1 Proceedings of the First International Congress on Construction History, Madrid, 20th-24th January 2003, ed. S. Huerta, Madrid: I. Juan de Herrera, SEdHC, ETSAM, A. E. Benvenuto, COAM, F. Dragados, Brick covered steel framework constructions Palazzo della Rinascente by Giulio de Angelis, Rome, Italy ( ) Paolo Verducci «The true significance of the "turning-point" of the 19th century», states Edoardo Benvenuto, <<liesin the shift of attention from the geometrical form of the construction to the mechanical properties of its materials. There are two predominant aspects in this shift of interest from the engineers and scientists of the polytechnic schools in the early 19th century, compared to the old science des ingénieurs: the first is the concentration of attention on the mechanical properties of material s and theirfulfilling of needs; the second aspect lies in a new interpretation of building s from which we can perceive the traces of more or less elementary structures.\ Within this «shift of interest», the separation of the external covering from the internal structure of the building became the preferred area of research in the study of «heavy and light» which lasted for most of the 20th century, up until the arrival of contemporary High- Tech constructions. Therefore the study of 19thcentury building s in which the function of the external brickwork was to pad, insulate and protect against fire whilst iron was used as a purely structural element, takes us back to the origins of construction techniques, ignoring their aesthetic or formal implications. It also helps us to understand the reasons which led the Modern Movement to take the liberation of the bearing structure from its external covering2 as its main field of research between architecture and new technologies. ' To better understand the aspiration to this continuous external covering, extensive and self- supporting, a screen free from any direct implication with the structural frame, one uses the term «curtainwall» taken from the renowned manual, Cyclopedia of Architecture, Carpentry and Building (Chicago, 1907). Curtain walls, or rather those erected between iron or steel uprights and which bear no weight but their own, are only as thick as is necessary to protect the outside of the building and sustain the upper walls. In the case of skeleton constructions or those in which all the walls like other parts of the building are supported by steel or iron uprights, the walls need only be thick enough to protect the building and its structure from atmospheric elements unless they are Figure1 «La Rinascente» in an old photograph l.;iif::u-fm':",.11..
2 2076 P. Verducci also required to stiffen and brace the building. Outer walls can be made of brick, concrete, architectural terracotta or other material chosen according to the building's location, local usage of materials, the experience of the builders and the influence of unions in the given arca. The walls on each floor of a skeleton structure are self supporting and can be considered curtain-walls.4 However, according to the School of Chicago, walling must serve not only the purpose of protecting the building from the elements and bracing the structure, but it must also guarantee protection against fire. «The subject of slightness of the mechanical structure», states Giovanni Fanelli, «becomes more complicated in the 1870s due to the new fire safety law brought into use after the great fire of Chicago in it stated that metal should be covered by a protective coating. As a result of the new legislation the early 1870s saw a return to brickwork structures as opposed to traditional fa ;ade structures. Often in brickwork structures beams and bay partition posts are made of iron and cast iron, the internal structure is made up of coated metal elements.5 What about in Europe? From looking at these early uses we can see that for the first time it was possible to plan a building by breaking it down into two clearly defined parts; the internal body in iron, and the outer shell in brickwork. In Europe Viollet-Ie-Duc wrote in volume II of Conferences that, «a good architect could quite 10gically conceive the idea of creating a vast, completely iron structure [... ] protecting it with a stone shell». This separation however, also led to a separation of doctrines: the structural engineers on the one hand and the architects on the other. Speaking of this separation Riccardo Gulli states «the conceptual distinction between the structural organism and its shell, as noted by Eugene Viollet-]e-Duc and perfected by Auguste Perret, was given form thanks to the inventive capacity of Le Courbusier; this sequence of events led to the exploration of new aspects of architecture, freeing it from the parallels imposed between form and framework but at the same time also leading to an increasingly obvious divide and specialisation of skilis: stability and security checks on the part of the engineers, the responsibility of the quality of planning on that of the architects»6 Figure 2 Inaugural poster Among the first examples of brick covered cast iron structures is the cotton mill by Philipp and Lee in SaIford, Manchester, built in «The construction of this factory», according to Giedion, «was of primary importance to the history of modern construction [... I The first building, planned or constructed, to have an internal metallic structure -cast iron columns and beams enclosed within external brick walls, like the mechanisms of a watch inside its case7 However, apart from perfecting constructive elements, the introduction of brick covered steel framework constructions became a technological model to be followed and improved in all utilitarian fields. For example in the French Library by Henri Labrouste, the refined iron supporting structure is contained within a box of wall
