Slab, point-access
Moretti, Luigi, Vittorio Cafiero, Ignazio Guidi, Adalberto Libera | Rome, Italy | 1960-66
Image of Decima
Parking space between angular, curving slabs.

ArchitectMoretti, Luigi, Vittorio Cafiero, Ignazio Guidi, Adalberto Libera
Addressvia C. Sabatini (at Tor de Valle station on Ostia train)
Building TypeSlab, point-access
Number of Dwellingsc. 1500
Date Built1960-66
Dwelling TypesNA
No. Floors4-5
Section Typeflats
Exterior Finish
brick, concrete, steel
Construction TypeR-C frame, brick walls, steel windows
Ancillary Servicesshops, play areas, schools, church

Following the building activity surrounding the 1960 Olympics in the central and northeast parts of Rome, attention was focused on the expansion of the Esposizione Universale de Roma (EUR) site and the open areas south of the city. EUR had been the site of some new Olympic facilities and the Piano regolatore called for the design of new housing to support EUR. The existing rail line between Rome and Ostia provided ready access to new communities planned between the Tor de Valle and Vitinia stops along the Tiber south of EUR. Decima was the first of these communities to be built, on a 22-hectare site one kilometer south of EUR. The new community, another project by l´Istituto per le Case degli Impiegati dello Stato (INCIS), included housing for about 7500 inhabitants, small shops, play areas for children, schools and a church.

Several of the architects on the Decima project had worked on the housing for the athletes for the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, the Villagio Olimpico built north of the city center along Via Flaminia. Luigi Moretti was both the project planner and architect. Decima, while continuing many of the features and details of the earlier project, is obviously much more under his influence. Begun the year that the Olympic project was completed, Decima has a similar site plan and, while not as experimental in terms of the variety of building types, follows many of the same siting concepts. The idea of raising the buildings on pilotis to provide a continuously landscaped ground plan, individual building entrances, and to avoid ground floor privacy problems are features shared with the Olympic project. A north south boulevard that divides the site parallels the train tracks connects to EUR to the north. Several smaller east/west streets divide the site into smaller "sectors" each similar to the separate quadrants used at the Olympic housing. This was convenient for the phased construction that followed and the first sector had 808 apartments and about 3500 inhabitants and was begun in 1965 at the north end of the site.

Two of the building forms used at Villaggio Olimpico are used here and a third, a type of low tower to be built in two separate groupings along the central avenue, was never built. The two types are a version of the double slab with the interior courts and circulation stacks, and the curving slabs that were usually sited in pairs. The serpentine-shaped slabs here are much the same as the Olympic buildings: point access types 4 to 5 stories high, built on pilotis and are organized in both east/west and north/south orientations. The concrete frame construction is expressed as an open colonnade beneath the building and as the exposed edge of the floor slab on the upper floors with similar brick exterior walls. Individual buildings are similarly detailed with flush, façades and punched openings with roller blinds on one side, opening to continuous cantilevered balconies, an undulating building surface and continuous balconies on the other. Buildings are usually paired so that the flush facades face each other across a parking court while the balcony sides open out to a landscaped area. Making buildings different lengths so that the line of blank zeilenbau ends is avoided has augmented the use of the undulating surface to reduce the problems related to siting flanks of identical slabs here. Other curved slabs are used to define major streets and to some degree to define the edges of the site. Window and balcony details are also similar to the Olympic housing.

The beautiful taut quality of the walls at Olimpico where the blind pocket is flush with the brick wall but made of metal and painted, has been seriously compromised because of the use of a fixed awning at the top of the window, apparently to avoid the water problems with the windows at Olimpico. Decima also uses far fewer window sizes and types so that the rich texture of the flush walls at Olimpico is less appealing. In contrast with Olimpico, however, the balcony sides are much more elaborate and spatial and provide wonderful outdoor areas for every apartment overlooking a landscaped open space between buildings. The unequal structural bay aligns one column with the flush wall while the column on the balcony side is set back the depth of the balcony. The surface of the apartments sets back from this line so that the columns are freestanding in the space of the balcony. This coupled with even more developed end extensions and segmented cuts between dwellings results in the very architectonic expression of the balcony spaces. This has also been the source of continuing and long-term water problems and the slabs, balustrades, and column bases are badly deteriorated in many areas. Constant watering of the potted plants that abound in these areas certainly contributes to the moisture problems. Like Olimpico and in response to these problems individual owners have changed windows, glazed in balconies and installed awnings and lattices that have spoiled some of these wonderful facades. More-or-less continuous repairs to the balconies seem to be a fact of life here.

Comparing Villaggio Olimpico and Decima, the latter is not as well cared for, the pilotis seems a little more formidable, but the landscape is more lush and overgrown. Parking is provided for in a much more deliberate way with the designated courts between buildings, however this results in a barren approach to one´s entry from the car. The provision of shops here creates a more viable commercial zone however. Like Olimpico, serious shopping takes place off site. The effort to create a central public space at Olimpico, however tentative, has not been matched at Decima. Coupled with this is the absence of a direct pedestrian connection between the train station and the complex. As with most of these developments planned and built in phased construction over a long period of time, the spaces between communities seldom reinforces the spatial ideas of the original designs. Housing economics during this period were heavily under the influence of the functionalist/rationalist formulae. Some kind of parallel slab type of building and site organization was inevitably the result. Avoiding the stark monotony of repetitive rows of zeilenbau, must have become a major objective with the circle of architects working for INCIS and it is certainly a credit to the Roman architects that they challenged many of the stock rationalist prescriptions of this period.

Piero Ostilio Rossi, ed.,Roma Guida all 'architettura moderna 1909-2000., Editori Laterza, Rome, 2000, pp. 233-34.

Francesco Garofalo & Luca Versesani, Adalberto Libera, Princeton Architectural Press, N.Y., 1992, p. 194.

La Casa, no. 7, 1962

Edilizia Popolare, no. 67. nov-dec, 1965.

Capitolium, no. 1, 1966.

Luigi Moretti, La Promessa e il debito, pp. 78-80.

Salvatore Santuccio, Luigi Moretti, Zanichelli Editore, Bologna, 1986, pp. 115-118,

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