Urban villa
La Tartaruga
Aymonino, Carlo & Ludovico Quaroni | Rome, Italy | 1951-54
Image of La Tartaru...
Street facade

ProjectLa Tartaruga
ArchitectAymonino, Carlo & Ludovico Quaroni
AddressVia Innocenzo X, 25
Building TypeUrban villa
Number of Dwellings10
Date Built1951-54
Dwelling Types3,4 BR
No. Floors6
Section Typeflats
Exterior Finish
Concrete, brick, metal windows, tile roofs
Construction TypeR-C frame
Ancillary Servicesparking and shopping

This apartment building designed for the La Tartaruga cooperative, is typical of the palazzine or little palaces, built in the 1930’s to 1950’s, that can be found in many quarters around the periphery of central Rome. (See Astrea for a description of the palazzina type.) In contrast to the intensivo infill buildings used to complete the perimeter blocks of the city, or the high-density buildings used in most social housing, the palazzina type was a 5-6 story freestanding building with balconies and roof terraces. The open space, the setback from the street, the landscaping, and the detail features of the building combined to produce an almost suburban ambience to what was in reality a dense urban housing type. La Tartaruga is a palazzina type, the work of Ludivico Quaroni, an established older architect and an emerging young architect, Carlo Aynmonino.

La Tartaruga is a freestanding building, six-stories high that features corner balconies, terraces and tile roofs, and below grade parking. It is typical of speculative housing in Rome where the building volume, siting, and internal organization are basically the result of building regulations. The overhanging tile roof, window and balcony details, Roman brick, and soft colors mark this as an example of neorealism, an Italian regional style of this period that occurred in the arts, especially in film and architecture. The “rationalist” architecture of the 1930’s and the Fascist period was rejected in a search for a "spontaneous vernacular dialect”. Quaroni had been active in the Association for Organic Architecture (APAO) group founded by Bruno Zevi after WW II promoting a return to a more humanistic architecture—"architecture organica”—a vernacular style thought to be more suitable for post war reconstruction. Quaroni was influenced by Marcello Piacentini in school at the University of Rome and probably saw Piacentini’s work as a model for the new style. In the early 1950’s Quaroni was involved in the construction of a new community in an impoverished hillside village in Puglia, in the old town of Matera that was an example of neorealism principles at work—new buildings modeling the old in an ancient town. In partnership with Mario Ridolfi, Quaroni applied some of the same vernacular principles in one of the of first INA-Casa projects to be built in the post WWII years, on Via Tiburtina in Rome after 1950. Marcello Piacentini was Carlo Aymonino’s uncle and this fact coupled with the influence Quaroni had as a teacher while Aymonino was studying at the University of Rome resulted in the partnership that produced Tartaruga and Tiburtina. Aymonino, of course, went on to become a distinguished teacher himself well known as the director of the Venice School of Architecture and lead architect of the infamous Gallaratese project in Milan of the 1980’s.

Tartaruga might be seen as a deluxe version of one of the Tiburtina towers. The angular plan, detached siting, slopping roofs, punched windows and balconies are features shared by both. The difference between social housing and cooperative housing standards is readily apparent in the quality of the exterior finishes and the generous plans of the co-op with a central stair and just two units per floor. A huge penthouse apartment occupies the top floor opening to several large roof terraces. The structure is expressed as a slightly recessed horizontal frame that emerges as free-standing columns at the terrace level. The infill brick walls, the windows, and the cantilevered balconies are clues to the latent modernism that would develop in the work of Aymonino in the years following as a preeminent Italian Rationalist. While the neorealism imagery was probably limited to lower density opportunities in the city, the palazzina model results in a very pleasant combination of open residential space and urban concentration. Tartaruga is in the distinguished company of other examples of the deluxe Roman palazzine of the 1950’s and ‘60’s sometimes referred to as the Roman School. This group includes Il Girasole, Astrea and San Maurizio, by Luigi Moretti; Via Aldrovandii, by Baliva & De Rossi, 1962; Palazzina Tiziano, by De Riso, 1962; and other examples by Ridolfi and Frankl and several buildings by the Luccichenti brothers, Amedeo and Ugo.

De Gutty, Irene, Guida de Roma Moderna, De Lucca Editore, Rome, `1978, p. 86.

Rossi, Piero Ostilio, Roma, Guida all architettura moderna 1909-1984, Editore Laterza, Rome-Bari, 1984, p. 176.

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