A Call to Arms

Post World War II Italy found itself in a state of shambles. The combination of physical devastation and social severance presented a stage for significant cultural and reshaping. One facet of said reshaping came in the form of housing and urban planing. Together these two elements were forged to give a sense of place, community, and residence to some 350,000 Italian workers’ and their respective families. Providing for the weary citizens of the time was an intelligent and tangible step in the direction towards healing and reconciliation. The initiative to thank for this positive movement is known as the Ina-Casa Project.

A bit after midway through the semester our group learned about this effort and important layer of Italian history more by way of lecture and site visit. After experiencing both and gaining a fair amount of information I began to form my own opinion on the architectural and urban implications of these sites. For a number of reason, I eventually came to the conclusion that this post-war housing plan was pretty spectacular. In the States we hear about low income housing built in areas of cities in order to provide a better standard of living for the less fortunate, but I don’t think that any of those instances, especially not in recent time, could be considered architecturally significant. It is pretty amazing that the Ina-Casa Project believed that just because the houses being planned for construction were for the poor did not mean that they had to poor in concept, quality, or urban intent.  What’s more, the fact that the ICP took the time, effort, and initiative to insert thought and logic into each design, thus creating housing that not only promoted basic human values but also communicated a specific Roman identity in its form.

One of the many things architecture school, if not college in general, teaches a student is how to think to draw comparisons to each individuals specific geographical location and social upbringing/background. Because of this I tried to apply the success that I had seen from Ina-Casa to my home town, Norman. While Norman is not a particularly wealthy town it is not a particularly poor town either, and because of this variable and others it might seem like like a stretch to tie what I’ve learned back to the city. However, it does make me think of the Home Creations company that builds less-than-savory houses around town. Pre-college I worked a handful of home contracting jobs and became familiar with their reputation for quantity of quality and lack of architectural panache. I would like to know how much extra money and thought it would cost to make each Home Creation house/neighborhood more architecturally and culturally significant. Rather than just off-white siding and generic, cheap brick, find some alternative materials and create a variety of forms to create an identity.

The fact that the ICP allowed architects to design with craft, quality, and imagination is so telling of the difference in both time period and culture. I don’t feel like you would ever find such experiential intent behind the design of today’s suburbs. It’s all about time, money, and moving on to the next one. Perhaps this realization can be viewed as a challenge to accept for the future as my peers and I began the transition into the real world of architecture; a world where our designs don’t just affect our GPA but have a much more important social impact on both the micro and macro level.