Dopoguerra durante la guerra: Gio Ponti's New Italian house, 1944-1945
Brown University, Providence, RI, USA
In the magazine Lo Stile’s third issue of 1945, the architect, designer, and magazine’s editor Gio Ponti presents an image depicting a man holding a small model of a house up to a map of Italy populated by individuals with outstretched arms. This image, which corresponds to the essay, “Who will give us the prefabricated house?” and the larger series entitled “Fifty Houses,” shows Italy and its population ready for technological innovations and new economical, quickly assembled homes. On the surface, this push for prefabricated homes appears to be a natural response to wartime destruction and displacement. Yet, as this paper argues, Ponti’s architectural ideas and solutions presented in Lo Stile were in large part anticipatory and reactionary projects rather than a response to the physical reality of reconstruction. From the beginning of the decade, the Italian building trade was severely hampered by wartime production needs, lack of capital, scarcity of raw materials, and labor shortages. In this way, Ponti’s series and Lo Stile’s publication from 1941 to 1947 present a critical component of an ideal postwar reality. Examining the typology of the single-family house presented in the “Cinquanta Case” series, this paper demonstrates how Gio Ponti combined his conception of the “casa all’italiana” with the technology of prefabrication to create a solution for postwar living. Furthermore, by contextualizing these projects in light of a series of contemporaneous small publications by lesser-known architects, this paper illustrates how Ponti’s proposals are part of a broader design project focused on the possibilities of the postwar Italian home. While postwar reconstruction offered architects near endless opportunities for construction, the turmoil and scarcity of the 1940s provided a period of reflection, reconsideration, and research that enabled Italian designers to prepare themselves for the task of reconstruction and the realities of a post-fascist, democratic Italy.