Urban villa
Fratelli Ruspoli
Luccichenti, Ugo | Rome, Italy | 1949
Image of Fratelli ...
Fratelli Ruspoli facade (north)

ProjectFratelli Ruspoli
ArchitectLuccichenti, Ugo
AddressVia Fratelli Ruspoli, 6-14
Building TypeUrban villa
Number of Dwellings6
Date Built1949
Dwelling Types4 BR flats
No. Floors6
Section Typeflats
Exterior Finish
plaster, stone, metal windows
Construction TypeRC frame
Ancillary Servicesparking, portiere flat

As the Italian economy expanded in the years following WWII. a lucurative industry developed around the subdivision of the rolling hills on the outskirts of Rome and the construction of hundreds of small residential apartment blocks built between 1935 and 1965. Modeled after the venerable Italian palazzo, these blocks were designed for different densities using three basic building types-- palazzine, intensivi, and villini -- following the zoning and building laws established under the 1931 Master Plan for the city. These buildings, built essentially as high density garden city communities, were the dominant instrument of middle class real estate speculation in most of Rome’s suburban communities built in the post war years. (See Rea for more information about this building type.)

Ugo Luccicenti was trained as an engineer but practiced as an architect in a long-standing relationship with il Società Generale Immobiliare, one of Italy’s largest real estate development companies. Most of the buildings are in the quarters north of central Rome including, Parioli, Monte Mario, and Flaminio. He had a reputation as a “developer’s architect”, but one who was noted for his innovative designs such as the intriguing street façades of intensivi Libia (1948-49) and Pinturrichio (1953-54), the very long repetitive form of the Belsito group (1953-54) that defines a public pizza at the edge of Monte Mario, and includes the project shown here on via Fratelli Ruspoli (1946-49). A palazzina built in a curving triangular form on a curving street, it was popularly known as the “The Prow” because of the distinctive ship-like acute corner formed by the cantilevered balconies along the street.

The palazzina districts in Rome consist mostly of repetitive free-standing square buildings, however, there is great variety due to the rolling nature of the natural landscape, the meandering organization of streets, the fact that they were designed by different architects and because they were built incrementally over a 40 year period. The typical palazzina is 6 stories tall including a penthouse apartment. Usually there are two large flats per floor with shared access. The ground floor is taken up with entrances, a portiere flat, and sometimes light commercial or office uses or an entrance to subterranean parking. Extensive balconies are a dominant feature of palazzina architecture and help create the overall garden city ambience.

This site is smaller than normal and has a difficult shape, due to the angles of adjacent buildings and the fact that Via Fratelli Ruspoli is a curving street. The juxtaposition of builidngs and streets results in an acute angle where the site angles intersect at the NW corner of the building. Luccichenti solved this problem by arcading the entire street façade with cantilevered balconies that are supported by a floor to ceiling glass gallery of small, narrowly-spaced columns. Also, where the angle of the curving form the gallery and the right angle of the adjacent building intersect, the sides of the balcony come to a point and are supported on two free-standing round columns. Unlike the casement windows used in most palazzine of this period, continuous floor to floor glazing is used here resulting in a very transparent effect suggesting an exposed frame structure. Instead of expressing the penthouse with a stepped back terrace, Luccicienti treats it like an extended curtain wall with tower-like porportions that is seen dominantly from oblique street views and is supported by a dense plinth with only a few openings for the entry and portiere’s apartment that has a porch again defined with the pair of porch columns. An auto ramp along one side connects to a lower parking court that is shared with the a building to the rear. In a theme to be repeated in later buildings, Luccichenti uses travertine applied in a random pattern to create a rusticated base, a gesture to traditional piano nobile ideas. The glass balustrade at the edge of the cantilevered balcony enhances the overall sense of transparency; a curvilinear crystalline element designed apparently for solar sun protection but facing north. The side and rear facades are versions of standard planar palazzina types with corner balconies and rooms that that are organized around a small central court and stair. The plan is large even by palazzina standards and features a large salon/living/dining room along the Fratelli Ruspoli facade.

Rossi, Piero Ostilio, Roma Guida all árchitettura moderna 1901-1984, Editore Laterza, Roma, 1984, p. 80.

De Gutty, Irene, Guida Di Roma Moderna, De Lucca Editore, Roma, 1978, p. 80.

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