Slab, corridorSlab, gallery-access, skip stop
INA Casa Harrar/Figini
Figini, Luigi & Gino Pollini | Milan, Italy | 1951-55
Image of INA Casa ...
South facade, detail

ProjectINA Casa Harrar/Figini
ArchitectFigini, Luigi & Gino Pollini
AddressVia Harrar/Via S. Giusto
Building TypeSlab, gallery-access, skip stop
Number of Dwellingsc.80
Date Built1951-55
Dwelling Types2 & 2 BR maisonettes
No. Floors7
Section Typeskip-stop
Exterior Finish
concrete, stucco, glass
Construction TypeRC frame
Ancillary Servicesnone

Beginning in the late 1920's Milan began to develop plans for new communities in the open plains north and west of the central city. The regional plan that was adopted in 1946, the result of a national idea competition, il Piano Regolatore Generale, projected housing needs for close to a million inhabitants and by the late 1940's several new communities were being planned under the control of the national housing authority, the Istituto Nazionale per le Assicurazione (INA Casa). This site along Via Harrar is one of these new communities and is typical of these early INA Casa residential quartiere: a mixed group of buildings on an open site with buildings designed by several different architects. While most of the social housing built in Italy in the 1920's and 1930's were modeled on siedlung prototypes, most projects after WWII followed CIAM doctrines for new settlements: free-standing buildings, alternating groups of buildings and open space, serviced by a loose network of principle and tertiary streets. Planned by Pietro Bottoni, Harrar consists of several long gallery-access slabs organized in a perpendicular alignment on the open triangular site. Several groups of lower townhouses are scattered between slabs. Several of the Harrar buildings are interesting examples of Rationalist housing that continue building ideas of the 1920?s and 1930?s. While the point-access slab type is more typical of Italian social housing, several of the 6 and 7 story slabs at Harrar are gallery-access buildings. In addition to Bottoni, architects of note here include Luigi Figini and Gino Pollini, architects known for their infill project on Via Broletto in Milan, completed in 1948, and Gianluigi Reggio and Mario Tevarotto who designed a narrow block of flats (see this example for a more complete description of the site).

The Figini/Pollini slab is one of the most interesting of the group. The apartments here are quite unusual because they are maisonettes that have interior voids that are two-stories high. The building is parallel to via Harrar (Via Dessié) so that there are access galleries along the street on the north side of the building. Open, skip-stop galleries provide access to maisonettes that face south to other smaller buildings and landscaped open spaces in a 6-story arrangement where three dwellings are stacked in section. The ground floor is partially an open pilotis but also contains the entrances and tenant storage. The dwellings, a one bedroom and a two bedroom type are coupled to a service zone perpendicular to the cantilevered access gallery that, on the lower floor, contains entrances, storage, and kitchens in the rear, with baths above the entry on the second floor. The two story-high living area has a blank wall facing the gallery but a large high window above admits light to the upper part of the two-story space of the living room. Kitchen and dining open to a narrow balcony at the rear that is expressed as a volume eroded from the structural frame. The stair connects the entrance to the zone of bedrooms on the second level, on the south side where the windows that are protected from southerly sun by the overhang of the slab on the floor above. The bathroom window opens to a narrow balcony above the access gallery. The different widths of the two dwellings are expressed on the exterior by the unequal structural bays.

Obviously indebted to a legacy of immeubles villas and unité spatial concepts, these modest dwellings probably have no equal for housing in the INA Casa experience and very few private apartments are as spatially interesting and carefully organized or detailed. The reinforced concrete frame structure is clearly expressed as a system of varying bay sizes infilled with glass or stucco walls, set back on the south providing balconies and sun protection and revealing the structure in an especially dynamic composition. The architectonic vocabulary of concrete frame, narrow structural bays and infill continues Rationalist building ideas of the 1930's, Terragni & Lingeri, Albini, Libera and others. But the frame/infill qualities of Harrar are further developed here with the added rhythm of different bay sizes, the complex but repetitive composition of the windows, precast balustrades and balcony grilles. The articulated narrow frame, here in three different bay sizes ranging in width from about 9 to 15 feet, are treated as a three-dimensional zone eroded from the virtual surface implied on both sides of the slabs. The tower in the Figini/Pollini complex on Via Broletto of 1948 is the obvious source of many of these ideas and details, but this preoccupation with the articulated frame can be seen on virtually all of the via Harrar slabs and is a design emphasis that continues until the precast technology of the 60's begins to replace in situ concrete construction as the dominant housing building system in most of Europe. Even so, the Rationalist fascination with frame and infill was certainly an important ingredient in the work of the next generation of architects, Aldo Rossi, Vittorio Gregotti, Giorgio Grassi and others.

Anguissola, Luigi Beretta, I 14 Anni de Piano INACASA, Staderini: Editore, Roma, 1963, pp. 218-221.

Grandi, Maurizio and Attilio Pracchi, Milano: Guida all 'architettura Moderna, Zanichelli, Bologna, 1980, pp. 254-55, 274.

Blasi, Cesare, Figini e Pollini, Edizioni de Communitŕ, Milano, 1963, pp. 158-165.

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