3 Brick covered steej framework constructions Palazzo deha Rinascente 2077 with the marked aim of contrasting the lightness of the iron structure with the heaviness of the walls.in fact, as Roberto Gargiani states, <<In Labrouste' s preliminary projects he lays out a brick constructive system both for the casing, including ceilings, and for the supporting structure; in the two rooms on the ground floor this is made up of a wall ribbed by perpendicular parting walls, in the vestibule there are two pillars and in the reading room on the first floor there are 14 pillars surmounted by arches». It is not until later that Labrouste modifies these plans, substituting the line of central columns with iron columnsh in order to obtain a better balance between iron technology (light) and brickwork technology (heavy). Among the examples of late 19th century Italian buildings with an iron bearing structure covered by brickwork, pride of place must go to Giulio De Angelis' Palazzo deha Rinascente built in Via del Corso in Rome between 1886 and Following restauration work in 1974, the Office of Fine Arts and Antiquity stated that, «The Rinascente building shows the first use of of a bearing skeleton structure in metal with glass walls... and other Figure 3 Detail 01' a cast-iron capital Figure 4 Ground floor plan. Original version (before renovation and the addition of the escalators) innovations of 19thcentury Roman architecture». The plans for this building were laid out for a competion consequently won by Giulio De Angelis9 and Sante Bucciarelli. Construction work was carried out by the Mora and Bossi firm and began on lyh December In 1886 the Bocconi warehouse plans were presented to the Buildings Committee (on which the same De Angelis sat, but on that occasion was absent) and were approved despite the fact that the height of the building was above that permitted by building regulations of that time. Following its sitting on 20th March 1886 the city councillo gave the following statement: «Regarding the plans submitted by Mr. Ferdinando Bocconi for the construction of the building that he intends to carry out on the plot Iying between Via del Tritone, Via del Pozzo and Via San Claudio, the Buildings Committee has come to the opinion that the excessive height of the building is of no consequence due to the special nature and impressive size of the building. The City Council has therefore come to the conclusion that the Buildings Committee's proposal should be accepted and grants licence to the aforementioned project». About four months later, in a letter dated 1" June 1886, Ferdinando Bocconi put forward the names of architects Giulio De Angelis and Sante Bucciarelli as heads of construction at Palazzo della Rinascente. The site was an area of land measuring approximately 1000 m2 and had been reclaimed from
4 2078 P. Verducci Figure 5/6 Seclion and elevation. Original version the demolition of a building found close lo Palazzo Chigi, it cost the then exorbitant sum of Lire 900,000. However, according lo Renato Lefevre, «The Bocconi brothers knew what they were doing and paid httle attention to the cost of laying out such an imposing structure, neither did they allow themselves to be influenced by historic or environmental constraints. They brought their work to life based upon a style and technique that were then considered avant-guard: the interna] structure had a completely innovative air thanks to the use of the large Renaissance style round arched loggias which gave Ihe immediate impression of visible communication between Ihe internal and the external and an absolute prevalence of emptiness over heaviness». II The economic reasons mentioned above a]ong with the dimensions of the plot, which was actually a trapezium measuring 30.2 m by 28.3 m by 30.3 m by 27.9 m, heavily contributed to the typological solution of the building: in a relatively compact space they had to create an area dedicated to sales and another dedicated to production. Speaking of Palazzo della Rinascente, Romano Jodice cjaims that "ils typological and spatial characteristics can also be found in its contemporaries such as the Parisian department stores of the 1870s and 80s, particularly in Boileau, Moisant and (possibly) Eitlel's Bon Marche ( , Rue de Sevres) and more so in Printemps by Paul Sedille who began work in 1881 in Boulevard Hausmann and finished in 1885 but by 1883 had already completed a good part of its construction. It is from Printemps that Palazzo della Rinascente took inspiration for its metallic wall decorations which have now all but disappeared».12 AJmost in contradiction to the distinct separation (which is very evident from outside the building) created between the sales area (pubjic) and the production area (private), De Angelis then introduced a highly unifying element to his work: a large, open, central space measuring 9.45 m by 8.85 m, covered by a skylight around which he arranged a perfectly symmetrical array of cast iron columns. Despite being incoherent with the style of the time, this arrangement allowed for people to see and indeed be seen from each tloor, it al so allowed light from above to be evenly dispersed to each leve!. In contrast it is perfectly adapted to the current use of the building. This great central opening, without doubt the most interesting idea even from a commercial point of view, was characterised by the varying decorative motifs on the cast iron pillars. Portoghesi states that, «the designs on the pillars vary according to each floor and follow a pattern of simplistic decoration on the Jower floors, growing increasingly more complex towards the higher tloors. Systematic alterations to these decorative eiements and the radical transformation of the ground floor have profoundly altered the original aspect of the
