Aldo Rossi (3 May 1931 – 4 September 1997) was an italian architect and designer who achieved international recognition in four different areas: theory, drawing, architecture and product design. He is the first Italian Pritzker Prize winning architect (1990), followed 8 years later by Renzo Piano.
” Each of Rossi’s designs, whether an office complex, hotel, cemetery, a floating theatre, an exquisite coffee pot, or even toys, captures the essence of purpose” (Pritzker Prize Jury Citation)
Studies and early works
In 1949 he started studying architecture at the Politecnico di Milano where he graduated in 1959.Already in 1955 he started writing for the Casabella magazine, where he became editor between 1959–1964. His earliest works displayed a simultaneous influence of 1920s Italian modernism, classicist influences of Viennese architect Adolf Loos, and the reflections of the painter Giorgio de Chirico
The 60s are a very important decade for his theoretical research, already started by other italian important architects such as Canella, Gae Aulenti, Gabetti and Isola. The object of his research is the real essence of architecture, its original and earliest shapes. To do that, Aldo Rossi had to distance himself from his context, this is the reason why he received many dislikes from the contemporary critics. But thanks to his “rude indifference” he was able to elaborate a code of symbols and abstractions, a language made out of elementary shapes (triangles, spheres, cones, …) able to isolate an architecture from its context, but also able to to talk about this sought exile.
City, monuments and collective memory
His attention was also captured by the city and by urban planning, especially about suburbs. In his writings Rossi criticized the lack of understanding of the city in current architectural practice: a city must be studied and valued as something constructed over time. He was particular interested by monuments and by those urban artifacts that withstand the passage of time: he thought that the city holds our collective memory (the past) and we can perceive it through monuments. Monuments give structure to the city.
In the 70s and 80s he became extremely influential and his theories were promoted in his books The Architecture of the City (L’architettura della città, 1966) and A Scientific Autobiography (Autobiografia scientifica, 1981). The largest of Rossi’s projects in terms of scale was the San Cataldo Cemetery, in Modena, Italy. Because of his unstoppable theoretical research, the cemetary was submitted to many changes ant it is still incomplete. Some other important projects are the floating “Teatro del Mondo”, designed for the Venice Biennale in 1979, and the renovation of “Teatro Carlo Felice”, Genoa.
The “non-architectural” side
All his illustrations, engravings and watercolors are extremely interesting, as you can really perceive the consecutive steps of his theoretical activity. The distinctive independence of his buildings is reflected in the micro-architectures of the products designed by Rossi. In the 1980s Rossi designed stainless steel cafetières and other products for Alessi, Pirelli, and others.