Ambientismo and the Modern Style in the Architecture of Marcello Piacentini

By David Rinehart

The architecture of Marcello Piacentini (1881-1960) is characterized by two overarching and interwoven themes: the creation of buildings designed to be appropriate to their environment – embodied in a concept termed ambientismo – and the development of a modern Italian style. The thesis examines the evolution of the interrelationship of these two themes in Piacentini’s projects and writings from the first decade of the twentieth century through the 1950’s, with a particular focus on Piacentini’s urban designs and theories.

I will posit that the multitudinous forms of the city and the malleability of the concept of environment – a term encompassing both the physical realm, ranging from the immediately adjacent urban fabric to the regional and national built environments; and the cultural environments – allowed for a diversity of conditions through which Piacentini could develop his theories in written and built form on modern Italian architecture. The rise of the Fascist regime, concurrent with that of Piacentini’s prominence, presented him with ever-larger urban commissions whose content and form became increasingly politicized. Ultimately, I argue that placing an emphasis on the cultural environment over the adjacent urban environment enabled Piacentini to define his modern Italian style.