> Introduction to Antonio Sant'Elia

Another futurist architect, another utopian... This Italian artist born in 1888 is one of the key members of Futurism. For that recognition Sant'Elia wrote "Manifesto of Futurist Architecture" (1914), where we can find a severe criticism to neoclassicism and the revival of old architectural concepts. The Futurism in general and Sant'Elia's vision in particular may be very polemic nowadays. The industrial landscape is widely accepted as ugly and not so impressive either. However, in early 1900s, the most optimistic people saw factories as the new churches, economic temples of social salvation. There was a kind of excitement caused by the monumentality and extreme functionalism of industrial architecture - two paradigms that were never put in practice together. "It's the future!" they said.

"That Futurist architecture is the architecture of calculation, of audacious temerity and of simplicity; the architecture of reinforced concrete, of steel, glass, cardboard, textile fiber, and of all those substitutes for wood, stone and brick that enable us to obtain maximum elasticity and lightness"

"From an architecture conceived in this way no formal or linear habit can grow, since the fundamental characteristics of Futurist architecture will be its impermanence and transience. Things will endure less than us. Every generation must build its own city. This constant renewal of the architectonic environment will contribute to the victory of Futurism which has already been affirmed by words-in-freedom, plastic dynamism, music without quadrature and the art of noises, and for which we fight without respite against traditionalist cowardice." 

The futurist and utopian character of Antonio Sant'Elia is well-represented by its major work: La Cittá Nuova. This imaginary city made of new materials and the latest technology is a futurist version of the American industrial cities - a mechanized and dynamic megalopolis where large skyscrapers, shaped by terracing, are connected by aerial walkways. Like Yakov Chernikov, another futurist born at the same time, none of his projects were built (except the small Villa Elisi in Brunate, Lombardy). Nevertheless their drawings are visual masterpieces that had a great importance by inspiring Modernism and contemporary architects.

(Antonio Sant'Elia official website)
(the Manifesto can be read here)
(Cittá Nuova is a series of drawings that started to be exhibited in 1914; today some of them can be seen in the Como's Pinacoteca, Lombardy)
(video about Sant'Elia)

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