Uga de Plaisant

(Rome 1917-Rome 2004)

Born in Rome on April 1, 1917 from an ancient family of French origin, in 1937 she enrolled in the Faculty of Architecture of Rome, where she began her teaching career in the circle of assistants of Enrico Del Debbio, one of the main components of her activity, which will lead her to become Full Professor of Representation Techniques in the Faculty of Engineering of Rome “La Sapienza”, Florence and Rome “Tor Vergata”. Her innovative and experimental method of teaching is also applied in the field of operational research, so much so that she obtains the first Inarch / Finsider Prize 1967 for the design of steel structures and a special recognition for the extreme modernity of the solutions proposed in the competition for new school typologies promoted in 1972 by the Province of Milan.

Her professional activity, which began as a student with the participation in the first project for the Memorial of the Fosse Ardeatine – whose motto was significantly U (nion) G (young) A (rchitetti) – continues above all in the field of school construction and sports with a series of projects both in collaboration with Giuseppe Perugini, with whom he shares fifty years of life and professional activity, and independently.

Uga published several book, mainly on graphics and design.

Uga de PLaisant, Le Iconi d’Oggi, 1975 Link

Books by Uga on Abe Books

List of Projects by Uga de Plaisant:

Ristrutturazione della Tabaccheria Reali all’interno della Galleria Colonna a Roma
Cinema Primavera a Roma
Concorso per la sistemazione urbanistica di un nucleo abitativo ad Avellino (secondo premio)
– Concorso nazionale per la costruzione di palestre tipo promosso dal C.O.N.I (primo premio)
– Fabbricati INA-Casa ad Anguillara Sabazia e a Mazzano Romano (Roma)
Concorso per un quartiere U.N.R.A.-C.A.S.A.S. a Roma
Concorso per la sistemazione urbanistica del quartiere Flaminio a Roma
Edificio ecclesiastico ed annessi locali di culto a Nazzano Romano (Roma)
– Edificio per competizioni sportive ad Arezzo

– Palestra C.O.N.I. a Frosinone
– Palestra C.O.N.I. a Prato
– Edificio per competizioni sportive a Sassari
Fabbricati nel piano di zona INA-Casa Roma Acilia (capogruppo Giuseppe Perugini, con E.Del Debbio ed altri)
Concorso nazionale per il nuovo palazzo di giustizia di Bari (capogruppo Giuseppe Perugini)
Città Giudiziaria di Roma (concorso nazionale e realizzazione, capogruppo Giuseppe Perugini con V.De Feo, M.Nicoletti, E.Giangreco e N.Monteduro)
Concorso per il nuovo palazzo di giustizia di Lecce (capogruppo Giuseppe Perugini, con N.Monteduro, progetto segnalato)
– Premio Inarch/Finsider per la progettazione di strutture in acciaio (concorso nazionale, primo premio Giuseppe Perugini e Uga de Plaisant)
– Nuovo ospedale di Pietralata a Roma (concorso nazionale, premio speciale per la ricerca scientifica, capogruppo Giuseppe Perugini, con A.Tonelli e G.Tonelli)
– Allestimento espositivo nella Fortezza da Basso di Firenze (concorso nazionale, premio speciale della giuria, Giuseppe Perugini e Uga de Plaisant)
Chiesa a Primavalle a Roma (concorso nazionale per nuove tipologie ecclesiastiche, capogruppo Giuseppe Perugini, con A.Tonelli e G.Tonelli)
– Sede dell’U.N.I.D.O. a Vienna (concorso internazionale, capogruppo Giuseppe Perugini, con Raynaldo Perugini ed altri)
– Sistemazione urbanistica della Valle della Caffarella a Roma (concorso nazionale, capogruppo Giuseppe Perugini, con A.Tonelli e G.Tonelli)
Edificio scolastico a Pompei
Casa sperimentale a Fregene (Roma) (progetto e realizzazione Giuseppe Perugini, Uga de Plaisant e Raynaldo Perugini)
Ponte sullo Stretto di Messina (concorso internazionale, capogruppo Giuseppe Perugini, con V.De Benedetti e G.Menocci)
Nuova Galleria d’Arte Moderna a Milano (concorso nazionale, Giuseppe Perugini e Uga de Plaisant, primo premio)
Concorso per nuove tipologie scolastiche promosso dalla Provincia di Milano (premio per la ricerca scientifica)
Restauro del complesso monumentale di Villa Mondragone a Monteporzio Catone (Roma), opera dell’architetto del Cinquecento Martino Longhi il Vecchio (progetto Uga de Plaisant, direzione artistica Giuseppe Perugini)
Progetto in forma di “Project Financing” per il nuovo Porto Turistico di Campomarino (CB) – Studio Perugini (Uga de Plaisant e Raynaldo Perugini)