5 Brick covered steel framcwork constructions Palazzo deha Rinascente ~ Figure 7/8 Section and elevation of the central space before the 1974 restoration The opening of the «industrial palace» at the end of the century in U mbertine Rome, was a clamorous event. The fierce regulatory debate, the construction and labour crises, Crispi's political war and indeed that against him, even the mournful war in Africa, ajl this was momentarily swept aside. The importance of this great event was ratified by the presence of King Umberto himself. Referring to the various articles which appeared in the press of that time, Renato Lefevrel6 reported; «Come down from his Victoria and accompanied by his field assistant Cavalier Caccianino, the sovereign was received by brothers Ferdinando and Luigi Bocconi, governor Oddo Giambartolomei, the architect authors ol' the project, and by governors fram Milan, Palermo, Genoa, Turin and Naples who had gathered in Rome for the occasion. It was a scrupulously planned visit, lasting about an hour and not without a number ol' questions regarding the commercial characteristics of the firm, its technical innovations, its administrative organisation and even the welfare measures it took for its numerous employees. «1 wish upon this welldeserving house all the good fortune and business of its inspiring force, Paris' 80n Marche», dec1ared Umberto 1 to the applause of the crowd». Later, changing technical-productive conditions, increasing sales and the need for more office space meant that the building had to be exploited to the fui!. Eventually more storeys were added and in more recent times its renovation saw the addition of elevators and modern lifts. To conc1ude, despite the inspiration it took from the aforementioned French models and indeed other European examples, the Palano della Rinascente is nontheless without doubt a highly advanced piece 01' work compared to its Italian counterparts, both on an architectural and technological level. The relationship between its outer covering and its internal structure of cast iron pillars is testimony to the research that went into the rapport between light and heavy, something that, as stated at the beginning of this essay, covered a large part of the Modern Movement up to its fading contemporaries. warehouse, but we can still see the simplicity and legibility of the static organism and the graduation of the influx of light which remains unaltered on each 1100r thanks to the size of the openings which decrease the higher up the levels you go».ij NOTES 1. Benvenuto, E.. La ScienZi1 delle CostruÚoni ed ii SIlO svi/uppo storico, Sansoni Editore, Florence 198J. «New
6 2080 P. Verducci "characters"», states Benvenuto, «truly become the protagonists: in particular, tension and deformation, to which safety limits must be sel. The considerably longer season of the previous science of building was instead marked by other preeminent problems: for example that of guaranteeing a composition of elements -such as the stones of a masonry structure, of an arch or 01'a domethat would prevent the onset 01' kinematic motion. Because 01' this, in the past the geometric form of the building was the protagonist of the structure; the compositional inventiveness and the static compatibility were two inseparable constituents 01' a single design process. Now instead the use 01'metallic materials, made available in great quantity, allows a certain "Iiberation" 01' formal variables, dominating unusual static designs». According to Semper, originally the architectural shell consisted of hanging fabrico With the advent 01'masonry structures the image of a shell composed solely offabric was lost, and was translated into the outer covering. The glass shell, with the wall eliminated, stands conceptually as the solution 01' the origins». Semper writes in Der Std, «in all 01'the Germanic languages the word wall (Wand), which has the same root and the same substantial meaning as dress (Gewand), recalls the ancient origin and the typology of the enclosing of space». (Semper G., Der Stil in den technischen und tektonischell KÜllsten oder praktische Asthetik. Eill Halldbuck für Techlliker, KÜllstler und KUllstfreunde, vo!. 1, Frankfurt am Main 1860, vo!.li, Munich Verducci, P., Il progetto dell'immuteriule, il percorso della trasparenzu nella storia, nei materiali e nelle tecnologie, edizione Galeno-Margiacchi, Perugia 1997, p. 9. The history of the Modern Movement, for example, can be seen also as the history 01' the progressive «emptying» and «breaking dowo» of the sheathes the easl-iron pilasters of the building fa<;ades not only provides protection against