Piedmont (2)

Before departing, I wanted to photograph a particularly good example of a Piedmontese mountain farmhouse on the hillside up above Bagnolo with its stone rooftiles and long, overhanging eaves, combining barn and living quarters in a single composition:-

This has been one of the pleasures of where we have been staying:  the craftsmanlike details of traditional farmhouse construction in the stone roof:-

The wooden doors:-

And the details of the roof construction:-

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Piedmont (1)

I am prompted by Mark Fisher’s comment about how little Piedmont is known to reflect on the reason why this is so.   Part is presumably historical, the hybridity of the Kingdom of Savoy, part-French, part- Italian, not quite in the mainstream of European politics in the way that European history has been written.   Turin’s historical importance is essentially nineteenth century, in the battles for Independence and in Italian industrial history as a prosperous northern working city, still working now with its air of coffee houses, offices, privacy and arcades.   Much of the countryside is quasi-industrial, built over in the unplanned, undiscriminating way of so much of northern Italy.   So, it is superficially unattractive, which effectively keeps most tourists, apart from Scandinavians, away.   This conceals the sense of history where the mountains meet the plain, the long prosperity, the sense of being a land over which armies marched and the pleasures of the smaller towns, the rhythms of rural life, the enjoyment of Slow Food and vernacular buildings.

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Joseph Rykwert

Since it is now far too hot to do anything other than sit in the sun and read, I have spent the morning reading Joseph Rykwert’s recently published intellectual autobiography, Remembering Places, which provides a fascinating account of his upbringing in prosperous, middle class, Jewish Warsaw, before escaping, but only just, on the outbreak of war and travelling via Lithuania, Latvia, Stockholm and Amsterdam, to London, where his father had an office in Bush House and kept a motor car (a Buick).   He was then sent, improbably, to Charterhouse, half trained as an architect under Albert Richardson at the Bartlett, then stationed in Cambridge, transferred to the Architectural Association, and found his spiritual home in the library of the Warburg Institute, which was still in the old Imperial Institute in South Kensington.   After the war he embarked on a study of Italian architecture, never completed, before transferring to the translation of Alberti’s Ten Books of Architecture, published in 1955, and to the analysis of the origins of Italian towns, which appeared, in 1963, as The Idea of a Town.   His book gives the best possible description of the life of a post-war, Soho intellectual and the free-ranging development of his architectural interests.

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Turin (4)

We consoled ourselves with Aperol spritzes and sandwiches at the newly converted Drogheria in the Piazza Carignano (highly recommended):-

It had a good view of the Piazza:-

And the brick back of S. Filippo Neri:-

By now, we were extremely nearly too late for S. Lorenzo (it closes on the dot of 12 noon):-

We dashed in to see the wonderfully complex cat’s cradle of Guarini’s dome:-

Then, I wanted to see Aimaro d’Isola’s first work – the Turin stock exchange, now deserted, a strong piece of early 50s design and his first work, won in competition when he was still a student:-

Last, we felt that no visit to Turin is complete without a visit to Lingotto, Fiat’s great car factory in south Turin, begun in 1912, with the car track on the roof laid out in 1919, and the remarkably theatrical ramps in 1922:-

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Turin (3)

We had another day of architectural touring in Turin, starting with a BBPR office block in the northern suburbs, designed by Ernesto Rogers in 1959 as a manifesto against modernism:-

From here, we drove to Aldo Rossi’s only work in Turin, much less visually interesting than his manifestoes on urbanism might lead one to expect:-

We parked by the Galleria San Federico, which, rather amazingly, is a building of the 1930s, designed to house the offices of La Stampa:-

Through to the Piazza S. Carlo, a fine piece of seventeenth-century urban design, first planned in 1620, work beginning in 1637:-

We stopped to admire Juvarra’s façade of S. Cristina at the south end, with its fine baroque statuary:-

And Juvarra’s nearby church of S. Filippo Neri with it’s ninetennth-century façade constructed to Juvarra’s design:-


The object of the day’s journey was the Egyptian Museum, but I had forgotten how much its early privatisation (it was privatised in 2004) had led to an infinitely much more professional and well-lit set of museum displays (and vastly much more popular), but a simultaneous loss of the original, extraordinarily well-preserved, nineteenth-century sense of imaginative discovery (till recently, it was pretty much as it was originally laid out in the Palace of the Accademia delle Scienze in 1824).

I took photographs of two sad cat mummies:-

And Pharaoh Horemheb with the god Amun:-

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