Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Torre Velasca, Milan


There are few modern buildings in the centre of Milan and Torre Velasca is a rare example. Built in 1957-58 to a design by BBPR Partners (R standing for Ernesto Rogers, cousin to Richard Rogers), it has 26 floors of which the upper 8 floors occupy a larger floor area giving the complete building a highly distinctive mushroom-like appearance. The architects claimed that its form echoed the shape of traditional Lombard defensive structures. Be that as it may, the principle advantage was the provision of additional floor space to maximise the rental potential.


The upper 8 floors of Torre Velasca are occupied by apartments; the lower floors are used for office accommodation. The architects took care to avoid excessive repetition by distributing the fenestration on a semi-random basis. The overall impact of the tower on its surrounding streets is less than might be expected given its stark unembellished presence. The austere concrete façade and the looming upper floors supported by muscular concrete brackets suggest a proto-Brutalism. YouTube has a short film, dialogue heavy (in Italian), for those who want to see more.



Friday, 10 February 2017

Funiculì Funiculà


Italian topography with extensive ranges of hills and mountains favoured the development of funicular railways of which some 14 still survive. A selection can be seen on these vintage postcards. The Neapolitan song Funiculì Funiculà was composed in 1880 to commemorate the opening of the Mount Vesuvius cable car service. The refrain travelled at speed around the world convincing many listeners that it was a traditional song in the public domain. It was borrowed on the basis of this misapprehension by Richard Strauss and Rimsky-Korsakov. Strauss was sued by the composer, Luigi Denza and compelled to pay for the privilege. Strangest of all is the arrangement for chamber orchestra written by Arnold Schoenberg in 1921.







Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Italian Line


When it comes to advertising passenger shipping there are a number of clearly defined conventions – the bow first plunge through the ocean waves, dressing for dinner on-board, champagne and cocktails in the lounge, sun-bathing on the deck etc. The first example here conforms to none of these. A contre-jour child is guided toward the light by a uniformed medic or stewardess while the looming super-natural presence of the rock suggests an object of worship or a place of sacrifice. This illustration is the first of a three page ad from Fortune magazine – flip the page and a more familiar approach is revealed.


The Italian Line was a Genoa-based passenger shipping line that offered transatlantic travel to North and South America. As that market declined they shifted to operating cruises and finally mutated into a cargo shipper with a fleet of container vessels. All except the last of these ads are aimed at the American traveller. The Italian market is tempted with more sophisticated imagery and the bare minimum of text.