|Project||INA Casa Harrar-Ponti|
|Architect||Ponti, Gio, Gigi Ghó & Antonio Fornaroli|
|Address||Via Harrar/Dessié/Via Novarra|
|Building Type||Slab, gallery access|
Slab, gallery-access, skip stop
|Number of Dwellings||c. 100|
|Dwelling Types||flats and maisonettes|
|Section Type||flats & maisonettes|
|Construction Type||RC frame, masonry walls|
|Ancillary Services||occupant spaces in open pilotis|
Gio Ponti, like many Italian architects, maintained a practice that moved seamlessly between a broad range of design activities including urban planning, architecture, interior design, industrial design, and the decorative arts. Best known as the architect of the Pirelli tower, a svelte 31-story office building built in Milan in 1960, Ponti's residential work includes several individual houses and apartment buildings. The apartment buildings include a row of 6-story, infill buildings called "Domuses", built in Milan in 1931-36, and two novecento apartment blocks also in Milan, Casa Rasini, designed with Emilio Lancia in 1934, and Casa Marmot, built the following year. The relationship with Lancia ended after Rasini and already with Casa Marmot changes in Ponti's style can be seen to be moving in a rationalist direction.
The new INA Casa quarter (l'Istituto Nazionale per le Assicurazione) built on the western edge of Milan along the road to Novarra, was one of the first big social housing projects to be built under the expansion program for the city, the Piano regolatore communale generale de Milano, the regional master plan that was developed and revised in the years following WWII. Ponti developed the master plan for the Harrar site along with Luigi Figini, Gino Pollini and Piero Bottoni. Instead of the zeilenbau pattern of parallel rows of identical slabs, that characterized the quartieri popolari of the l930?s, projects like Franco Albini's Fabio Filzi quarter of 1935-38, the triangular site at Harrar was organized using several very long 5-story slabs that were placed in an open perpendicular grouping. Lower 2-story houses and other public buildings were located in the open spaces between slabs. These long slabs, designed by several different architects, constitute a rather remarkable collection of a gallery-access building type seldom used in Italy, where point-access types dominate. Harrar also forms an interesting exposition of post WWII rationalist architecture.
Ponti designed two blocks, one facing Via Harrar-Dessiè, and the other, perpendicular to this, extending into the interior of the block. The illustrations show the space defined by these two buildings. Gigi Ghò worked with Ponti on the Via Harrar slab and Antonio Fornaroli, on the north/south block. Both buildings consist of 5 floors of apartments raised above a partially occupied pilotis and are organized with covered galleries serving 3 floors of flats with an upper 2-story zone of maisonettes. The individual dwellings open to balconies that face to the interior of the block that is a partially landscaped open area. The Via Harrar block is the most interesting of the two buildings. The two facades clearly show the organization of flats and maisonettes, and the organization of galleries along the north side and the concatenated system of balconies on the south façade. The north side of this block, and especially the ends reveal a Ponti fascination with diamond-shaped volumes with non-parallel sides. The canted surfaces are slightly expressed in the gallery façade, but become a dominant feature of the ends where roofs are inflected upward and side walls inward, forming a very dynamic solution to the bland, cut-off ends of the typical zeilenbau slab. Ponti experiments with non-parallel surfaces was a leitmotif of his work during this time, a tendency probably expressed most obviously with the Pirelli tower, begun just a year after Harrar was completed.
Grandi, Maurizio & Attilio Pracchi, Milano: Guida all'architettura moderna, Zanichelli, Bologna, 1980, p. 274.
Ponti, Lisa Licitra, Gio Ponti, The Complete Work, 1928-1978, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1990, pp. 146-148.