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When you think of Italian architecture, what first comes to mind are often the classics: formidable hunks of marble and stone, Corinthian columns, Renaissance herringbone, sweeping Gothic arches. From the Colosseum to the Pantheon, ancient Italy is lavish, over-the-top, designed to inspire by the sheer force of its size.
But in 1927, well over 600 years after the Florence Cathedral broke ground in 1296, two men endeavored to move in opposition to their country’s architectural past. Luigi Figini and Gino Pollini were founding members of Gruppo 7, a collective of Italian architects who wished to strike a balance between classicism and industrially-inspired architecture—like something between an 11th century basilica in Rome and a car manufacturing plant in Detroit, if you will. Operating by the aesthetic principles of rationalism, the Figini and Pollini designed their buildings using pure geometric forms and “ideal proportions.”
The result was something truly ahead of its time (hence their contribution to architectural modernism in Italy). In their buildings, there is scant little of the frivolity and excess of the works that came long before. Figini and Pollini were lauded for their severity and simplicity, favoring clean lines and concrete, with nary a fresco or statue in sight, trading tradition for innovation.