Luigi Pellegrin: Visionary of Architecture
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In 1930, Luigi Pellegrin’s father is working on the Buon Pastore compound in Rome, the future seat of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd of Augiere. Pellegrin writes: “I was five years old when I entered Buon Pastore. I spent there the following five years, while the building grew up faster than me”. The compound is a huge baroque castle set on green hills sliding down towards the city; on the background, in the distance, Saint Peter’s dome. All around just green fields. Twenty years later, at the beginning of the 50s, Pellegrin starts his career as an architect. The war has just finished, reconstruction is starting and Pellegrin chooses the organic way. He takes root in Wright. In the first half of the 50s, he goes repeatedly to the United States. First in Louisiana where the experience in the practice of W. R. Burck will immediately oblige him to face the subject of school building. Then in Chicago. In the Art Institute, a woman shows him Louis Sullivan’s drawings. He will be struck by them and that vision will nourish all his research. During these stays he starts a deep investigation on the entire body of the “Chicago School”. In 1956 Pellegrin meets Wright who is in Rome as Bruno Zevi’s guest. He appreciates Wright’s capacity to “skip history and let archaic shapes reemerge”, but in Sullivan’s drawings - observed in the Art Institute of Chicago - he glimpsed something indefinite and clear at the same time. In those drawings, made of rigid and flowing geometries, Pellegrin sees chaos and cosmos, primordial impulses, coagulating fluxes of energy. A freeze-frame of the primordial soup.

In line with Soleri and Fuller’s approach, Pellegrin proposes interventions on planetary level. He imagines to locate the population in a overhead ring along the equator. “On our planet Earth the temperate zone is the most appropriate place to live in harmony with natural conditions”. In a vision which denies anthropocentrism, but not the role of man, Pellegrin proposes a new place for man on the planet. A place that leaves space also to others, to nature, to vegetation. Visions of a freed environment where the buildings are limited to dense hubs raised from the ground. Clearing the ground is the constant imperative: the place for man is above, in specialized macro branches connected through lines which contain energy fluxes. On the ground, nature regains its space; the artificial is limited to few, dense singular points. Changing perspective, jumping to the planet level, Pellegrin shows us how to face the theme of sustainability in a different, almost brave, way.

Luigi Pellegrin, 1925 – 2001

Text by Sergio Bianchi
In 1966 Pellegrin produces a set of fantasy drawings that recall the movements of matter. That makes him start an investigation on how the artificial should relate with the planet. In 1992 he reorders that set of visions according to different themes. In these drawings Pellegrin foresees spaces that fluctuate on the planet surface. Supports are reduced to the minimum. Sometimes it’s the planet surface itself that twists and generates space.
These visions suggest him a new way to inhabit the planet. The idea of settlements as clusters of matter lifted from the ground. This idea was embryonic in Le Corbusier. In Le Corbusier’s thinking there was also the separation from the ground: the pillars were supposed to give a visual continuity to the ground level. However, according to Pellegrin, Le Corbusier’s pillars are not enough because “they do not allow the earth to breath”. “Pillars should allow the real continuity”, so he pushes and separates them “moving the buildings between 20 and 40 meters from the ground”.
In 1974 he plans and builds a housing module using reinforced polyester resin and calls it a "modular monobject". During these years, he intensely focuses on prefabrication. This research leads him to develop numerous patents mostly applied to school building. The unit is motivated only in terms of its aggregation and this set always bends in its attempt to generate macrospacing, allowing free spaces to flow on the ground.
In 1970, Pellegrin writes “it’s a great feeling and pleasure to imagine the transition of a line from its static shape to a containing cavity vector, that freed from its adherence to the ground can penetrate mountains and reemerge to the light and continue to roll creating a hub, a community place”.
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