Slab, point-accessSlab, corridorSlab, gallery-access, skip stopSlab, corridorSlab, double-loaded, skip stop
Aymonino, Carlo, Studio Ayde, Aldo Rossi | Milan, Italy | 1967-74
Image of Gallarates...
View from the east, Aymonino slab in foreground, Rossi behind.

ArchitectAymonino, Carlo, Studio Ayde, Aldo Rossi
AddressVia Cilea 34, Via Falck 37
Building TypeSlab, double-loaded, skip stop
Slab, gallery-access, skip stop
Slab, point-access
Number of Dwellings440
Date Built1967-74
Dwelling Typesstudio, 1,2 3 BR, duplexes
No. Floors3-8
Section Typeflats and duplexes
Exterior Finish
concrete, stucco, metal, glass block
Construction TypeRC
Ancillary Servicesparking, shopping, offices

Following WWII there was an urgent need for housing in Milan and under a succession of general plans the decision was made to expand the northern and western perimeters of the city with a series of satellite communities housing between 50,000 and 130,000 each. The first of these new communities, QT8 was started in 1946. A general master plan for the city, Il Piano Regolatore Generale (PRG), was adopted in 1956 and soon plans were begun for the second large new community, Gallaratese 1 and 2 (G1 & G2). The Monte Amiata Societŕ Mineraria per Azioni privately owned part of the land in the G2 area. Eventually, the plan allowed for this private development as part of the G2 area. Studio Ayde (Aymonino & De Rossi) was commissioned to design this project in September 1967. The project went through the early stages of design between September and October, when the basic idea of was formed of two diagonal slabs intersecting in an amphitheater, with a third building of gridiron form, extending north and west from this intersection. In November, Aymonino brought Aldo Rossi into the project to design part of the northern extension. By early 1968, the scheme had evolved into the five building complex as it basically exists today. Aymonino was responsible for buildings A1, A2, B, & C, and Rossi designed the fifth building "D" that extends to the north, paralleling building "B".

The Monte Amiata site was a very odd-shaped, triangular parcel at the intersection of two new streets, Via Cilea and Via Fichera that was flat and empty, without any particular organizational features. Two large 8-story slabs A1 and A2 are splayed along the south side of the site. A third long slab B 6-floors high, extends north from the intersection of A1 & A2. The final Aymonino building C, 2-stories high is a bridge connecting buildings B and A1. A wall connecting building B to A2 forms two triangular, raised piazzas at the "hinge" of buildings A1 & A2 and building B forms an outdoor amphitheater. The underside of the theater helps create the entrance to the complex. The fifth building, the Rossi contribution, is a long 3-story high slab that is paced in a position parallel to building B and defining a service entrance between the two buildings. The five buildings constitute a freestanding group, detached from any surrounding buildings and surrounded by a fence. Parking is provided at the lower levels. A main concourse level, which extends more-or-less continuously beneath all buildings, is equipped with a few shops and public facilities such as the amphitheater. Altogether, the five buildings house about 2500 people in 440 dwellings. There is a great range of dwelling types including minimum flats and duplex apartments. The public levels contain about 25 offices and several shops.

While they were teachers at the Instituto Universitario de Architetturai in Venice, both Carlo Aymonino and Aldo Rossi researched and published books and articles about urban morphology and the study of urban precedents for use as design models. The stepped slab that appears in Aymonino's early sketches for Gallaratese is doubtless the product of an unusual fascination with two ancient Roman buildings, the Amphitheater and Tragan's Market. The section of the Amphitheater can be seen as a model for a structurally cellular and repetitive system that diminishes in volume from the bottom to the top, has stairs at repetitive intervals and both interior corridors and exterior galleries for horizontal circulation. An even more potent prototype, however was Tragan's Market. Like the amphitheater, the Market is cellular and structurally repetitive and, even though on a sloping site at the edge of the Forum, has a characteristic stepping section. Since the Market consisted of separate closed cells to begin with and offered considerable spatial variety , it could much more readily be seen as a suitable model for an apartment building

