Welcome is Bologna

Contemporary Architecture in Bologna

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Photo by Ivano Lollo

The respectful dialogue between Ancient and New can be perceived throughout the entire urban fabric of Bologna, as it is enriched by important works of contemporary architecture.


Texts edited by Linda Veronese

The old town centre

The old town centre

At the very heart of the city, Via Rizzoli is dominated by several imposing modern palazzos that sometimes mar the original appearance of the area. Worthy of note, however, at number 16 stands Casa Commerciale Barilli (1906-07 architect Leonida Bertolazzi) one of Bologna’s very first department stores and an excellent example of an Art Nouveau building with clear references to the Vienna Secession in its decor and wrought iron railings. At number 23/d of Via Altabella, a store, Gavina (1960 architect Carlo Scarpa) assails the ancient city with its modernity: the exterior façade, with its linear composition, is clad with a huge concrete slab, punctuated by large, round windows. In the old town centre (Via Vascelli, Piazza di Porta Sant’Isaia, Viale Gozzadini) there are several important works by Bologna’s own architect Giuseppe Vaccaro, created for the “Cooperativa Mutilati e Invalidi di Guerra”, an association for those mutilated and disabled during the War.

 Manifattura delle Arti

Manifattura delle Arti

Photo by Ivano Lollo

Since 2000 an intense project of urban regeneration, entrusted to architect Aldo Rossi, has involved the current Manifattura delle Arti, or Factory of Arts. The works have affected: the former Manifattura Tabacchi, tobacco factory, with its Art Nouveau façade, that accommodates the headquarters of the prestigious Film Archives and the digital restoration workshop. The 11 Settembre 2001 Park is a public area that is still bordered by the old walls of the former manufacturing plants. The Castellaccio district is used for university and public residences. The former Mulino Tambroni mill is now the University’s Department of Media Sciences and the old Forno del Pane, or bakery, is currently the headquarters of MamBo, Bologna’s Modern Art Museum. Nowadays the former Salara, or salt store, is the headquarters of the LGBT community and cultural centre. The former Macello, or abattoir, houses the Cinema Lumière and the Renzo Renzi library.

The University District

The University District

In the 70s the centre of the city was involved in an intense programme to restore and preserve its historic mediaeval fabric and there are now some outstanding examples of Contemporary Architecture linked to university life. In Porta San Donato the Institute and Museum of Mineralogy and the Maths Department. Piazza Scaravilli houses the complex of the new Faculty of Business and Economics. The corner that connects the square to Via Belle Arti is entirely taken up by the Library of the Faculty of Business and Economics and by the Institute of Statistics, two buildings that are closely linked by the expressive language of bare concrete, combined with copper cladding and wooden frames. Along Via Belmeloro stands the new headquarters of the Johns Hopkins University (1956-60 architect Enzo Zacchiroli) a building with no reference to the old, but with a free and simple courageous interpretation that is in sharply in contrast with harmonisation in a historical context.

Via Marconi

Via Marconi

Photo by Ivano Lollo

In the nineteen thirties (1932-1936) the fascist administration completed the modern thoroughfare, initially named Via Roma, which was developed on the left-hand side with several buildings that reflected the modernist formalism of the time. Starting from the south and proceeding towards the railway station we encounter: the monumental concave facade of Palazzo del Gas on the corner of Via delle Lame; the so-called Palazzo Faccetta Nera with its very close attention to detail in the unusual decoration of concentric diamond shapes; the imposing Palazzo Lancia with its interesting tower on the corner of the crossroads with Via Riva di Reno. On the right-hand side, at number 67/2, stands the noteworthy Casa del Contadino, or farmer’s house, with original reliefs by Farpi Vignoli, dedicated to the figure of the Farmer, and the Meeting Hall, decorated by painter Galileo Chini, which is partially visible.

Via Dei Mille and via Irnerio

Via Dei Mille and via Irnerio

Photo by Ivano Lollo

From the quadrilateral shape of Piazza dei Martiri, with its central fountain, inaugurated in 1933, we proceed along Via dei Mille where, on the left-hand side, stands the old headquarters of ENPAS, the national welfare association for civil servants, (designed in 1956, inaugurated in 1963, architect Saverio Muratori) which was created from a critical and modern reworking of the Bologna’s traditional style with portico and overhang. A slight detour along Via Capo di Lucca makes it possible to visit the controversial former Centrale dei Telefoni di Stato, or Telephone Exchange (1968-74 architect Enzo Zacchiroli) a modern technological building which is seemingly isolated from the historical fabric, yet is in complete harmony with the area’s industrial past. Then we encounter the spectacular Headquarters of the Zanichelli publishing house (1938 architect Luigi Veronesi) with its square shape and marble and granite cladding.

Engineering Faculty - Viale Risorgimento, 2

Engineering Faculty - Viale Risorgimento, 2

Photo: Faculty of Engineering © University of Bologna-2013

The project, by architect Giuseppe Vaccaro was approved by Mussolini in person, who recognised its validity and compliance with the standards of “new Italian architecture”. Inaugurated on 28 October 1935 (anniversary of the March on Rome) the new headquarters of the School of Engineers symbolizes the desire for renewal in the culture of construction. Vaccaro uses a mature and up-to-date language to express the cutting-edge issues of the Modern Movement by creating a building that is functional yet, at the same time, an expression of purity, knowledge and awareness. Its educational functionality is guaranteed by careful division of the interior spaces, as its floor-plan develops to accommodate its function. Externally, the considerable size adapts to its urban setting thanks to the primary use of horizontal lines, interrupted at the entrance by the abrupt verticality of the red brick tower, which is reminiscent of local tradition.  

The Fair District– Piazza Costituzione

The Fair District– Piazza Costituzione

Photo by Ivano Lollo

Since the 50s several architectural and urban works have focused on the fair district. In the late 60s the Council of Bologna appointed Japanese architect Kenzo Tange to carry out an ambitious plan to prepare Bologna for the most modern urban research. The Fair District is the only part of Tange’s plan that was actually completed. The architectural tower-like style is suited to managerial use. The “l’Esprit Nouveau” Hall originally created by Le Corbusier in 1925 for the Parisian exhibition, was reproduced in Bologna’s fair district, to meet with the contemporary architecture of the site. It is made up of two parts: an L-shaped cell, prototype of the residential unit and a cylindrical body that can house projects and exhibitions. Piazza della Costituzione also houses the headquarters of the former GAM (Gallery of Modern Art - 1975) designed by architect and painter Leone Pancaldi, the design is rational yet with modular and open internal spaces.

MAST - via Speranza 40-42

MAST - via Speranza 40-42

The Manifattura di Arti, Sperimentazione e Tecnologia, or Factory of Arts, Experimentation and Technology, is located on the outskirts of the city in an area that has been strongly marked by industrial activity. The MAST project was conceived as a formula for integration between business, the local area and the surrounding community. A relationship that places the multipurpose centre at its core - designed by Studio Labics in Rome, with clean geometric lines that offer the complex a light appearance, aided by remarkable elements in glass and steel – with its rich offering of social and cultural services (exhibition space and academy dedicated to technological innovation).