dynamic effect. 


The series of concepts that we have limited to mention here, some generic and partial settings as they are above all adhering to a single moment of the Borrominian architectural work, the richness of the motifs, the vastness of the problems, all of this sharpens the desire for a total re-examination of the Borrominian work which, however, is complete in all its many aspects.  In the first place, the concrete relationship that exists between a certain professional practice and the culture of a period which, in the case of the Counter-Reformation, is particularly complex, will need to be reviewed. 

But this is also the problem of a more just collaboration of the architect in a given social structure.  After all, that mastery of technical means with all the features that we have tried to highlight, with the full potential of the ability to adapt a solution, whatever it may be, to natural and environmental needs, all of this is a fact to be reckoned with.  what indicates to us that in this period a new figure is emerging, never seen before, in the field of architecture: the technician, the professional.  We are in the phase in which the company is completely specializing, in which the individual disciplines detach themselves from a common matrix, from an undifferentiated philosophy, and the individual arts similarly leave the artisan level, to become technical – professional specializations.  Borromini is this new bourgeois world, with its new needs, with the new problems of technology and industrial production.  If you really want to talk about dramaticity in the figure of the Lombard Master, you must not see it only in his historical figure, on the contrary this dramaticity is the atmosphere of an era, it is a clash between an impossible return to a universal hegemony of Catholicism, and a secular, scientific, naturalistic and rationalistic culture.  In Borromini this clash is implied, but in his school he will become a driver. But precisely in this implication, in our opinion, the particular value of his work is to be sought.  Developing now the one, now the other of the two strands in struggle, we arrive at those opposite characterizations that criticism has always unilaterally determined.  In conclusion, in our opinion, it is a matter of grasping that subtle transition, or rather better that coexistence, unaware if you want, but always present, so from time to time Borromini brought to the architectural field what science was elaborating or is the bearer of a religiosity, rich but artificial, grandiose but crystallized, ultimately always superficial.  With this we are well aware that we have not exhausted what could be said about Borrominian architecture.  Our work in fact finding its essential pivot in the analysis of the survey cannot by its nature invade the fields of other disciplines.  It cannot broaden its considerations beyond the general level of an analysis of language.  But even if our study is necessarily limited, it is not totally devoid of interest for specialists from other disciplines.  For the historian of art, for the historian of culture, for the scholar in general, who addresses the architectural phenomenon non-professionally, the contribution that can be made from the architectural survey is remarkable.  In fact, it offers the material that cannot be ignored, it constitutes the direct documentation of the rise of the work.

is evident his contribution in cases where we do not own the original drawings, but also when, as in the case of Borromini, we have these documents, the graphic representation, while losing the charm of the original design, does not diminish in importance, since  it is a continuous and braking reference to the positivity of the architectural work;  it is, as we have said before, a brake on arbitrary subjectivisms and, at the same time, an incentive for an objective, cold, punctual, analytical and ultimately scientific analysis. 

Many times we have sustained the need for the architect to have valid collaborators in his work in the figures of the sociologist, the politician, the trade unionist, the pedagogist of the psychologist.  But of course collaboration is a reversible phenomenon: the architect contributes to the construction of the whole complex of human knowledge.  For this reason, we love to believe that our work transcends the limits we have set: the relief, from a simple graphic representation, passes seamlessly into the most serious and complex problems of an era and, contributing to the formation of a scientific mentality, is projected from the analysis of the past in the problems of the present, in the programs of the future.

(Thsi book has been translated by the StorpWeber)

Reading list

In order to collect all material and references we collected a reading list with all books and references to Perugini and our own research.



