Urban villa
Palazzina Rea
Ridolfi, Mario & Wolfgang Frankl | Rome, Italy | 1934
Image of Palazzina ...
Via de Massimo facade

ProjectPalazzina Rea
ArchitectRidolfi, Mario & Wolfgang Frankl
AddressVia de Villa Massimo 39
Building TypeUrban villa
Number of Dwellings10
Date Built1934
Dwelling Types1 BR Flat, 3 BR Flat, 3 BR maisonettes
No. Floors6
Section Typeflats and maisonettes
Exterior Finish
stone, metal, wood windows & shutters
Construction TypeRC frame
Ancillary Servicesparking and shopping

The Roman palazzina

The strategic plan that was adopted by the city of Rome in 1931 (Piano regolatore di Roma) provided a strategy and guidelines for the future development of the rolling landscape around the city. Three new housing types were to be used in these peripheral zones that would accommodate various site conditions and building opportunities. The first, the intensivo, was an infill building type 7- 9-stories high that was to be used to build on to and add to the perimeter blocks of the old city. With commercial functions at the ground floor, the intensivi continue the surface of the street walls while defining enclosure of the semi-private spaces on the interior of the block. Intensivi were usually point- access types with several dwellings per floor, off street parking, balconies, and a roof terrace/ penthouse condition. The second type, the palazzina (translates as apartment house but implies a small palazzo as well), emulated the traditional Roman city house, a 5-6-story version of the venerable urban villa type. The palazzina was a freestanding building usually built on an open site that was suitable for smaller speculative projects and often incorporating additional uses such as parking, shops or offices, and a portiere apartment, and was set back from the street, with narrow side and rear garden areas. Combining ideas from palazzo and villa precedents, palazzine continued the height, density, and spatial alignment of their surroundings; 6-story palaces that were now to be communally occupied, with balconies, one or two apartments per floor, and a single penthouse dwelling with a developed roof and terraces. The third new building type, the villino, was modeled on the Roman country house, a modest villa 2-3 stories high, ensconced in its gardens, a more formalized version of the cottages, and small farms that occupied the hilly landscape around Rome at the beginning of the 20th century.

Literally hundreds of palazzine were built in Rome between 1931 and the 1960’s forming a solid/void pattern of freestanding 5-6 story blocks scattered within the irregular organization of streets and natural landscape features. From the air these districts seem to be the product of repetitive narrow streets rather than the setback zones between palazzine. While the space between individual buildings is not large enough to support much of a garden, and there is some loss of privacy because of the proximity of buildings to each other, these voids give the impression of a luxuriant landscape along the street and between buildings and an architecture of tile roofs and terraces, of walkways, garden walls and gates and large windows often opening to balconies. Despite the general vernacular quality of these buildings, their low density, and the fact that the space between buildings is seldom used as an extension of the building interiors, these districts constitute a remarkable exhibition of speculative residential building.

Selected Palazzine and Intensivi

Date/ Name/Architect/ Type

1934/Rea/ Mario Ridolfi/Wolfgang Frankl/(p)

1948-49/Alatri/Mario Ridolfi/Wolfgang Frankl/(p)

1950-54/Zaccardi/Mario Ridolfi/Wolfgang Frankl(p)

1948-49/Pinturicchio/Ugo Luccichentii (i)

1949/Fratelli Ruspoli/Ugo Luccichenti/ (p)

1949/Astrea/Luigi Moretti/ (p)

1951/Girasole/Luigi Moretti/ (p)

1951-54/Tartaruga/Ludovico Quaroni/Carlo Aymonino/ (p)

1953-54/Libia/Ugo Luccichenti/ (i)

1952-53/Belsito/Ugo Luccichenti/ (i)

1962/San Maurizio/Luigi Moretti/ (p)

1962/Tiziano/Domenico De Riso/ (p)

1962/Aldrovandi/F. Baliva/Alessandro de Rossi/E. Rampelli/ (p)

Project Description

Mario Ridolfi enjoyed a reputation as a leading young Roman architect by the time he was 30 yeas old. He became partners with Wolfgang Frankel, a young German engineer who left Germany in 1933. Ridolfi’s early work included the Post Office in Piazza Bologna in Rome that was labeled “organic” because of the curving shape and 3-story brick walls, and the competition entry for the Palazzo del Littorio in Rome (1933). He had completed the first of many housing projects by 1934, exhibited work in the Italian Rationalist group MIAR (Exposizione de Architettura Razionale), and collaborated with Adalberto Libera on several projects. The work done before WWII is Modernist/Rationalist in spirit while the work after the war belongs to the Neo-Realism movement that was a response to the poor living conditions and reconstruction that took place after the war. The Palazzina Rea belongs to the Rationalist period before the war.

During the war years Ridolfi helped develop a building and construction guide called Il Manuele dell architetto (edited with Cino Calcaprina) that was published immediately after the war and given to every registered Italian architect. Modeled after a similar technical manual, The Architectural Graphic Standards, that had long been in print in the US. Il Manuale emphasized the use of traditional craft and materials in the reconstruction process and was the essential technical guide that enabled the Neorealist emphasis on craft and traditional materials and details. Ridolfi developed a technique of for making construction drawings using free-hand ink drawings on vellum that reinforced the craft emphasis of his building during this time. Palazzina Rea is an example of the kind of small speculative palazzina built under the 1931 housing law. While Ridolfi and Frankl were better known for their housing projects after WWII, Rea and Palazzina Colomba, built a year later, are examples of their late Rationalist design. Palazzina Rea is one of several buildings that are set back about 30 feet from the street and form a narrow park along Viale di Massimo. The oblique wall on the west side and the interior courtyard are angled in response to the diagonal streets behind the site. The 6-story facade is a simple five-bay organization with the three central bays rendered as infill to the frame while the two end bays are recessed balconies.

High walls enclose a courtyard that contains a portierie flat and a garage along the east side. Entrance is made from Viale de Massimo under the terrace with a glass block wall, past the portiere past the garages and the front courtyard to the main stair that is illuminated by light from the central courtyard. This tall void also provides day lighting to the service spaces located toward the rear of the buildings. Following typical palazzina organization the building is divided into base, middle and top with two maisonettes on the bottom floors, followed by three floors each with two generous 3- bedroom flats, and a penthouse dwelling on the top that is setback with terraces on the south and east sides. Including the portiere flat there are 10 apartments. The maisonettes open to the front terraces at the second floor that overlook the park and courtyard. The white walls, articulated structure, balconies, roof terraces and layered facade are all Rationalist features while the horizontal division into a developed base, several floors of flats, and a penthouse dwelling establish the palazzina pedigree. The deeply layered front facade expressed as a brise soleil facing the street is one of the finest modernist facades in Rome.

De Gutty, Irene, Guida de Roma Moderna, De Lucca, Roma, 1978, p. 57.

Grundmann, Stephan, The Architecture of Rome, Edition Axel Menges, Stuttgart, 1998, p. 318

Rossi, Piero Ostilio, Roma Guida al árchitettura moderna, 1909-1984, Laterza, Roma, -Bari, 1984, p. 109.

Accademia Nazionale Di San Luca, Mario Ridolfi Fondo Ridolfi-Frankl-Malagricci, opere e progetti”.


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