Thursday, August 4, 2011

Via Manzoni: generic view, then nn. 1 and 2-4

I'm very excited about today's post, as it's the first of a series I've been wanting to do for a long time.

Building by (more significant) building, I'll take you down--already chic in the seventeenth century--via Manzoni (here seen in a generic shot) stretching over the...More......

...pre-Roman Celtic settlement from the area of the first ancient Roman city gate of the age of Julius Caesar and/or Augustus in Piazza della Scala, past the area of the second ancient Roman gate located at the corner of via Manzoni and via Montenapoleone and dating to the epoch of the emperor Massimilian, to the medieval gate, Porta Nuova, at the opening of Piazza Cavour giving entry to the eighteenth and nineteenth century public gardens now filling the space (where monasteries--at least one with Early Christian origins--and their territories once were the rule) up to where the Spanish Walls of the second half of the sixteenth century went...that's quite a few jumps in history, isn't it?! (I'd say, "Cool!," but that would date me.)

If you're a history buff, for a (very) brief overview of the area, see my posts and Of course, I now have the bug to do something more meaty, but that will have to wait.

Let's get directly to the business at hand: the buildings on via Manzoni, with the even numbers on the eastern side of the street and the uneven numbers on the western side.

The enormous BCI-Banca Commerciale Italiana building has a gorgeous Beaux Arts style façade on Piazza della Scala. This enormous and purposefully magnificent bank structure was built in two phases first in the years of economic recovery after a late 19th century crash (1905-11), then as WWI allowed (1913-24). The architect was Luca Beltrami, a Milanese, who was responsible for the restoration of the Sforza Castle in Milan, and became influential nationally for the preservation and reinterpretation of historic structures for then-modern use. Recently, I've heard rumors that the bank is going to dedicate at least a part of this building to creating a museum, in order to house its extensive art collection. Sounds great! Hope it doesn't take too long.

Its façade, with modern street numbers 2 and 4, takes up the north-eastern corner of Piazza della Scala and the beginning of via Manzoni. Notice how architects of the period thought in a panoramic way about the presentation of the structure: the whole profile of the building resembles the structure of a single column, with its (here dark) base, the (here tall, white with windows) body and the capital (here, the frieze and cornice). This approach can even be seen in the earliest skyscrapers in Chicago, but I digress.

The cornice is decorated with an elaborate frieze of putti with vegetal, garland and shield motifs, with some details picked out in gold leaf. The spanking white background and the confinement of the more elaborate detail to the frieze helps to keep the over all effect from being over the top.

On the opposite side of the street, at the modern n. 1, via Manzoni, is this 1955 reconstruction of a somber Neoclassical structure dating to 1840-44 (I suspect the building suffered badly in the heavy bombings of 1943). This building is famous for having been the seat of Milanese pre-Unification revolutionaries inspired by Mazzini and belonging to the club called "Circolo dell'Unione," as well as having once housed the historic caffé Cova, now found at the corner of via S. Andrea and via Montenapoleone. As you can see, the main façade of the building on via Manzoni is graced with columns and a somber frieze of spirals and acanthus leaves. (On the far left side of the photo, you can see a glimpse of the porch of La Scala.)

There, those are our first steps down via Manzoni...more fun stuff to come!

Most of the western side of the street was shot around 1:00-1:30 P.M. on the 29th of July, 2011, while most of the eastern shots were taken around 3:30-4:00 P.M. on the 2nd of August, 2011.


1 comment:

Margaret said...

Love the really old stuff. Pre-Roman Celtic. Wow.

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