Aymonino's slabs are complex and typologically diverse in the extreme, "the morphological accumulation of scintillating fragments", derived from and rendered like the "archaeological section" of Tragan's Market. The sections and elevations especially are a clue to the conglomeration of building and dwelling types within. A zone of courtyard apartments occupies the spread base of the building, accessed from the public concourse in the bottom floor. The three floors above this contain maisonettes that interlock unité d'habitationi fashion about an interior corridor. The top floor floors are single-loaded types that are reached from galleries on opposite sides of the buildings with a maisonette occupying the top two floors. Elevators and repeating stair turrets, a dominant architectural feature of Aymonino's buildings, provide access to this diverse section. The eclectic nature of the sezione archeologico is also evident in the architectural details of the exterior resulting in a rich bouillabaisse of quotes from Clarte, Marseilles, La Tourette and other modernist sources.

Rossi's building, by contrast, is entirely repetitive and white. Referred to by one writer as la lama bianca, it was a reference, according to Rossi, to the galleried ballatoio housing of Milan of the 1920's. But this elementary structuralist slab makes reference as well, to Rational Architecture of the 20's and 30's, and to the post war popular housing built near the Gallaratese in the INA Casa complex along Via Harrar between 1953 and 1955. Almost 200 meters long, this block contains two and three floors of gallery-access flats raised on a high base containing a public arcade. The buildings of Aymonino, which originate and radiate from a common source--the nodal amphitheater--are rendered in a dark brown color and share similar details, red window frames, glass block, and balconies, and seem derived from the same complex cross section. Rossi's slab on the other hand, is detached from the other buildings and, in contrast to its neighbors, is derived from a most elementary section; a continuous, constant, repetitive wall that has a curious under-scaled, diminutive, toy-like quality because of the use of a narrow structural grid. Aymonino and Rossi worked together for ten years and between them produced seminal research about architecture and the history of the city, and, indeed, were the proponents of a revived interest in design as the logical extension of historic precedents. When they build together for the first time, however, there is an enormous conflict of style, two diametrically opposite attitudes about building.

In the early investigations of the Monte Amiata site there was a rejection of the building typologies of late CIAM planning, the architecture of freestanding slabs and towers. Instead, the concept of a group of buildings organized around and radiating from a common public space was adopted. Public arcades beneath the building radiate outward from this central space that is occupied by the amphitheater and small paved "piazza." The arcades were to have been used as space for shops and the intention was to create a settlement with its own public spaces and commercial streets. Unfortunately, very little of the commercial infrastructure was ever built or used and the arcades are empty and formidable, the amphitheater and piazza seldom used. No doubt, this is the result of a disparity between the desire to have a functioning commercial infrastructure as an essential element of a new settlement and the limits of a program and marketplace that seldom provide for this. The failure to complete the commercial infrastructure of projects like Gallaratese is also a reflection of at least the partial failure of the regional planning strategy to ensure that separate disparate communities like this develop in an interrelated way.

Between the time that the construction of Gallaratese was begun in 1970 and the buildings were fully occupied in July, 1974, there were many legal problems regarding the interpretation of the housing laws and the transfer of title from the Monte Amiata Association that owned the land to the city, about the terms of sale, and the financing of the dwellings. Much publicity was given the temporary occupation of the buildings by protestors in March 1974. This dispute over the high prices of the apartments was a reaction, according to some, prompted by the look of the buildings, that they did not look like typical popular housing. Gallaratese, it seems, was almost preordained to be the subject of exaggerated interest and publicity partly because of the notoriety of the 1974 occupation, but probably more from the ascension of Aymonino and Rossi in the international architectural community during and shortly after the construction of Gallaratese. At one point there were so many visitors and photographers (cacciatori de immagini), that the owners association had to charge an entrance fee and the buildings were patrolled by custodians.

Conforti, Claudia, Il Gallaratese de Aymonino e Rossi, Officina Edizioni, Roma, 1981.

Conforti, Claudia, .Carlo Aymonino l'architettura non é un mito, Officina edizioni, Roma, 1983.

Grandi, Maurzio & Attilio Pracchi, Milano: Guida all 'architettura Moderna, Zanichelli, Bologna, 1980, pp. 348-52, p. 375.

Braghieri, Gianni, Aldo Rossi, Zanichelli, Bologna, 1981, pp. 54-63.

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