After Architect Aldo Rossi: The Hand of San Carlone and the Theatre’s of Life at Fagnano Alona and Broni
Mounting the stair of the plinth, the pilgrim enters the body of the saint. After ascending the interior of the body, one arrives at the head and peers through the eyes of San Carlone toward the grey lakes of Maggiore. Two Regionale trains and a wet walk from Milano Centrale, it takes a little under two hours to reach the location of Rossi’s drawn, re-drawn and drawn again hand of San Carlone at Arona. Architect Cerano designed the 35 metre high iron structure, enclosed in folded copper that one can climb by hooking into a harness and reaching toward the heavens by ladder.
A detour home via Sunday bus service and a further one and a half hour stroll, I received a pleasant welcome from a teacher named Virginia Mont who guided me around Rossi’s elementary school in Fagnano Olona. The school is organised around a central courtyard with steps that lead to the double height gymnasium. Like in the preliminary studies for San Cataldo Cemetery, Modena (both designs of the 1970s), a skeletol plan form emerges, with classrooms arranged linearly along the legs. One enters at the head of this skeletol creature, underneath a clock and adjacent chimney, and proceeds to the circular, meeting space, which unfortunately is now showing signs of water penetration. The elevation is punctured with large square openings set in line with the internal wall thus articulating the shadow that falls on the external surface.
The intermediate school in Broni, south of Milan, further interrogates the courtyard as an organisational device. Now, a single storey encloses an hexagonal meeting space. A halt in the enclosing wall of classrooms allows views toward the housing that surround the school. As with Fagnano Olona, Rossi sets the square window frames flush with the inside. Shadow again allowing one to visualise the passing of time.
Ben Huser recently posted an homage to Aldo Rossi in which Huser included some of his beautiful photographs of the floating Teatro del Mondo. To make a comparison, the central hexagonal space of Broni is reconfigured within Rossi’s sketch studies for his floating pavilion at the 1980 Venice Biennale: with only a slight modification, a theatre of life becomes a theatre of the world. A similar comparison can be made with the San Cataldo Cemetery and Fagnano Olona School which merge into one another: one a theatre for the dead, the other a play of life.