fires, but also helps to stiffen the structure and to conneet the parts. Fanelli, G. and Gargiani, R., Storia dell'architettura colltemporanea, Editori laterza, Bari 1998, p. 4. «The tendency to make offiee buildings taller and tallen>, says Giovanni Fanelli, «will make it necessary to sheath the pilasters not only to eomply with the fireproofing regulations, but also to counter the action of the wind, stiffening the strueture». Sullivan would develop the eompositional and structural ideas of the Marshall Field Wholesale Store in his works at the end of the Nineties (Auditorium and Walker Warehouse ). Giovanni Fanelli remarks, «The architectural designs that mark a pinnacle in structural and formal experimentation in terms of a homogeneous frame are the Wainwright Building (SI. Louis) by Sullivan and the Fair Store (Chieago) by Le Baron Jenney, both built in ». The pursuit of tectonic solidity and lightness of material s would be achieved by Sullivan in the construction of the Carson, Pirie and Scolt stores, in which the rarefaetion of the external curtain wall in order to obtain a progressive reduction in the structural elements of the fa~ades would foreshadow by several decades the glass shell completely separated from the load-bearing strueture of the building. Gulli, R., Métis e techne, Gli strumenti del progetto per la manutenzione e il recupero della cifta storica, Edieom edizioni, Monfalcone 2000, p. 28. Gulli says, «A ditlerentiation that extends progressively beyond the spaee marked by buildings with reinforced concrete or steel frames; in this separation a clear cultural dicholomy has taken shape which has lead to making a distinction, even with masonry construction, of that 4. brick or stone box in which the abstraction process 01' architectural elements has made possible a type 01' architecture that we can call «immaterial», composed only 01'surfaces, lines, planes: «in short, we can say that the Modern Movement created the possibility 01' an architecture made of pure geometric signs». The process 01' breaking down and dematerializing the briek or stone box as an altempt at attaining a lighter and more transparent architecture has also broughl about the dividing of the building into two distinct parts: the internal organism and the external shel!. American Technical Socicty, edited by, Cyclopedia of Architecture, CllIpentry, a/1(1 Building, Chicago 1907 (1916), vo!. V, pp. 149, 150. The first example 01' a metallic I"rame covered in masonry and extending also to lhe fa<;ade is found in the Home Insurancc Building (Chicago 1884) by William Le Baron Jenney, demolished unfortunately in In lhe Home Insurance Building the brickwork that 7. which pertains exclusively to the structural engineer and that which instead falls within the competenee of the designen>. Giedion, S., Spazio, Tempo e Architettura, Hoepli Editore, Milan 1984, pp Giedion praises the undertaking in heroic tones, lamenting the faet tha! with the passing of time this undertaking, which was «truly extraordinary for the builders of the time», has been virtually forgotten. Jt seems thal 1 beams were used for the first time ever in this faclory built in Salford, and that the Seottish engineer William Fairbairn praised this as the first example of the intuitive knowledge of the most efficient form, well be[ore it was demonstrated with calculations. The Salford experiment, latel' observed by Fairbairn in 1854 and cited by Giedion, «was al the vanguard 01" the method of fireproof construction that now characterizes the industrial areas of this eountry. For a quarter of a century this spinning mili was a model for similar buildings. From 180 I to
7 Brick covered stccl framework constructions Palazzo della Rinascente no changes 01"any consequence werc made to the shapc of the beams». Gargiani, R., «Henri Labrouste. ornamento e costruzione nella biblioteca Sainte Genevieve a Parigi ( »>, in Casabella, no. 645, Elemond editorc, p. 62. Gargiani observes, <<The proportions of the slender columns no longer follow the canons of the architectural order, of which only the ornamentation remains, but are derived I"rom the calculation of the resistance 01'a cast-iron piei. The Galilean and Lodolian logic 01"the constructive truth 01'material s, which in the early decades 01' the 1800s was undermining al so the Vitruvian myth 01' the metamorphosis 01' the tree trunk into a marble column, prevails over the criterion 01' imitation, producing a new hierarchy of orders depending on the materials: the order 01"wood, the order of stone, and, with Labrouste, the order 01' metaj,>. Miano, G., Figure e voci per la cittá capitale, «Architetlura e Urbanistica-Rorl/a Capita[e 1870-/9//, uso e trwjórrl/az!one della citta storicw>, Marsilio Editore, pp «De Angelis's works are known», says Giuseppe Miano, «and are I"ound in all 01" the treatises on architecture in Rome regarding those years. Thus a biographical reconstruction 01" his lil"e is necessary, even il"only in outlinc. Dc Angelis was born in Rome in 1850 and died in Anzio on March 14, 1906, although he did not grow up in Rome, having spent most of his youth in Perugia. [... J De Angelis always remained closely tied to Perugia and its Academy, such that on March 9, 1876, allhe age 01"just lwenty-six, he was named honorary professor. His early training in Perugia was decisive, as was equally the completion of his sludies al lhe Polilecnico 01"Milan, arter 1866, the