Source SIUSA

The (Hi)Stories of the Casa Sperimentale

This is one of the first images we took of the Casa Sperimentale during our first visit in 2015. At the time the building was largely open. Very little of the building had been vandalised or covered in graffiti.

Over the last couple of years, we have managed to uncover and collect fragments of the diverse history of the Casa Sperimentale. We are still at the beginning of our journey to discover the many (hi)stories behind this amazing building.

Located in a pine grove on the fringes of Fregene, a seaside town near Rome now directly under the flightpath of Rome Fiumicino Airport, lies the Casa Sperimentale, also known as the Casa Albero or ‘the Treehouse’. Construction started in 1968 led by a family of Italian architects, Giuseppe Perugini (1914–1995), his wife Uga de Plaisant (1917–2004) and their son Raynaldo Perugini (1950–). Giuseppe Perugini was a significant figure in the architecture of post-World War II Italy. Very early on in his career, he collaborated with fellow architect Mario Fiorentino and artist Mirko Basaldella on the Monument of Fosse Ardeatine in Rome. From that time onwards, he spent the majority of his career teaching architectural composition at Rome Sapienza University.

Together with the architectural historian Bruno Zevi, Giuseppe Perugini was one of the founders of the Association of Organic Architecture (APAO). In trying to develop a new kind of open and democratic architecture, Zevi defined a series of seven architectural principles. In contrast to Le Corbusier’s ‘five points of architecture’, in which he defined which architectural elements should be integral to his approach, Zevi’s rules didn’t provide the same clear design advice, they didn’t define a specific way to design or build a new modern architecture. The rules described an organic approach towards an architecture that could be interpreted in many formalistically different ways.

Right from the start the Casa Sperimentale had been conceived as an experiment, a way to test out ideas of collective design, a non-compositional arrangement, and concepts of breaking up traditional spatial arrangements. Perugini’s process was inherently multidisciplinary, rooted in academia and architectural theory (composition). Amongst other fields he touched upon architectural history through his studies of Borromini’s work, early computing through his interests in cybernetic research, urban design through his competition proposals, and tectonic processes through the building of the Casa Sperimentale.

These varied disciplines helped to define a context of his practice, but the practice itself was further shaped by the sociopolitical activity of Italy post World War II, developments in Architecture, and the movements of key individuals contributing to Perugini’s approaches in this period.

All of these fields frame a diverse body of interests, connected through Perugini himself as common denominator. Each of these interests introduces its own line of study, inspiring new and more appropriate research methodologies in turn. Perugini’s interpretation of Borromini took place through a lens of geometric proportion—addressed through drawing research. His interpretations of cybernetic research were theoretical but addressed through written research and expressed in the principles of variation in his Architecture. Construction was explored through his experimentation with new tectonics, new ways of making, and new forms of connection, embodied in the materiality of the Casa Sperimentale. Each subject connects to its own research matter, and each is situated in a primary medium—drawings, documents, tectonics, and historical record. As such each medium reflects a different facet of context.

The building is an important piece of architecture in post war Italy. Still mostly overlooked by the architectural community, its obscure history is only known through a series of surviving fragments. The building it now is in a very fragile state, having been abandoned in 2004 and subject to intermittent vandalism since, it might soon pass beyond a point of recovery.

The Casa Sperimentale can be considered as a first step in a series of projects by the Perugini family exploring ideas of prefabrication and open-ended design processes, leading to a series of projects that introduced computational calculations and early cybernetic approaches into the field of architecture in the mid 1960’s. It draws reference from studies of the Baroque architectures of Francesco Borromini, especially in Perugini’s own research work on San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane and Santa Maria dei Sette Dolori in Rome. The project may be read as a response to Bruno Zevi and Perugini’s definition of an ‘organic architectural approach’, promoted in the APAO (Association of Organic Architecture).

