Home   Architects   Schools   Objects   Library
 

 

 

 

 

 

WORKS / BIOGRAPHY / BOOKS

 

 

LUIGI MORETTI
 
 
 
 
  Name   Luigi Walter Moretti
       
  Born   January 2, 1907
       
  Died   July 14, 1973
       
  Nationality   Italy
       
  School    
       
  Official website    
     
 
BIOGRAPHY
   

Luigi Moretti remains one of the most enigmatic figures of Ital-
ian modern architecture. His work falls in the cracks between
art-historical categories, and his writings lack the social polemic
of most of his contemporaries. Yet he exercised a profound and
lasting influence on Modern and Postmodern architecture. Born
in Rome, he was educated there at the University of Rome,
receiving his degree in 1930. He taught at the University of
Rome (mainly history courses) from 1931 to 1934.

‘Two conflicting opinions by recent Italian historians can ex-
plain this problem. Manfredo Tafuri and Francesco Dal Co, in
their Modern Architecture, mention Moretti only once, stating,
“Luigi Moretti (1907-74) locked himself into a formalism that
was an end in itself in the so-called Sunflower house of 1950
in Rome, in the Olympic Village realized there with A. Libera,
and in the Watergate Complex in Washington done in 1959—
1961.” On the other hand, Luciano Patetta, in his entry for the
Macmillian Encyclopedia of Architects, said, “Probably the most
successful result . . . is the Watergate . . . a work of full maturity
and in full possession of expressive means.”

Moretti never allied himself with either side of the heated
debate about architecture of the Fascist period. When he
emerged in the late 1940s and early 1950s with what were to

become his major works—the Astrea and Sunflower apartment
houses—he still remained aloof from contemporary polemics.
However, during the Fascist period he was an ardent follower
of the regime of Benito Mussolini. Even after Fascism fell and
Mussolini was installed by the Germans in a puppet regime in
northern Italy, Moretti joined Mussolini in the so-called Repub-
lic of Salo. For this transgression against civility, he served 18
months in prison in Milan, and during his confinement he met
a developer who gave him a number of important commissions
in the immediate postwar period. It has been said that Moretti
never lost his love of Mussolini and Fascism. The first of these
commissions was an apartment hotel (1948) in Milan, followed
by the multifunctional “Transatlantico” building (1952-56),
also in Milan. However, the two buildings that made Moretti’s
reputation and that remain his undisputed Rome masterpieces
are the Casa Astrea (1949-50) and the Casa Girasole (1950—
51). These two buildings are sophisticated examples of a kind
of mannerist modernism. Moretti used the elements of the mod-
ernist vocabulary in a highly decorative, somewhat Expressionist
way, employing thin outrigger walls and spandrels, tile decora-
tions, travertine revetments, and glass handrails. The Casa Gira-
sole (Sunflower House) was later published by Robert Venturi in
his seminal Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966),
making the building a locus of architectural pilgrimages. Venturi

and others have asked the question, “Is this one building split,
or two buildings combined?” It was both, and the gash down
the middle would become a Moretti trademark.

‘The building was influential in the development of the palaz-
zina building type, a modern equivalent of the palazzo whereby
the courtyard of the typical Florentine/Roman palazzo becomes
the core, and the building, a squat tower, is free on all sides. In
the massing and facades of the Casa Girasole, Moretti used a
shallow layering system combined with the assertive horizon-
tality of spandrels and window blinds to establish an aggressively
modern equivalent of traditional formal composition. He even
hinted at a split pediment in the top profile of the building.

Atthe same time in the early 1950s, Moretti began publishing
a magazine, Spazio, which lasted for only eight issues but was
quite influential in establishing this new formalism in Italian
modern architecture. He also published analyses of traditional
buildings and spaces, including solid models of the interior
spaces of baroque churches. These analyses had an important
influence on Moretti’s younger contemporary, the historian/
theorist Bruno Zevi, and Zevi adapted Moretti’s spatial and se-
quential analyses for his popular book Saper vedere larchitettura
(1957; Architecture as Space).

Moretti’s mature buildings include the Olympic Village
housing blocks for the 1960 Olympics in Rome, an exercise in

Le Corbusian Ville Radieuse urbanism and architecture. The
facades of these buildings were in the Brutalist manner of con-
crete slabs and brick in-fill, with varying window sizes and open-
ings. The Le Corbusian system of the “five points” —pilotis, rib-
bon window, free plan, free facade, and roof garden—was
employed here to positive effect.

Rather than having any architectural significance, the Water-
gate complex is best known for its political significance during
the Nixon era in the United States. Yet this building, a curvy
array of great plasticity on the Potomac River near the Lincoln
Memorial and the Kennedy Center, was one of the first multiuse
buildings to be built in Washington in the post-World War II
era. It, not the Kennedy Center, revitalized its neighborhood,
and the building's assertive volumetrics were influential in
changing a dour Washington style.

Moretti died at the time the Watergate hearings were under
way in Washington.

THomas SCHUMACHER


 
 
 
 
 
TIMELINE
    Born in Rome, 2 January 1907. Studied humanities at the Isti-
tuto Romano de Merode; studied architecture at the University
of Rome; graduated 1930, In private practice, Rome from 1931;
founder, editor, Spazio, Rome 1956; contributor to Civita delle
macchine and L architecture d'aujourd hui. Founder, Istituto Na-
zionale de Ricerca Matematica ¢ Operativa per l’Urbanistica
(IRMOU), Rome 1957. Academician, Accademia di San Luca,
Rome 1960; honorary fellow, American Institute of Architects
1964. Died in Isola di Capraia, Italy, 14 July 1973.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
FURTHER READING
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
RELATED
 
 
 

 

 

 

       
 

Architects

Schools

Objects

Library

New Projects

About

Contact

Support us