year in which he participated in Garibaldi's military campaign, despite being only sixteen years old. At lhe Politeenico he had the opportunity to gain considerable knowledge in the field 01"engineering; in particular, he must have approached the new teehnologies 01" iron, whieh would charaeterize his mature works». Al'ter working on a number 01' projects in Perugia (the barracks of the carabillieri and partieipation in lhe renovation of the Morlaeehi theater), De Angelis moved permanently to Rome, where he built the house 01" Ruggero Bonghi, then the Minister 01' Edueation. The Bonghi villa in the Macao quarter, defined one of the most interesting of the period, allowed him to obtain a eertain renown, such that «besides being visited and reeeiving praise, as in the case 01'Mengoni and Boito, it was admired also by the Marquis Selvatico, a true authority on 19t1'-eentury art in Italy and the master of Boito». Later De Angelis, by now established in Rome, ereated one of his most inleresting works: the renovation 01"the Sciarra Gallery and the building of the edifice between Via delle Muratte and Via Minghetti. In this period metallie structural elements and cast-iron columns produced by thc Barbieri foundry of Castelmaggiore made their appearanee, and would beeome characteristie of his I"uture designs. In 1886, after winning a eompetition together with Sante Bueeiarelli, he planned his most famous work: the Magazzini Bocconi. In the same period he also designed the head offiee of the 1'01'010 ROrl/allo newspaper in Via Due Macelli for Costanzo Chauvet ( ) of Piedmont. In lhe last part 01'his eareer, it seems that he substituted his professional activities with a certain inclination to aeeept public appointments. >From 1889 to 1895 De Angelis sat in faet as a councilor in the municipal eouneil of Rome. He ended his eareer (dying at just fifty-six years of age) as the director 01' the teehnical office for lhe preservation 01"monuments in the city and provinee of Rome and in the provinces of L' Aquila and Chieti, in the period, ancl he supervised lhe restoration 01' important Roman monuments, including the Thermae of Caraeal1a. 10. The file on the Rinaseente building can be eonsulted at the Archivio Capitolino ícapitoline Archives) in Rome íprt. Gen Titolo ). In particular, by consulting the minutes once can sense the unanimous consenl of the Building Commission in approving he greater height 01' the building in regard to the Code in force at the time. Also worthy 01' note is the speed with whieh the projeet was approved. The plan was presented by MI. Ferdinando Boceoni on February 5, 1886, and the building permit was issued on March 20, 1886 (about a month a half later). In fact, Fcrdinando Bocconi himsc1f appea1ed to the Mayor of Rome, Duke Torlonia, in order to «... urgently obtain the relative approvaj,>. Later, on February 18, 1886, the plan was presented again in order to obtain slight modifications. Three drawings are enclosed: the plan of the ground floor in 1: l 00 scale; the fronl elevation in 1:100 seale, andlhe section of the interior in 1:100 seale. 11. Lefevre, R., «Roma palazzo industriale dei Fratelli Boeconi», in Stremw dei Romallisti. Natale di Roma /975, Staderini s.p.a., Rome 1975, p Renalo Lcfevre observes, «Tt is particularly interesting to reread, almost ninety years later, the ncws reports of the time and al so the advertisemenls in Deeember 1887 which announced, in block letters, the opening of the great retail establishment -Saturday evening, December lo, 1887, at 8:30 a.m.. Inauguration- (by invitation) -01' the Industrial Building- to the Cities of Italy-Boeeoni Brothers -Sunday 11, I"rom 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. and from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.- Open to publie visils-inside the building -Monday 12- sales opening. 12. Jodiee, R., Carchitettura del Ferro, l'ltulia 1796-/9/4, Bulwni Edilore, Rome 1985, p Jodice comrnents, «While the Scdille's Grands Magazins seems to furnish
8 2082 P. Verducci a plausible source of inspiration as regards its neo- Renaissance loggia design, in its overal1 architectural physiognomy the Rinascente building possesses an expressive, figurative and spatial dignity of unquestionable value which puts it among the greatest achievements in Italian architecture of the period and amply justifies its current status as a protected building established by the Superintendence of Ancient Monuments and Fine Arts». 13. Portoghesi, P., L'eclettismo a Roma /922, De Luca, Rome 1967, p. 56. Portoghesi states, «for the architect, the use of cast iron is not a starting point for a new constructive synthesis, but rather an unusual pretext for increased ornateness; it is a bril1iant solution to a particular problem, that of the il1uminating of the store envisaged, in a concept that was gaining ground, as space in direct contact with the outside, projected toward the street with intentions of both an advertising as wel1 as a city-planning nature». Furthermore, as concerns the relationship between the iron structure and the masonry covering, he says, «There is ajuxtaposition of two structures, one light and one ostentatiously massive, which coexist one inside the other, following a plan that could be connected with that of certain medieval windows in which the vibrant lacework of the mullioned openings function as a simple diaphragm within the strong frame of the arch».