The house which was once at the centre of an intellectual and bohemian community living in Fregene during the summers in the early 1960’s to the late 1970’s has, since its abandonment, been rediscovered by the public via social media as the perfect Instagram geo-taggable location. More critically it is used by urban subcultures as a perfect canvas for graffiti and an exercise ground for free-running – urban parkour.

The Casa Sperimentale is often categorised as a Brutalist building. However, despite its concrete form it isn’t born out of a brutalist mindset. It is rather the result of an alternative approach – a refined, considered, organic, democratic and most of all human response to architectural design.

The project consists of three independent buildings:

the Casa Sperimentale—the main house,

the Sphere—an experiment to design a self-contained living space set in a five-meter concrete sphere and,

 the Guest Houses—a set of separate buildings placed towards the rear of the site.

The project, the collection of buildings, is surrounded by a curved concrete perimeter Fence.

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s the Perugini family experimented with novel construction techniques and an unorthodox design method to create an extraordinary elevated house, a concrete treehouse. The story that led to the creation of the building is unique, it links into the history of early architectural computing, and connects it with an obsession for the 17th century Baroque architecture of Francesco Borromini. As a result, the architecture plays with numbers, structure and light, and sat at the heart of a movement which explored ‘organic’ human-scale architecture.

The design of the Casa Sperimentale follows the idea of a suspended object inhabiting an elevated position amongst the pine grove, echoing the forest structure—an irregular grid of tree trunk-like columns and overarching concrete branches supports an architectural canopy overhead. Several ‘trees’ merge together to create a seemingly solid body, whilst leaving narrow clearings through which the sky can be glimpsed from the pool beneath the building. In forests this aligns with a phenomenon known as ‘canopy shyness’, where trees permit a consistent narrow gap between themselves, the exact reason for which is still hypothesised.

Breaking with the traditional arrangement of floors, ceilings, and supporting walls, the house sits above a body of water—the pool—reflecting the underside of the building and creating a defined void in-between. This is repeated within the house by carefully placing openings and slits in the floors and ceilings—breaking the traditional structure of the house into elements. This new space between the elements becomes an open void without defined boundaries.

The design and construction were organic processes—starting as sketches, driven by intuition, most final design decisions were made ad-hoc on site. Whereas the design of the superstructure was developed rapidly, the placing and the nature of the enclosing walls in the grid were much debated during the building process. Perugini explored ideas of modular living in the 1967 INARCH-FINSIDER competition. These ideas were developed further in the Casa Sperimentale where they significantly informed and transformed the design.

The superstructure consists of three main concrete frames from which further building elements are suspended. Each of these modular elements are further divided into individual segments separated by a slither of glass and supported at the centre through a bespoke steel coupling. The horizontal and vertical elements are independently supported leaving the surrounding walls as non-load bearing interchangeable infill elements.

Giuseppe envisioned the house as a series of pure concrete boxes. But Uga preferred a much more perforated skin throughout, allowing visual connections between the house, the surrounding landscape, and the tree canopies. After much negotiation, individual elements were cast and placed on the concrete floor slabs following a set of strict geometric rules. Through a composition of hollow concrete framed panels and open concrete window frames, on a 500mm grid, Perugini defined a lively undulating wall elevation.

Some elements have precast markings of letters and numbers, this alludes to the exchangeable interchangeable character of the individual building blocks, and an inherent set of assembly instructions, whilst referring to the manufacturing processes behind their formation. Finally, the openings were finished with bespoke metal window frames following a similar geometric system of squares.

In striking contrast to this grid geometry are two cantilevered elliptical spheres as bathrooms. These were cast in two sections as hemispheres in the sand on-site and are separated from one another by a narrow glass strip. The bathrooms are entered through circular centrally pivoting doors with translucent infills.

The Sphere, an independent structure for a self-contained micro-house, was originally intended to be fitted out with a suspended bathroom and a circular kitchen block, however, it was used by the family in an ad-hoc state as a kitchen. It is sited on the forest floor next to the main house and its elements were also cast from a hemispherical mould in the sand. Taking reference from the Pantheon the upper hemisphere has a small oculus opening at the azimuth.

The form of the Guest House consists of three rooms and has been built in a more traditional way with concrete blockwork. The entrance doors were designed as rotating drum segments opening outwards. Each room has large portholes as windows connecting them with the site and back to the main house.

