Italian urbanist and architect Ludovico Quaroni takes this week’s spot on the list of Expo Architects for his contribution to Italy’s pavilion at World Expo 1958 Brussels.

Known for his use of vernacular models in urban projects and a preference for traditional designs over monumental architecture, Quaroni was one of nine architects who contested the Italian Government’s competition to showcase a modern and resurging Italy at Expo 1958. The group of architects instead came together to create a resolutely anti-modernist project, demonstrating an act of insubordination while reflecting the tense climate that dominated architectural debate in the post-war era.

The resulting pavilion was based around a traditional Italian hill town with little houses built closely together. It thus differed significantly from the formalistic structuralism that predominated the architecture of the Expo. Surrounded by red and green beeches, the ‘village’ had a romantic aspect to it, enhanced by meticulous glass structures on the houses, depicting typical Italian life with its problems and its values.

Italy's pavilion at Expo 1958

Fearing it was too reactionary, the Italian Government publicly distanced itself from the pavilion. Reactions were mixed, however, with visitors finding it charming and romantic, while architectural critics were divided between those who were affronted by its rejection of modernism and those who appreciated its distinctiveness compared to most other pavilions.

Both before and after his contribution to the Italian pavilion, Quaroni led a number of urban redevelopment projects, which were shaped by and had an influence on the ongoing architectural debate in Italy. As illustrated by his role in the Expo 1958, Quaroni was an ardent critic of mainstream thinking throughout his career, as an architect, as an urban planner, and later as a university professor.

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