Consider the following scene from Mario Camerini's 1939 black-and-white film I grandi magazzini: two protagonists, Bruno and Lauretta, seated in matching leather armchairs, talk about the various pieces of furniture that surround them and reflect on the diverse memories that each item evokes.1 The intimate setting prompts the couple to imagine what it might mean to embark on a possible shared future: “You don't want a wife, you want a couch!” insists Lauretta.2 Their identical armchairs flank a shiny round glass table; behind them a wooden chest of drawers features an embedded radio console. Although more bourgeois than avant-garde, with eclectic decorative items such as a small porcelain terrier and a patterned carpet, the furnishings still suggest a modernist concern for quality materials and simple forms. Such high-end furnishings remained foreign to most Italians at the time, even if they were familiar to bourgeois elites. Viewers might...
Building Simultaneity in Fascist Italy: Film, Furniture, and the Reframing of the Nation
Ignacio G. Galán is an architect, historian, and educator based in New York. His scholarship addresses the relationships among architecture, politics, and media, with a particular focus on nationalism, colonialism, and population transience. He is finishing a book manuscript titled From the Chair to the Nation. https://barnard.edu/profiles/ignacio-g-galan
Ignacio G. Galán; Building Simultaneity in Fascist Italy: Film, Furniture, and the Reframing of the Nation. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 1 June 2021; 80 (2): 182–201. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jsah.2021.80.2.182
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