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Rione Garbatella

August 28, 2013

The first buildings in this area were built around Piazza Benedetto Brin in 1920-21 under King Vittorio Emanuele III, according to the model of the British “garden cities”.The settlement was supposed to be built around the new city harbour, with a channel leading directly to the Ostia seaside. Although near to the spectacular Saint Paul’s Basilica Out of the Walls, not far from the roman walls and the Piramide Cestia, the area was rural had remained until then.  The new housing project were supposed to host immigrants attracted to the capital city from the agricultural suburbs and region. Urbanisation model was articulated in 11 different typologies of growing dimension and complexity: from single family house to large multifamily building. To make it easier for peasants to become citizens and settle every family should have access to green open spaces and vegetable gardens. Due to the cultural and academic background of their planners – Gustavo Giovannoni, Massimo Piacentini and Innocenzo Sabbatini – the first  buildings were also richly decorated with vernacular elements of the agricultural life according to what they called “Barocchetto” style.

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Under Mussolini the idea of a city harbour was abandoned and the plan was radically changed. It became more urban due to the higher density required to accommodate lots of people in short time. In particular people formerly living in the historic areas of Rome subject to massive demolition and reconstruction in the new Italian empire style. Construction of new homes was lead by the Social Housing Institute (ICP) that produced a lot of residential buildings between 1923 and 1927. Beside Innocenzo Sabbatini new architects were selected with competitions for the design of model homes: Plinio Marconi, Gian Battista Trotta, Pario De Rienzi, Mario Marchi, Pietro Aschieri, Gino Cancellotti and Luigi Vietti. Green spaces and decoration were reduced, but not eliminated. Gardens were not for vegetables anymore, but common spaces for the multifamily houses. Around Piazza Michele da Carbonara, in 1927-28 a new typology was realised: the “casa albergo” a temporary collective residential building with reduced private areas and large collective spaces and services. It was meant to host people evicted from the city centre for a short period, before assigning them a new home, but  one year after these experimental typologies were already retrofitted into more traditional multifamily houses.

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At the beginning of the 30es Garbatella was a growing urban neighbourhood. Other plots were built by public social security institutions (like Istituto Postelegrafonici) or occupied by a school, a theatre and later a church and parish centre. After the second world war it kept its character and was touched only at its borders by building boom of the 60es and 70es. Starting from the 90es the neighbourhood became one of the most attractive place to live in Rome. Appearing several times in movies and TV fictions also helped to come out of its ill-famed and un-safe situation, yet being not really a gentrified area.

After these few introductory notes (taken from Municipal website) here are the pictures I took during my walk over a lunch break.  Today you can reach the Garbatella walking from the Ostiense Station or in many other ways.  I arrived there with the Metro Line B, together with lots of students.

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This is  “Albergo Rosso” one of the 3 temporary homes designed by Innocenzo Sabbatini between Piazza Carbonara and Piazza Biffi, named after his colour and soon transformed into block of flats.

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Here is the white Albergo on the same square.

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Narrow and curved streets to adapt buildings to the topography, like in medieval villages or according the urban design principles of Camillo Sitte. Today they are full of cars, but I did not have the impression of any congestion at all.

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Typological and layout variation of flats, like I have never seen elsewhere.

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Paved or green common spaces between block of flats allow for service provision and leisure.  These spaces must have been full of kids a couple of decades ago. Heaven on heart to play hide and seek, cops and robbers etc.

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Very natural way to handle slopes with terraced spaces.

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Large spaces for drying, widely used. I realise I’d never seen people hanging the laundry to an open air wire, but in movies or advertising.  That is common practise here.

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A pity that some of the original squares are misused as a parking, right on top of the hills, in the premium locations where the buildings are renovated.

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Some other locations are badly in ned of maintenance, especially in the public and semi-public sphere.

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This is probably what post-modern architects in the 80es would have liked to achieve, without success. The eclectic re-use of ancient decorative elements is totally natural here because it is supported by great typological, topographic and morphologic richness.  All is kept together by the sense of place of a well rooted community and a little help from the patina of some decades on a well designed and built basis.

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Flowers grown in pots and spontaneously growing on cornices together with TV antennas.

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Still you can find original plates with the number of plot, name of the promoter and building date.

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Most of the times the backdoor is even nicer and better taken care of the main entrance door.

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Some pines have grown higher than the buildings and resist.

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Lunch break at one of the bars in Piazza S.Eurosia. Sitting outside was nice and food looks ok, but was not up to what I expected.

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Original plates for orientation, signed ICP Istituto case Popolari (Social Housing Institute).

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This bar is the location of the famous TV fiction “Cesaroni“.

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