Their son, Raynaldo, refers to the house as the ‘unfinishable endless house’. Being conceived as an almost Lego like structure, all wall elements are simply bolted together. In this way, they can be removed and reconfigured to create different arrangements of spaces, enabling different connections between the space and the surrounding site. A speculative drawing by the architects shows how the structure could extend over the entire site to create an endless meandering concrete treehouse complex.

After the deaths of Giuseppe Perugini, and Uga de Plaissant, in 1998 and 2004 respectively, the house was abandoned. After some years of relative safety, an increased exposure on social media platforms—first Flickr then Instagram—led to more break-ins and illegal visits by the interested public to the site. Whereas in the beginning Angelo Bellotto attempted to halt this by opening up the house to these influx of people, recently, over the previous few years he has been unable to look after the house due to illness. As such, it has become an Instagram location, a spot for urban freerunning and the set for illegally shot music videos. All this has taken a toll on the building—windows smashed, doors broken, and concrete eroded.

Fendi Autumn/Winter 1998

The fashon designer Karl Lagerfeld used the Casa Sperimentale as the backdrop for the Fendi Autum/Winter 1998 campaign.

The images mainly showing the model Kirstin Owen were published mainly in Vogue in Italy, Germany and the United States.

Vogue Italia 10/1998 page 34/35
Vogue Italia 8/1998 page 33
Vogue Italia 8/1998 page 11
Vogue Italia 11/1998 page 12/13
Vogue Italia 12/1998 page 15
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.

Giuseppe Perugini

(Buenos Aires 17 March 1914 – Rome 19 September 1995)

Giuseppe Perugini arrived in Rome from Argentina in the early Thirties with the intention of studying art. He first enrolled to study sculpture but after an accident was no longer able to continue his studies in this subject.

He came in contact with the still vital Avant-gardes and with the almost clandestine rationalist ideas of the time. No longer being able to follow his passion for sculpture he enrolled in that faculty of Architecture. In these years of study, he has the opportunity to attend the Masters of the Roman School, such as Adalberto Libera. After graduating in 1941, he immediately began his own teaching and research activity, a direct expression of an architectural creed. In his career he was awarded the title of Officier (le l’Ordre de Léopold of Belgium (for the Italian pavilion at Expo 1958), in 1969 the Henry Bacon Medal for Memorial Architecture of the American Institute of Architects (for the Monument of the Fosse Ardeatine) and the Inarch-Finsider Award in 1967 for the innovations introduced in the design of steel housing structures.

A further demonstration of his desire to experiment, he was among the first scholars to propose, in the ’60s, the use of computers as instrument authorizing modular building elements.I

During his career he presented a series of projects to international competitions, such as the circular bridge over the Strait of Messina, the Plateau Beaubourg tower-helix, born from the integration of particularly expressive signs and avant-garde technological choices. And others, such as the well-known “cybernetic hospital” and the UNIDO headquarters in Vienna, where the function is privileged through the decomposition and recomposition of cells mentions aggregated electronically according to the actual needs, thus eliminating the conventional dispersions of the traditional architectural object.

In all the projects, however, the will to express the message that every work must contain, making its symbolic and psychological values ​​as clear as possible, can be read. Also the desire to deepen the dialogue between architecture and the technical-scientific process exhibited with a language that can also be understood by the non-initiated. Moreover, the dialectical confrontation and the collaboration of choruses of the prominent personalities of the culture of our age such as Neutra, Bakema, Moore, Arp, Mirko, and Cagli contributed to strengthening its original rationalism leading to more and more advanced abstractions until the transformation into «Symbol» of each of its design ideas.

