Monday, August 16, 2010

Siren call in Sempione Park

Four sister sirens to guard the little bridge over the brook in Sempione Park behind the Sforza castle. Hiding in trees is their just deserve for having failed to protect the bridge in the first place....More......

Designed by F. Tettamanzi and cast by the firm Rubini, Scalini and Falck in 1842, they originally were positioned at the corner of what is now via Senato and via San Damiano over the medieval canal before it was covered, perhaps in the 1930s, in Milan's rush to hygiene (anti-mosquito, anti-malaria, anti-cholera, anti-etc.) and into the car (more paved streets = sale of more cars and tires).

What are they made out of? Cast iron. Big deal, you say.

BZZZZZZZ Wrong answer!

In that day, cast iron had been more common for industrial objects, such as bridge supports and warehouse elements. Little by little, it began creeping into the eye's way.

Similar to Realism in painting and sculpture, architectural forms began slowly to express their own reality: function (for that, see pre-Bauhaus Otto Wagner in Vienna and--if I remember!--a future post about Milan), rationality, the practical and the beauty of possibilities inherent in the material, increasingly considered legitimate for artistic projects. The reading room of the Bibliothèque Ste. Geneviève (1843-1850) in Paris by Henri Labrouste comes to mind in which the iron columns run down the center of the room flanked by traditional masonry arches (or, at least metal structure arches masked by traditional masonry...which is it?, anyway, you get the point) and the ceilings are supported with lacey cast iron arches decorated with (traditional) acanthus spirals (concessions, concessions, concessions). I'll pull two easily visible examples in Milan out of my image bank some other day.

I'm cast iron, and I'm proud!

I snapped this photo during an oppressively hot day (during which I hoped I learned my lesson from the near heat stroke), July 17, 2010, at about 3:30 P.M.

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