Carlo Mollino was a great architect too. Last year we have visited his last masterwork: Teatro Regio in Turin finished in 1973. For this occasion we have made our own series of pictures and now we publish them with architectural chapter from our Mollino book. Find Mollino`s architectural legacy as well as details about this spectacular theatre in the center of Turin bellow.
Mollino’s significance in architecture can be seen not only in specific implementations, but also in his nonconformist views on it. Thus, his projects that have never been implemented represent for us an even more interesting chapter of his work, which started in 1934 when he finished the headquarters of the Farmers’ Association in Cuneo in collaboration with V. Baudi di Selve. This three-story building with rational foundations and a rounded quoin, designed in the period aestheticism reminiscent of Guiseppe Terragni, proves that Mollino was heading in a direction contrary to Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. Thus, Eriche Mendelsohn, for whom Mollino briefly worked in his Berlin-based studio, Alvar Aalto, and Hans Scharoun became the key reference points for Mollino’s organically focused architecture.
The Turin equestrian association, built from 1937 to 1940, demonstrates Mollino’s organic line in a very convincing way. The large campus, which includes a riding hall, stables, and rooms for social events, represents a very original interpretation of an organic style. Purely white surfaces, combined with sharp geometrical facing and wavy mouldings, link period modernism with the inspirational source of Turin Baroque by Guarino Guarini. The spectacular stairway hall with broken glass railings and a rococo chandelier crowns Mollino’s exquisite style. Subsequent designs and implementations from the 1940s transform the architect’s expression into a free concept of form. An imaginary design from 1942 entitled “The House on the Hills” for Domus magazine presents Mollino’s perspective of a perfect private residence. Whereas the front side of the tall slender monolith is fully glazed, the three other walls are made from rustic stonework. The top floor is angular and equipped with a terrace finished by a wall in the form of a wave. This design represents Mollino’s complex intentions with specific solutions to individual details.
"The House on the Heights" from 1944 is also a hypothetic project of a modern house. Mollino combined formal archetypes of ancient and byzantine architecture and achieved a nearly post-modern source of inspiration in a villa that personifies a contemporary profane temple. However, the design is all along the lines of Mollino’s typical organic modernism, which does not lack a formally irregular atrium and a semi-domed glazed space. In 1947, the architect finished a very impressive design of a funicular station, as well as the Lago Nero guesthouse, which links a modernist ground floor and a large terrace on conical pillars with a top section made from wood with a gable roof inspired by traditional Alpine architecture. Mollina would later focus on this architectural style in this time and in all his architectural designs from that time onward. However, there is one exception from this trend – the design of a residential building on the sea coast in San Remo from 1948. This dynamical structure, complete with an elaborate interior, was to be embedded into the dramatic environment of the cliffs.
At that time, the architect coped with local architectural traditional and the most progressive construction trends at the same time. Be it the expressive design of the Fürggen funicular station, the re-design of the Garelli traditional Alpine chalet, the design for the suspension “Truss House” or the constructed Casa del Sole chalet and hotel in Cervinia, he always interconnected the post-war organic concept with mountain rusticity. The family house in Luin by lake Maggiore, built from 1951 to 1953, was also conceived in a very expressive way – the house is pushed above ground by means of concrete beams and equipped with a typical gable roof.
However, the most challenging assignments awaited Mollino towards the close of his life. The Turin chamber of commerce was built from 1964 to 1972 in collaboration with Carlo Graffi, A. Galardi, and A. Migliassi. The brutalist and futuristic expression of the building, which bears a geometrical grid of rounded windows, lacks Mollino’s characteristic features from the 1950s. Thus, the magnanimous extension of the Teatro Regio in Turin, finished in 1973, gives a more personal impression. The brick organic mass with large glazed surfaces refers to the radical architecture of Guarino Guarini. The interior of the lobby, furnished with a geometrical crystalline ceiling and geometrical brick reliefs, contrasts with the fluid space of the auditorium, in which Mollino achieved an unusual dynamic animation in collaboration with Carlo Graffi and A. Zavelani Rossi. The auditorium, constructed in the shape on an egg, is topped with spectacular lighting by Gino Sarfatti. Mollino could not have left behind a better architectural testament.