Italian architect and designer Aldo Rossi is hailed by many as one of the most prominent Italian architects of the second half of the 20th century. Rossi has won international acclaim not only as a practicing architect, but a theorist, artist and teacher of architectural and urban design theories. He is also recognized internationally through receiving the coveted Pritzker Prize for architecture, the first Italian and “a poet who happens to be an architect,” as declared by architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable.
“His work is at once bold and ordinary, original without being novel, refreshingly simple in appearance but extremely complex in content and meaning.” — Jury Citation, The Pritzker Architecture Prize
Spotlight on Aldo Rossi
Rossi was born in Milan in 1931. His family ran a bicycle business, and Rossi grew up during the turbulent years of WWII. In 1949 he enrolled in the Department of Architecture at the Politecnico di Milano (Polytechnic University of Milan), and received his architecture degree in 1959. Shortly after, he began to pursue an intense theoretical and teaching career, serving as editor of the Italian architectural magazine Casabella-Continuità from 1955 to 1964.
Rossi’s lifelong career as an academic began in the 1960s, first as an assistant professor to architect and urban planner Ludovico Quaroni at the school of urban planning in Arezzo, and then under Carlo Aymonino at the Institute of Architecture in Venice. Rossi was later appointed lecturer at the Politecnico di Milano in 1966. The following year, he published his seminal monograph The Architecture of the City, establishing himself as an international theorist in the field of architectural and urban design.
The architectural approach pursued by Rossi can be categorised as neo-rationalism in stripped geometrical patterns, supporting a surrealist presence and aspects of austere classicism. Sometimes regarded as Postmodernist in his views, in The Architecture of the City he wrote that designs must always incorporate buildings into the existing fabrics of the city and to reintroduce the past into the contemporary, rather than an act as an intrusion.
Throughout his career, Rossi completed a number of significant projects around the world.
San Cataldo Cemetery in Modena, Italy, 1971
Rossi’s architectural perspectives are particularly evident in the San Cataldo Cemetery in Modena, Italy, which is hailed as a paragon of neo-rationalist architecture distinctly postmodern in its approach. Considered one of the first and most important examples of postmodern architecture, the buildings set within a courtyard on the outskirts of Modena feature cube-shaped ossuary standing on square pillars, covered in terracotta-colored renderings and enclosed with steely blue roofs.
Teatro del Mondo in Venice, Italy, 1979
In 1979, the floating theater — Teatro del Mondo for the Venice Biennale by Rossi gained him international recognition. The wood-clad structure, towered by sea to the Punta della Dogana where it remained through the Biennale, is designed to pay homage to the Venetian collective memory of floating theaters in the 18th century. “The theater, in which the architecture serves as a possible background, a setting, a building that can be calculated and transformed into the measurements and concrete materials of an often elusive feeling, has been one of my passions,” described Rossi.
The Lighthouse Theater in Ontario, Canada, 1987
More recently in 1987, he completed the Toronto Lighthouse Theater overlooking the banks of Lake Ontario. Of the design, it embodies a new age of postmodernist architecture, with a contemporary interpretation of the historical building typology. He rejected aspects of Modernism and utilised aspects of historical styles, casting a spell of silence over the sea as severe as the historical relics along with a contemporary twist.
In 1985 and 1986 he became director of the Architecture Biennale in Venice, one of only two people to have served as director twice. In 1990 he was awarded the Pritzker Prize, and in 1991 the Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture. He died in Milan in September 1997.
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