Mechanical systems were crucial considerations in the planning of the new headquarters of the Montecatini corporation, the largest Italian chemical manufacturer of the Fascist era. Designed by Gio Ponti, founder of the journal Domus, the Montecatini Building occupied a central site in Milan. In The Aestheticization of Mechanical Systems: Gio Ponti's Montecatini Headquarters, Milan, 1936–39, Manfredo di Robilant describes how Ponti, seeking to assert his role as architect in the face of the overwhelming requirements of HVAC, electrical, telephone, pneumatic mail, and other systems, aestheticized those systems, treating them not simply as modern tools for human comfort but also as elements of architecture. The story of the Montecatini Building is emblematic of the struggle over how to treat systems in modern architecture and the never-ending conflict between utility and symbol in architectural design. Di Robilant analyzes original drawings and correspondence as well as the 1938 presentation volume for the building issued by the Montecatini corporation.
The Aestheticization of Mechanical Systems:Gio Ponti's Montecatini Headquarters, Milan, 1936–39
Manfredo di Robilant is an architect and scholar based in Turin, Italy. He was research associate to Director Rem Koolhaas at the Fourteenth Venice Architecture Biennale and has been a visiting scholar at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Among his publications are the books Ceiling and Window, parts of the fifteen-volume set Elements, which accompanied the 2014 Biennale. email@example.com
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Manfredo di Robilant; The Aestheticization of Mechanical Systems:Gio Ponti's Montecatini Headquarters, Milan, 1936–39. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 1 June 2018; 77 (2): 186–203. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jsah.2018.77.2.186
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