Throughout the twentieth century, architects in Italy have attempted to define the role of architecture in a capitalist economy and under diverse political systems, from the monarchy of the first seventy years since Italian unification, to the twenty-one years of Fascist control, to the post-World War II parliamentary republic. Early modern architecture coincided with a sustained drive to transform a country that was still primarily rural into a modern industrial state. At the same time, Italy holds some of the most prized architecture and art in the world, from antiquity to the baroque, packed into its dense historic city centres, which planners and politicians have negotiated as they struggled to cope with massive migration from the countryside to the city. Diane Ghirardo addresses these and other issues by considering modern architectural production in Italy from the late nineteenth century to the present day within a clear presentation of the larger historical, social and political contexts.
She examines the post-unification efforts to identify a distinctly Italian architectural language, as well as the transformation of the urban environment in Italian cities undergoing industrialization in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She challenges received interpretations of modern architecture, and she also focuses on the subject of illegal building and responses to current ecological challenges. Her examples, which also come up to date with work by contemporary architects, are drawn not only from the work of widely published architects from the largest cities such as Rome, Milan and Florence, but from throughout the peninsula, including small towns and rural areas, which further helps to illuminate many things about the building industry in Italy. Italy: Modern Architectures in History provides a fascinating insight into the development of modern architecture and nuanced arguments about architecture and building practices, and it offers a new way of understanding the history of modern Italy. It is essential reading for all those who want to learn more about Italian modern architecture and all those interested in Italian culture.