Thus his first work, the Monument to the Fosse Ardeatine in Rome, at the same time architectural structure, symbol and memorial, appears as a “unique tomb”. While the buildings of the Judicial City were configured as a true “citadel”, inspired by the “urban” and itinerant aspect of the justice of the Classical Age. Also belonging to the same ideology are the church-sacrarium of Piedimonte Sari Germano, the aforementioned bridge of Messina – a tangible emblem of the connection between the two shores, the “kinetic explosion” of the project of an exhibition pole in the Fortezza da Basso in Florence, the binomial matter-music of the Memorial Fermi prism in Chicago. So the very recent cubic monolith dedicated to Natalino Sapegno, the “dynamism” of the project for the Turin airport, the “tree-house” in Fregene, are all works that grant nothing to the form itself, to the compositional occasionality, and from which a “stylistic” continuity and a rigorous method of interpretations of the space expressed, under the aegis of geometry, with “pure” materials among which steel and reinforced concrete prevail. But this particular design “method” does not end with strictly architectural or monumental production, so much so that in urban planning interventions, in motorway sections – just think of the “knot” of Restoration along the Palermo-Catania or even in the restoration of buildings of particular value – the Muti-Bussi palace or the Villa Mondragone – the desire to reveal through the architectural medium a meaning derived from the matrices themselves of the work is always easily recognizable. As for his socio-publicistic activity, he was called immediately after the war to participate in the initiatives promoted by the Ministry of Public Administration. for the formulation of legislation aimed at standardizing the reconstruction processes of the country. In subsequent years, the board of directors of I.S.E.S., Contributes to the recovery of the earthquake zones of Belice. It is therefore part of the Consulta dei Ministero P.I. for school building regulations and, between 1962 and 1966, as President of the Order, the Architects of Rome and Lazio participated in the debate on the equivalence of professional qualifications within the EEC.

He is also president of the Opera Universitaria, a member of the commission in numerous national and international competitions, a member of the building commission and the commission for the study of the new urban structure of the metropolitan area of ​​Rome, as well as the founder of the A.P.A. – Association for Organic Architecture – and the Circolo di Roma.

Among his writings we find essays and works dedicated to the analysis of contemporary architectural culture (La forma in architettura, Rome 1953), to the comparison between theory and built Architecture of Borromini in the church of S. Maria dei Sette Dolori, Rome 1959 and Borrominian models in S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini, Rome (1962), at Michelangelo’s intervention in the Campidoglio in AA.VV., Michelangelo’s Campidoglio, San Luca Academy, Rome (1965) and the potential applications of electronic means in architecture.

Image from Qui Fregene no42, 1996

Casa Sperimentale Interactive by timefold studio + Mihai Constantinescu

Construction of the Casa Sperimentale

The construction of the Casa Sperimentale was right from the start an organic process. Whereas the concrete superstructure was decided right from the beginning the rest of the process followed a much more open design process – one where the whole family Giuseppe, Uga and Raynaldo would debate openly about a number of different design options.

The building process started in 1968 and only a few images survive and show the building during the nearly 10 year construction period.

The main concrete frame consists of three mainframes with two additional L-shaped side frames hanging of the mainframes.

The horizontal beams hold crossbars that symmetrically support the independent concrete floor panels. Each of them is cast in site and connected with the frame through a cross-shaped metal coupling.

The floor and the ceiling panels are mirrored with the floor panels supported from underneath and the ceiling panels hung off the frame above.

Four floor panels are separated with a 50mm solid glass strip spaced out with metal circular spacers.

Hanging off the main support columns are two independent bathroom spheres. Each of them is cast in two segments into a mould in the ground, then raised in situ and connected with another shell forming a spherical space that is entered through a concrete tunnel off the main floors. This tunnel has a centre pivot circular door.

The floor planes leave openings between them. Some of these are closed with glass sheets while others form an opening tunnel connecting the pool underneath with the sky above.

All the surrounding walls are non-loadbearing. They are formed out of individually cast box elements with cast-in insulation. These elements are in size multiples of a 500mm grid. Some of these elements are 200mm thick where others form internal boxes used as storage, shelves, wardrobes, niches etc.

Each wall is topped with a 20mm frame element containing a horizontal striplight. This is covered with perspex.

There are special elements cast for some of the corners, while other concrete frames are open and contain windows.

All further openings are closed along the perimeter with bespoke metal window frames following mostly the same size logic, starting from 150mm, 500mm, 750mm and 1000mm elements. Some of them are openable as windows.

Underneath the raised treehouse-like structure is a pool. This body of water reflected the building elements above creating a mirror like appearance. Through this reflection, you have been able to see through the openings in the floors and towards the sky.

On site the family experimented with additional structures.

The Sphere, a 5m globe-like structure is conceived as a stand-alone micro house. Like the bathroom elements, the structure was cast into a hollowed-out mould in the sandy ground of the site. A scribe was used to shape the mould and to level the concrete in the casting process.

