An itinerary between urban identity and Milanese roots

Luigi Caccia Dominioni is undoubtedly among the most authoritative practioners of traditional Milanese and Lombard architecture thanks to his disciplined adherence to reality in which every architectural solution, while not renouncing refined formal solutions, can always be traced back to a strict architectural logic, the knowledgeable result of an attentive, not to mention patient, harmony between the project’s place — it's locus — the techniques and materials employed. Throughout a remarkably consistent career, his contribution appears to have established a point of contact between the rigour of the “rationalist model” and the freedom of expression intrinsic in the “comprehensive proposal”, without neglecting constant observation regarding the “pre-existing context”. This brief Milanese itinerary intends to touch on some of the cornerstones of his work with the aim of shedding light on the characteristics of his tireless research, one that was never linked to a written theory nor taught, but was instead entrusted to the crystallisation of the constructed objects in which the essence of his expertise shines through in the “sense of appropriateness” and in a “respectful execution” that delineates his unique compositional calligraphy. Over the course of Caccia Dominioni’s studies and professional practice, as we are reminded by MA Crippa, “ there are clearly legible traces of architects and designers that contemporary historiography identifies as rationalist, organic and historicist, but not, however, in an eclectic mixture of components. The cultural seasons that, due to historical contingency, the architect went through, left him with the contribution of different accents, which he managed to make peacefully coexist, modulating them in a reciprocal relationship that did not exclude differences a priori”.

Edificio per abitazioni in via Santa Maria alla Porta (1958-1960)
Edificio per abitazioni, uffici e negozi in corso Monforte (1963-1966)
Collegamento tra la chiesa di san Fedele e la Chase Manhattan Bank (1968-1970)

This brief but incisive interpretation of LCD’s work is very useful for observing, in an attempt to embark on a path of understanding, the many and varied works he carried out with the tenacious intention of wanting to integrate them with the specificity of a place, or a landscape. The relationship between architecture and the city provides the backdrop against which our itinerary moves and defines the works that comprise it in order to clarify the architect’s process of constructing an architectural project. Caccia Dominioni’s works, which are scattered throughout the city and were often built when the surrounding town had not yet taken on its current form, although at times they were also located in consolidated urban areas, can be seen as the crystallisation of an approach to design in which the projects, in addressing urban spaces that were either unresolved or awaiting a final configuration, tried to express and preserve relationships, to relate to the fabric of pre-existing contexts, re-establishing a continuity with the history of the city. The key to this effective harmony between architecture and the city resides primarily in the urban planning emphasis in the methodological approach to design practiced by Caccia, a firm believer in the role of the plan as a generative matrix of the entire project, a tool for effectively controlling the configuration of the rooms and the functional definition of the internal circulation, but above all, the transcription of an idea of dynamic space inextricably linked to human movement and secondly in a consistent "acclimatisation" (1) pursued through an "elegant" (2) handling of iconographic elements drawn from the surrounding city that were incorporated and reinterpreted in the projects, as well as in material-chromatic harmony of architecture with the context. Going through some of Caccia's most significant works, it's possible to trace the cornerstones of a research aimed at shaping design solutions capable of interpreting the traces of the city, the urban character of the places to achieve a spatial project in which man and his needs are taken as priorities.

 

Alberto Gavazzi
Marco Ghilotti

Edificio per uffici e negozi in corso Europa 10-12 (1953-1959)
Edificio per abitazioni in via Ippolito Nievo 28/a (1956-1957)
Edificio per abitazioni in piazza Carbonari (1960-1961)

 

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(1) “Rogers associates elegance with the perfection of design objects, with a renewed techne in which the technical process is inseparable from the artistic process. In this sense, the idea of elegance is a category of judgment that makes reference to adapting the shape to meet the needs of the topic, without grinding and without unnecessary complications.” In Eugenia Lopez Reus, “Ernesto Nathan Rogers, continuità e contemporaneità”, Marinotti, Milan, 2009, p. 198.

 

(2) “I thought it would be a good rule of thumb for all cities to give them  an image that was more close to the ground. If the ground were born architectures, would be born with local materials and then tone-on-tone stone upon another matter on the subject.” In Fulvio Irace, “Caccia visto da Caccia. Colloquio sottovoce tra il critico e l’architetto” Caccia seen by Caccia. A quiet talk between critic and architect” in Fulvio Irace, “Caccia visto da Caccia. Colloquio sottovoce tra il critico e l’architetto” in Fulvio Irace and Paola Marini (ed.), “Lugi Caccia Dominioni. Case e cose da abitare. Stile di caccia”, Marsilio, Venice, 2002, p. 220.

Edificio per abitazioni e uffici in corso Italia (1957-1961)
Edificio per abitazioni in via Cavalieri del Santo Sepolcro (1962-1964)
Sistemazione di piazza San Babila (1996-1997)



figures

Alberto Gavazzi
Marco Ghilotti

Luigi Caccia Dominioni is among the most representative practitioners of the rich architectural heritage in Milan and Lombardy, a tradition that can traced back to a disciplined adherence to reality in which every architectural solution is firmly rooted in a stringent logic, the result of his careful and patient search for harmony between place, techniques and materials. His professional career has followed a consistent trajectory that seems to have established a connection between ‘Rationalist rigor’ and ‘organic’ freedom of expression without ever abandoning a constant attention for ‘pre-existing environmental factors’. This short Milanese itinerary, therefore, has been designed to touch on a few of the cornerstones of his work in the city with the aim of highlighting the distinctive individuality of his tireless study and practice in the field of design, which, having never been taught or consigned to theoretical writings, has instead been entrusted to the crystalisation of his built works. One can ascertain the essence of the profession’s craft in the projects, which exude a sense of “understatement and moderation” and the “respectful execution” that define his highly personal compositional calligraphy.