Slab, point-access
Fabio Filzi
Albini, Franco,; Renato Camus, Giancarlo Palanti | Milan, Italy | 1935-38
Image of Fabio Filz...
Typical courtyard facade, detail.

ProjectFabio Filzi
ArchitectAlbini, Franco,; Renato Camus, Giancarlo Palanti
Addressvia Birago 2-4/ via Argonne/ via Illirico 1-3
Building TypeSlab, point-access
Number of Dwellings449
Date Built1935-38
Dwelling Typesstudio, 1 & 2 BR flats
No. Floors5 (plus a basement and attic)
Section Typeflats
Exterior Finish
Construction TypeR-C frame, masonry walls and stucco, wood and steel windows, wood blinds
Ancillary Servicesnone

The Fabio Filzi quarter is probably the best example of neue saclichkeit ideas being applied to social housing in Italy. This is one of the early projects of the Istituto Facista Autonomo per le Case Popolari (IFACP), the Facist version of the ICP (Istituto Case Popolare), the earlier national agency for the construction of low cost housing in Italy. This is one of the most literal applications of the zeilenbau phenomena to be found anywhere. Mainstream European Functionalism, including ideas about standardized building components and existenze minimum (Italian version: case minime), is here applied to the construction of housing for the Italian working class.

Referred to as an "oasis of order", Fabio Filzi takes up a whole city block. From the outside it looks like a normal perimeter slab, however the end elevations, seen from the adjacent park, reveal the real organization: 4 parallel rows of 5 story, point-access apartment slabs aligned on a north/south axis. This building type is used in three different lengths to define the outside edges of the block leaving one slab as more of a freestanding element inside the block. The spaces between rows are paved and minimally landscaped with rows of trees. The project houses about 2100 people in very minimal studio, one and two bedroom flats that are organized around access stairs in clusters of three dwellings per floor. Even though these are extremely small apartments (a 6 person apartment is about 500 sq. ft.) and living areas double as dining/sleeping areas, each has a bath and small kitchen and small balconies. Balconies open to both sides of the building, facing the street along the outside edges and modest landscaped courts between slabs on the interior. The stairs extend a couple of feet into the courtyard space so there are narrow windows on the stair landings and this also marks the building entrance. The combination of vertical stairs, the repeating pattern of regular windows, and the deeper cutouts of the balconies results in remarkable "Rationalist" facades of great plastic, geometric, and structural quality even though rendered as the side of these minimalist blocks. The end elevations are nearly blank interrupted with only a small cantilevered balcony at each floor. The 5 story blocks have basements that are lighted with small windows so that the ground floor is a few feet above the level of the surrounding walks. Construction is concrete frame, masonry and stucco with wood and steel windows and integral roll-down wooden blinds.

At the time of this visit in the early 1980's, the buildings were dangerously dilapidated. The spaces around buildings had been cordoned off because of falling plaster and apparently the buildings were suffering from a lack of normal maintenance and pervasive moisture problems. As the ownership pattern changed from rental to cooperative housing, pensioners, on fixed incomes--many of which were original tenants--did not have the financial resources to properly maintain the building. This has been a reoccurring problem with the social housing that was built in many countries in the 1920's and 1930's. Filzi is an example of what happens in the absence of substantial public programs to maintain, renovate, and upgrade these sites.

Grandi, Maurizio & Attilio Pracchi, Milano: Guida all'architettura Moderna, Zanichelli Editore, Bologna, 1980, pp. 196 & 205.

Franco Albini, exhibition catalogue, Centro Di, Firenze, 1979, pp. 16 & 126.

Carini, Alessandra, Mario Ciammitti and others, Housing in Europe, prima parte, 1900-1960, Edizioni Luigi Parma, Bologna, 19078, pp. 162-65.

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