• Itineraries

Social Housing according to Magistretti


This topic influenced the evolution of the architectural debate in Italy throughout the latter part of the twentieth century. Council housing was also the first field in which a very young Magistretti began his career soon after graduating; in fact this was when he designed the Houses for Veterans of the African War at the QT8, built together with Eugenio Gentili Tedeschi and Paolo Chessa. The happy occasion was the construction of a model neighbourhood which was to become a milestone in the history of Italian architecture; it was sponsored by the Ente Triennale di Milano and soon became one of the most important benchmarks for Vico, allowing him to build another gem in his collection: the famous Church of Santa Maria Nascente, also built in the QT8 neighbourhood. Although most critics ignored the design of the House for Veterans, and the public at large is currently unfamiliar with the building, it did lead to the construction of a small settlement on the outskirts of the Bottoni neighbourhood (General plan of the complex of houses for veterans at QT8). The neighbourhood contains in nuce some of Magistretti's interesting considerations about the minimum house built in repeatable series. Until the early sixties this characteristic was to earn Magistretti a great many commissions for the IACP and INA-Casa. With one big difference: the houses in the QT8 neighbourhood were small, single-family homes primarily built as terrace houses, while his later projects were mainly apartments in condominiums, for example the ones he designed in the Duca D'Aosta and Pirelli neighbourhoods.

A house for everyone

The goal was to design the prototype of a modern house based on respect for rigid dimensional and distributive rules reminiscent of the diverse experiences of German Existenzminimum, but enriched in Magistretti’s model by a broad range of built-in furnishings, initially designed by Vico and later selected from amongst the best up-and-coming Italian industrial designs; this approach allowed him to create a domestic habitat which all social classes could afford. However, the modernist spirit of these experiences was coupled with a revival of the idea to exploit local building traditions; this had become a crucial element in IACP and INA-Casa regulations and was reinterpreted by Magistretti who repeatedly used the image of the Lombardy farmhouse, e.g., fair-face bricks or long loggias overlooking a desolate emptiness (The INA_Casa complex at Morbegno with loggias along the façades; these loggias were to become the signature style of many residential projects designed for public authorities, 1950). Loggias often became a characteristic of these lots (e.g., the emblematic study of elevations for the INA-Casa at Morbegno) as did other multifaceted features such as tiled roofs (The complex design of the roofs in the project for the INA houses at Concesio) which became the signature style of certain projects, for example the houses in Concesio. The ideas discussed during that period were a crucial element in the elaboration of prefabricated cells (Residential cells and prefabrication path) which Magistretti exploited to input his own, important contribution to the development of heavy prefab systems for houses in Italy.

Maria Manuela Leoni