|Architect||Barucci, Pietro, Alessandro de Rossi, Lucino Giovanni, Camilo Nucci, Americo Sosgtegn, Umberto Cao, Massimo del Vecchio, Gianfranco Marucci, Bruni Daro|
|Address||Via Laurentina, S.E. of EUR c. 5 km|
|Building Type||Slab, point-access|
|Number of Dwellings||1200|
|Dwelling Types||2, 3 & 4 BR flats; 2 & 3 BR maisonettes,|
|No. Floors||3,8, & 14|
|Section Type||flats, maisonettes|
|Construction Type||tunnel-formed concrete, concrete frame|
|Ancillary Services||shops, community facilities (mostly unfinished), parking|
Laurentino , is one of several huge satellite communities built in the outskirts of Rome in the early 1970’s. Planned under the authority of the 1962 master plan (Piano regolatore) and Law 167 (legge 167), the design was to provide 5500 middle and low-income apartments housing about 32,000 people. (For further discussion about Italian planning law and housing institutions see: Corviale, Decima, Torrevecchio, Casalino, Fablo Filzi, and Ina Casa Harrar/Figini.) Planned as a model garden city community, not far from a the EUR center south of central Rome, Laurentino was intended to demonstrate the latest advances in community planning, housing design, and advanced construction technology in the Post WWII era. A group of 9 architects, under the leadership of Pietro Barucci were selected to lead separate teams, one for each of the 6 sectors designated in the design.
Laurentino (zone 38 in the master plan) was built on 164 hectares of rolling land near the EU R center, south of central Rome. Large even by Italian standards, Laurentino was planned for a population of over 6800 housed in 1200 dwellings complete with schools, community services, shopping, and service facilities. Six separate clusters of buildings were built along and over a meandering ring road about 4 kilometers long. Five of these neighborhood clusters are similar, each housing about 300 families in an arrangement of six buildings: five, eight-story slabs, and a vertical fourteen-story, stepped residential tower, and a seventh building that bridges the peripheral road and contains most of the community facilities forming a continuous elevated platform connecting buildings on each side of the road. Parking is provided beneath the platform. These five sectors, each with a different site alignment, are organized into separate groups each made of 2 or 3 parallel clusters of these elements that bridge the ring road. The highly structured, repetitive, hierarchical organization of the individual clusters contrasts sharply with the meander of the ring road and the unstructured surrounding space; a flotilla of residential vessels about to set sail across the Lazio landscape.
The sixth group of buildings, sector SE2 designed by the Technarch group, is organized differently, an arrangement of slabs and 14-story, square towers built on a raised quadrangular plaza. Built in the southeast corner of Laurentino, this space is further defined with long, three-story high linear buildings containing maisonettes above a zone of shops along the plaza. This sector is the administrative center of Laurentino, and was the location of the services common to the whole quarter such as schools and the parish church. The design of this sector was delayed by the discovery of an archaeological site during construction and it is organized differently. Several groups of case a gradoni (terraced housing) have been built at the edges of the neighborhood groups where the land is too steep for the typical slab/tower arrangement. These buildings form an occupied retaining wall across the site at the southern edge of the two northern sectors.
The typical group consists of 5 buildings; 3, 8-story slabs of different lengths, a 14-story tower that marks a small plaza area, and a 3-story “bridge building”, that connects to another cluster across the street below. The cluster idea of a repetitive, hierarchical group of elements is very similar to several polder projects in Holland designed by Bakema and van den Broek in the 1950’s and 60’s and was a popular theme with the Team 10 group in the 1960’s where it was seen as the organizational idea for new communities in several countries. The raised platform, a strategy to separate cars from pedestrian spaces, also had a legacy in the work of Team 10, especially the new town of Toulouse le-Mirail, in southern France designed by Candillis, Josic & Woods, a competition project that was built as a satellite community on the outskirts of Toulouse in the early 1960’s. Toulouse le-Mirail was much larger but provided a compelling precedent for the design of a satellite community.
The typical building clusters at Laurentino are organized in parallel linear rows spaced to take advantage of the rolling cranes used in the assembly process. One of the most important features of Laurentino was the use of a poured concrete construction system using metal tunnel forms that were hoisted into position by cranes making room-sized pours possible. These metal boxes come in several different sizes and both the slabs and towers were designed on a modular system using these standard building elements. In addition to the metal forms that provide the formwork for walls and floors, other prefabricated elements made in assembly areas between buildings were used for exterior walls, stairs, and other elements.