The idea was to install an additional suspended bathroom and a sleeping capsule within the sphere. Sadly this was never realised. The sphere is entered through a circular door. Each of the two pre-cast elements of the sphere is separated with a 250mm perspex strip.

The gust houses towards the rear of the sire were built in a traditional blockwork method and then rendered. Each of the three cubes is connected with a circular drumlike door at the front and a bathroom unit at the rear. All windows are circular opening with heavy metal shutters.

The whole site is surrounded by a semi-circular concrete fence topped with metal T-sections. The moulds to cast these elements can still be found on the site.

(All Photos are copyright by the Perunini family archive.)

The main supporting structure of the Casa Sperimentale with the three main frames and the two suspended frames supporting the floors and the suspended ceiling. The Bathroom pods have been lifted in place and suspended off the main columns.

The Bathroom shells were cast into a hollowed-out space in the ground. Using plaster the 1:1 mould was created. A circular scribe was used to spread the concrete evenly into the hollow mould.

After extraction from the ground two of the shells were connected at distance with a metal coupling and lifted into place.

This image shows th two bathroom elements lifted in place and hung off the main columns.

Reinforcement cage for one of the floor – and ceiling sections with the attached metal coupling.

This images shows the detail of the X-shaped coupling welded to the reinforcement cage of a ceilnig panel.

Floors and ceilings are structurally indepedent.

The ceilnig elements are hung off a supporting concrete frame.

The bottom half of the Sphere – Palla, extracted from the ground, waiting to be placed next to the main building.

The Palla under construction next to the main building.

Perugini and the idea of a Cybernetic Architecture

Influenced by ideas of a cybernetic systems organising architectural space, Perugini experimented with a theoretical system in his competition entry for the Ospedale Cibernetico—the Cybernetic Hospital in 1967. Using a computer, the hospital reorganises the spaces around the patients’ needs creating a dynamic flexible architecture. (Sketches from the Perugini family archive)

 The University of Sapienza in Rome was in the early 1960/1970 a centre of early cybernetic research. Working alongside the statistician and mathematician Bruno de Finetti Bruno de Finetti (1906–1985) was an Italian probabilist statistician and actuary, noted for the “operational subjective” conception of probability. His research has been seen to lay the foundations of modern computing. Link, Vittorio Somenzi Vittorio Somenzi (1918-2003) was an Italian philosopher. His work directed his theoretical studies on cybernetics and was among the first in Italy to be interested in artificial intelligence and to study the mind-brain and mind-machine relationships. and Roberto Cordeschi Roberto Cordeshi (1946-2014) was an Italian philosopher teaching at Sapienza in Rome. Working with Somenzi he immediately became passionate about the history of cybernetics. explored cybernetics at the faculty of philosophy. Together they published The Philosophy of Automata La Filisofia degli Automi, V. Somenzi, R. Cordeshi, Bollati Boringhieri, 1965 . Their research linked Alan Turing (UK) Alan Turing (1912-1954) was a British mathematician and logician, who made major contributions to mathematics, cryptanalysis, logic, philosophy and also to the new areas later named computer science, artificial intelligence, and artificial life. and his work with early computing, Norbert Wiener (US) Norbert Wiener (1894-1964) was an American mathematician and philosopher. He was a professor of mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT.and his ideas of Cybernetics—which he defined in 1948 as ‘the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine’, and Claude Shannon (US)—a mathematician and cryptographer credited as ‘the father of Information Technology (IT)’.

Cordeschi was appointed at Sapienza in 1965 and from 1966 an influx of research into Cybernetics reached the library of Sapienza. The work of Norbert Wiener, Victor Glushkov and other pioneers in the field became known at Sapienza.

For the Cybernetic hospital the plans are no longer static and based on a compositional arrangement of the spaces. Each patient’s clinical treatment needs result in a reconfiguration of the entire system. There are similarities in which Amazon is nowadays using a kinetic warehouse where the shelves reconfigure themselves around the packing station to optimise the storage space for accessibility whilst minimising the space used for packing individual parcels.  (Sketches from the Perugini family archive)

With these developments as context Perugini took an interest in the Kiev circle of development in cybernetic research, referring to computers like the Mir-2, a newly developed system that suggested the idea of a centralised system that can solve different problems for distant companies and institutions. Research in these approaches in technology was led concurrently by Russian research institutions, and in the field of Information Technology Victor Glushkov, a mathematician and figure highlighted by Perugini, became widely known as one of the founding fathers of Soviet cybernetics. Glushkov’s research became known in the West through the English translation of the Introduction to Cybernetics Introduction into Cybernetics, V. Gluskkov, Academic Press, 1966first published in 1966 and since then included in the Sapienza library.