Bottazzi, R., Digital Architecture beyond Computers, 2018, Bloomsbury, London, UK

Burke, E., A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, 1823, Thomas Lean, London, UK

Ciorra P., Cohen JL, Zevi’s Architects, 2018, Maxxi Quodlibet, Rome, Italy

Eco, U., Opera Aperta (Open Work), 1962, Bompiani, Milano, Italy

Forleo F., La cibernetica italiana della mente nella civiltà delle macchine. Origini e attualità della logonica attenzionale a partire da Silvio Ceccato, Mantova, Universita Studiorum, 2017 ,Mantua, Italy

Gideon, S., Raum, Zeit, Architektur, 1941, Harvard College, Massachusetts, USA

Glushkov, V., Introduction into Cybernetics, 1966, Academic Press Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Hersey, G.L., Architecture and Geometry in the Ago of the Baroque, 2000, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA.

Leach, A., Macarthur, J., Delbeke, M., The Baroque in Architectural Culture, 2015, Routledge, London, UK

Molinerno G., Encyclopedia of Contemporary Italian Culture, 2000, Routledge, London, UK.

Perugini G., Architettura di Borromini, 1959, University di Roma, Rome, Italy

Perugini, G., Architettura di Borromini nella Chiesa di S. Maria dei Sette Dolori, 1963, Tip. Italiana, Rome, Italy

Perugini, G., Architecttura Sovietica della Rivoluzione, Universita di Roma, 1969, Rome, Italy

Perugini, G., La Forma in Architettura, 1953, A. Conti Roma, Rome, Italy

Perugini, G., Progetti Ricerca, 1975, Nuova Dimensione Prima edizione, Roma, Italy

Perugini, G., Strutture, 1969, Nuova Dimensione Prima edizione, Roma, Italy

Somenzi, V., Cordeschi, R., La Filosofia Degli Automi, 1965, Universale Scientifica Boringheri, Turin, Italy

Zevi, B. Architecture as Space, 1948, translated by Milton Gendel 1957, Horizon Press, New York, USA

Zevi, B., The Modern Language of Architecture, 1978, University Washington Press, Seattle, USA

Zevi B., Towards and Organic Architecture, 1945, Giulio Einaudi editore, Torino, Italy

Zevi B., Spazi dell’architettura moderna, 1973, Giulio Einaudi, Torino, Italy

Online sources:

Malinovsky, B., Pioneers of Soviet Computing, 2012, www.sigcis.org LINK

Research papers:

Boyacioglu D., Paradoxes of Neorealist Architecture, 2014, Istanbul Ticaret Universitesi, Istanbul, Turkey

Cordeschi, R., Numerico, T., La Cibernetica in Italia, 2013, in Il contributo italiano alla storia del pensiero. Scienze, Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Rome, Italy

Imperiale, A., Alternate Organics – The aesthetics of experimentation in art, technology & architecture in postwar Italy, 2014, Princeton University, Princeton, USA

Lyotard, J.F., Presenting the Unpresentable: The Sublime ArtForum, 22.8, (Apr 1984), p.64

Nesbitt, K., The Sublime and Modern Architecture: Unmasking (an Aestetic of) Abstraction, 1995, University of Virgina, USA

Saunders, A., Baroque Parameters, 2009, Wiley&Sons, London

Progetti E Ricerca, Giuseppe Perugini, 1975

In 1975 Giuseppe Perugini published a book wit hthe Italian publisher Nuova Dimensione.

In the book, Perugini describes in detail how his architectural and compositional language developed from the Monument in Fosse, the reconstruction of San Germano 1955, the first ideas of the pre-fab frame houses in the Ina-Casa Competition to the Casa Sperimentale.

In the second half, he explores ideas of a cybernetic architecture through the Cybernetic Hospital, the Vienna Competition, the Strait of Messina bridge etc.

The last part explores ideas of practical pre-fab housing models.

Strutture, Giuseppe Perugini, 1969

Giuseppe Perugini published this book in 1969 with an Italian publisher Nuova Dimensione.

IN thsi self-published book Perugini speculates on some ideas about a cybernetic architecture. He describes three projects:

The Ospedale Cibernitica

Edificio Plurifunzionale

Una Citta

Some of these ideas are more explored in the book Progetti E Ricerca published by the same publisher in 1975.