The memorial to the victims of concentration camps was an essential moment in the renewal Milan's architectural environment after the war, on par with the Monument to the Martyrs of Fosse Ardeatine in Rome. The structure is made of welded metal tube, painted white, forming a three-dimensional grid of 212 centimeters per side from the intersection between the figures of a cube and a Latin cross. In its center is a glass display case that protects an urn holding soil from the concentration camp at Mauthausen. The figure's regular quality is contradicted by the asymmetrical position of the black Sweden granite and Candoglia white marble plaques set in the cage, bearing parts of Jesus's Sermon called “Discorso della montagna” from the Gospel according to Mathew.


The trellis projects over a cross-shaped base made of Moltrasio stone whose weightiness emphasizes the lightness of the upper part. The theme of the three-dimensional frame is a tribute to the finest expressions of Rationalism. In this way, the monument takes back up a discourse tragically interrupted by the war. Some have connected the wire-shaped cage to the Renaissance tradition, particularly to Piero della Francesca. It also alludes to the Enlightenment ideals of the 30s as well as the "prisoner objects" artwork by Alberto Giacometti and Fausto Melotti. Through the tube trellis, the memorial becomes a commemoration of an ideal that is still in effect, trying to establish continuity with part of the Modern Movement's tradition, that can be tied particularly to the person of Edoardo Persico.


The monument we see today is actually the third version of it, which is the reconstruction of the original design from 1946 that the Associazione dei Reduci (Veteran's Association) commissioned to BBPR. The original work was made very quickly. It rapidly deteriorated and was replaced in 1950 with a similar construction but with different dimensions, a bronze framework, and a white marble base. But in 1955, BBPR itself already sought another renovation to return the monument to its first version, after having convinced the Associazione dei Reduci that the second version was inappropriate as it was too refined and the materials too opulent. This project marked BBPR's return to professional work after the forced interruption of the war. More than a declaration of architecture's moral engagement, It is a sorrowful testament to the loss of many of their collegues, including Pagano, Beltrami, Giolli, Labò, and, above all, one of the studio's founders, Gian Luigi Banfi.


Paolo Brambilla


Milano, Sarpi