Perugini continued his cybernetic research through a competition entry for a convention centre in Vienna. Here all spatial organisations are solely organised as dependent spatial arrangements—responding with an architecture that is adapting to different needs. (Sketches from the Perugini family archive)

Although he did not go into detail, even at this point in the emergence of Information Technology, Perugini was already imagining a future where computing would be employed to solve ever more complex problems in economics at a national level, by networking smaller systems (electronic calculators). However, at the same time, Perugini was aware of intentions from others to apply this ‘new science’ within architecture ‘as a substitute for the “mental process” or as an aid to the quantitative verification of the mechanics of forms.’ Progetti E Ricerca, G. Perugini, Nuova Dimenzione. p.134

He was critical of an education system he perceived as focussed on training architects to do no more than deliver for the industry. Whilst aware of these issues affecting confidences in architectural education of the time and discourse on aims to develop new structures—within an increasingly free society, these possibilities, mis-intentions, and questions formed the core of Perugini’s attraction to the field of cybernetics.

In this regard, he saw the idea of the ‘model’—a form of a virtual construct with the potential to serve as an analogy for any other system—itself being a form of transcendent creative product, ‘The creative act, specifically human, in all fields, whether it be the work of art, scientific discovery or the revolutionary initiative, is the construction of models. Progetti E Ricerca, G. Perugini, Nuova Dimenzione. p.136

Noting that Perugini’s work on this subject is one of the earliest applications of computing in architecture as a design assistive model, it is worth considering that even then he was conscious of seeing the role of computing (systems based on logic and rational processes) as ‘overcoming the rationalism of function through a design that uses the computer to manage the relationship between things, in their movement, in their change, in their life, in their mutual action.’ Progetti E Ricerca, G. Perugini, Nuova Dimenzione. p.136

From this, we can see in the ‘atomisation’ of the Casa Sperimentale into constituent interchangeable elements, after grouping these elements into families the expanded potential of spatial situations through the expanded possibilities of elemental relationships. Here, in managing this new field of potentially infinite formations, as ‘ordinateur’, lies one of Perugini’s notional applications of cybernetics in Architecture through permutations and variations of the Casa Sperimentale.

Casa Sperimentale – 3D Scan

The Casa Sperimentale is in an increasingly fragile state. Increased vandalism has opened the structure up to the weather. Metal corrosion on the main structural members connecting the concrete superstructure makes it more difficult to visit and survey the building with traditional methods. As the Perugini family improvised during the design and building phase there was no actual drawing record of the complete structure in the context of the site and the surrounding trees.

The relatively high levels of accuracy, combined with photogrammetry, enables detailed virtual modelling of entire buildings with millimeter precision, recording appearance and form as one. This level of detail enables more precise coordination and pre-planning of conservation efforts by allowing specialists to make useful preliminary assessments of material conditions before visiting site, as well as more effective coordination of equipment and machinery with regards to access.

3D scanned plan of the building and the surrounding site. The scan enables tree foliage to be removed to expose the building in its relation to the site. (3D scan plan drawing taken from the point-cloud information by the author)

Given the complexity of the Casa Sperimentale’s three-dimensional form, standard survey methods of photography and linear two-dimensional measurements would not have provided the certainty needed to be able to make reliable off-site assessments.

In a parallel sense, the level of access provided, combined with accuracy, enables a new degree of digital dissemination of architecture, rivalling the impact of architectural photography. The existence of a comprehensive digital model enables unprecedented access to the principle logic and form of the Casa Sperimentale to any number of viewers simultaneously, whilst protecting the existing building from further deterioration due to increased visitation by the survey teams as well as the public.

In this way, the 3D Scan serves as a preservation document, a comprehensive record of the building as it exists today-including, for better or worse, its dilapidations signs of wear, abuse, material fatigue, but also its endurance and the finer aspects of its weathering.

The 3D scans were made by Thomas Parker.

The scan film on Youtube