Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Housing Tour!

Friday we went on a housing tour which was really mostly about planned housing developments.  It was "modern" in the sense that all of them had been built in the 20th century and later.

The first place we went to was called San Saba and was developed by the Instituto Case Popolari (the institute for public housing).  The project was built between 1906 and 1914, and its main aim was to bring dignity to worker's housing.  It was located kinda far from the city center at the time (now its considered close), but was close to a large industrial center and was low-income housing for the industrial workers.  Now, of course, it's an upscale, not-quite-trendy, but expensive place to live.  And I liked it a lot!

I liked it espeically for its human scale and the amount of open space that each house had.  I also liked the use of the traditional Roman details in an economical way.  It made the buildings feel like they belonged in Rome, even though they were cheap.  Now of course, the whole economics of building is different, and there's no way a low-income housing project could afford such detail.  At the time, materials were expensive (even the "low quality" brick), but labor was cheap, so it was cheap to add lots of fancy detailing to cheap buildings.  Now, materials are poor in quality and they're expensive, and labor is pretty much the same way.

The next place we went to was called Garbatella and it was begun in 1920.  I liked this one alot too, although I'm not sure I liked it quite as much.  It was much more organic and picturesequ rahter than sticking with the classical style of Rome.  In fact, it almost looked South-West Spanish in some ways.  Also, while I liked the internal nature of the yards, I felt like it turned its back on the city in a way, saying our neighborhood is in here, but the city is out there.  Hmm. . . This place, too, was built as low income workers housing, and has pretty much become gentrified since then.  Some of it does still remain low income though, if I understood correctly.

The third place we went is called the EUR and was started in 1937.  It was meant as a model city, a sort of exposition for Facist Italy, a sort of "welcome to the new world" development.  It was a huge site, so we mostly rode the bus around it, so I didn't get many pictures, but it was meant to be monumental, so I suppose it succeeded in that, too.  Actually, I have to say Facist architecture is growing on me.  I like the way they use the classical forms and basic gestures, but stripped down, "modern", without all the frills.  I also do like the monumentality of the whole composition, but I think the scale of the individual buildings is a little too big to relate.  But, I suppose the intention wasn't to relate, but rather to dominate, so it succeeds in its intentions.

The fourth place we went was Tiburtino, which was also designed as low income, public housing.  This one has mainly remained populated by those in the lower income brackets, and it shows in the way the place as a whole is kept.  But, that's okay.  The main idea of this place was to have a variety in building types and looks, so that it felt more like a neighborhood that had grown up rather than was built all at once.  Plus, tons of different architects worked on it, so it shows variety from them, too.  This place had some centers where there were supposed to be shops, etc., and it was nice to see that there actually were shops and stuff inhabiting those spaces.  This one was built between 1950-54.

The last neighborhood we saw was never intended to be low cost, so it never was, and still isn't.  It also wasn't a planned housing development, just a neighborhood.  The area has an interesting history from a planning point of view, too.  When Rome was drawing up plans for the various areas within the walls (because, believe it or not, the whole city within the walls wan't built up even in the 20th century) in 1909, the area was a designated green zone, where only people who were really rich and could afford lots of land (and the equivilant of a McMansion to go with it).  Other parts of the city were allowed to build more densely, though, and that upset the landowners who didn't want to build a huge house, but rather wanted to make a profit.  So, in the plan of 1925, the area was allowed smaller lot sizes, and a cross between a palazzo and an apartment, where each floor was just one dwelling unit.  Then, in 1931, these restrictions were lifted, and regular apartments were allowed to be built, be even so, it has remained a luxurious area of town with large apartments (no more than 4 per floor, in general, sometimes only 2).  I'm rather indifferent about this one, since its not really my area of interest.  But, it was a nice neighborhood, as all upper class neighborhoods are, I suppose. . .

Well, this tour was really exciting for me to go on, since my terminal project is going to be low-income housing!  Lots of inspiration and its always nice to have actually been to the places you cite as precedents : )


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