The cellular nature of the plans is a result of the tunnel-forming process where the 4 sides of a concrete cell are poured at one time. The point-access slabs contain 2, 4- bedroom thru flats per floor. In the towers, 4 apartments are grouped around a central service core with deep slots between dwellings for day lighting. The tower plans are also used for large flats that diminish in area as the building height increases. The towers in sector 2 are also 14 stories high and organized around a central service core; however, there is more variety to the dwelling types including 2 & 3 bedroom flats and larger maisonettes. The southwest corner of the towers is eroded revealing he structural frame and a zone of balconies and maisonettes that wrap the corner of each tower.
When it was planned, Laurentino was hailed as the model of economical social housing in the WWII era continuing the traditions of Istituto Autonomo per le Case populari (IACP) the national housing organization in Italy. It was part of a developed regional plan, designed by a well-known team of architects, and employed advanced construction technology. From the beginning, however, Laurentino 38, a name suggesting cellblock imagery, became a notorious suburban ghetto. People began moving in before the buildings were finished. Squatters moved into unfinished spaces. In the face of so many squatters, legitimate residents stopped paying rent and there was an absence of the capital flow needed for repairs, maintenance, and other social services and the housing authorities seemed unable to provide the services normally available for social housing. Mafia style gangs ruled the streets and unfinished community facilities were quickly vandalized and become shooting galleries for drugs. Squatters occupied the “bridge buildings” which were never intended for dwellings, and the parking areas below the bridges were unsafe. Schools were not built, food shopping was 3 km away and shopping was available only in adjacent neighborhoods. The extension of the Rome metro didn’t get built until fairly recently. The bridge areas were particularly problematic because without shopping, schools, support spaces, and the normal activity that these spaces generated, the plazas became empty isolated, dangerous places. Over the years, a mixed population of mostly eastern European immigrants replaced the original squatter community of Italians. The lack of normal maintenance resulted in serious building deterioration especially in the bridge areas. Roofs and windows leaked, water penetration resulted in rusting reinforcing steel, the water supply and sanitary sewer system was broken and the electrical systems had been compromised by squatter activity. There was a complete lack of normal social services.
Laurentino had moments of brilliance, especially in the design concepts of the clusters the assembly technology, and the intent to create a public realm independent of the auto. The vast leftover space beneath buildings, however, will never be sufficiently used to become the places of social activity that the designers intended. The failures of social housing projects like Laurentino seem to be more the failure of the process, the performance of the agencies responsible for managing these communities, and the huge scale of building than the result of poor design. Unfinished community facilities are quickly vandalized and become shooting galleries for drugs. Laurentino has the presence and a quality of its own that is quite different from the altruistic intentions of the people who planned and built it.
Laurentino 38 has been occupied now for almost 40 years. The extreme dystopian condition of this dysfunctional community that resulted from a combination of social, and physical problems has been well documented. Laurentino 38 came to symbolize the poverty and decay that followed waves of immigration resulting in the organized occupation by the revolutionary left that occurred in the absence of any action by the government. Because buildings remained unfinished and there was a lack of normal maintenance, buildings deteriorated: windows failed, there were leaks in the roof and walls resulting in rusting steel reinforcement in walls and structure. Repairs could not be made because of the lack of rental income from squatters. The bridge structures were particularly problematic because squatters occupied shop spaces.
The situation at Laurentino improved in the 1990’s. There drug problems lessened partly because many of the addicts apparently died off. The road infrastructure expanded and transportation improved including the Laurentino Metro station, so that the community was not so isolated. In 2005, 3 of the 11 bridge buildings were condemned and demolished a year later thus removing some of the worst of the squatter housing. A program to repair and renovate buildings with new windows, exterior wall insulation, repairs to the infrastructure, and other repairs was undertaken.
Laurentino 38, Corviale, and Vigne Nuove represent three powerful modern paradigms of new suburban communities. Laurentino 38 combines highly organized cluster principles with garden city ideals in a meandering open landscape. Corviale continues the reoccurring popular model of the linear mega structure; Soria e Mata, Karl Marx Hof, and Cumbernauld. Vigne Nuova revisits the tradition of the perimeter block, enlarged in Rome and expressed as a giant triangle. Attention has been focused on Laurentino recently with the removal of the bridges with the result that the community has become a favorite subject of student design projects in various architecture schools.
Carini, Alessandra, Mario Giammitti, Roberto Farina, Andrea Guidotti, Egidio Lomi, Amos Masè, Franco Nuti, Giorgio Trebbi, Housing in Europa 1960-79, Luigi Parma, Bologna, 1979, pp. 408-413.
Dinelli, Fiamma, “Complesso Residenzale al Larentino Rome”, L’industria delle Costruzioni, May, 1980, pp. 33-44,
Rossi, Piero Ostilio, Roma Guida all’architettura moderna, 1909-1984, Editori Laterza, Rome, 1984, pp. 307-310.