by Napoleone Ferrari

 

 

Not only was Carlo Mollino a practical person who designed, built, skied, photographed, and flew, he also tackled the theoretical side of the disciplines he confronted. Practice and theory went hand in hand, leading him to devote a great deal of his work to studies, essays, books, and novels, as well as to teaching.

Initially his interest was sparked by the purely expressive potentials of writing: in the 1930s he practiced it as a form of art just as he did with architecture and photography.

It is particularly relevant that his career as an architect initiated in 1933 with a novel, “Vita di Oberon” (The Life of Oberon). Right after winning his first competition for an office building in March, he took the time during the summer to publish in Casabella, the foremost Italian architecture magazine, the story of Oberon, a young architect who had just died. This fictitious and autobiographical narrative represented a manifesto, a program for Mollino that at the same time introduces us to the particular pleasure he found in storytelling, which he then went on to translate in his architectural work.

If it seems rather unusual for an architect to be a novelist, this becomes less strange if we look closer at his milieu. In the 1920s and 1930s his best friends were artists—such as Carlo Levi, Italo Cremona, Mino Maccari—and important cultural reference points were the Metaphysical painter Giorgio De Chirico and his brother Savinio—who regularly visited Turin—both painters and men of letters.

Prior to becoming a great builder-narrator Mollino published another novel, “L’amante del Duca” (The Duke’s Lover): set in the Rivoli villa in which he spent his childhood, it is an exquisitely surrealist story published in the literary avant-garde magazine Il Selvaggio (The Savage). He also wrote two other short novels[^] that were never completed and eventually lost—”Il saldatore di Torino” (The Welder of Turin) and “L’inutile avventura” (The Useless Adventure)—whose titles once more evoke a tight relationship with his architectural work.

In 1941 Mollino abandoned literature (a delightful parenthesis was opened and closed with the Drago da passeggio [A Strolling Dragon], a booklet gifted to friends for the 1963-64 New Year), switching to writing essays on architecture, and in 1947 he published his first book: Architettura. Arte e tecnica (Architecture. Art and Techinque).

During the war years he also prepared a manual on ski techniques, Introduzione al discesismo (Introduction to Downhill Skiing), published later in 1950, and a book on photography, Il Messaggio dalla Camera Oscura (Message from the Darkroom), published in 1949. The latter represents the most in-depth articulation of Mollino’s conceptualization on art, beyond the specific photographic discipline.

The architecture-related texts by Mollino are mostly historical and analytical essays never intended to provide any operative directions for the actual practice of architecture. Mollino’s constant concern was to clear the field from any sort of ideology, demolishing all sorts of prejudices and enclosures while opening the way to a freedom of expression.

Even in his book on skiing techniques (he considered skiing a form of expression), Mollino did not aim to present the ‘proper’ way to ski but, instead, to invite beginners to devise their own way toward “a more original and profound interpretation and adherence to themselves and also to skiing, at the same time debunking a number of legends and didactic dogmatism.”[^]

The activity of essayist propelled Mollino’s academic career, which began in 1949. According to some academics,[^] one of Mollino’s greatest contributions to Turin’s Faculty of Architecture consisted in the creation of a vast and up-to-date library, open to different disciplines.

In 1954, in coincidence with the crisis following the death of his father, Carlo Mollino practically ceased his writing activity.


LIST OF WRITINGS


1930

  • “Country Architecture in the Upper Aosta Valley,” in: Napoleone Ferrari, Mollino. Casa del Sole, Museo Casa Mollino, 2007, pp. 114–127.

1932

  • “Frammento dall’Agonia degli Apollidi”, in: Il Costume, September 18, 1945, p. 53.

1933

  • “Vita di Oberon”, Casabella, 67, July, pp. 40–42; 68–69, August–September, pp. 44–45; 70, October, p. 44; 71, November, pp. 38–39.

1934

  • “L’amante del Duca”, Il Selvaggio, August 15, pp. 51–52; October 31, p. 68; December 31, pp. 83–84.
  • “Architettura di Torino. Le sabbie mobili,” L’Italia Letteraria, 45, November 10, p. 4.

1935

  • With Gino Levi Montalcini and Emilio Pifferi, “Mille case,” Domus, 85, January, pp. 3–4.
  • “L’amante del Duca,” Il Selvaggio, April 30, pp. 19–20.
  • With Gino Levi Montalcini, and Emilio Pifferi, “Film Città 1935,” Domus, 88, April, pp. 4–5.
  • With Gino Levi Montalcini, and Emilio Pifferi, “Film Città 1935 n. 2,” Domus, 92, August, pp. 3–5.
  • With Italo Cremona, "Tè Numero 2. Cenni d’architettura interna", one-page presentation, self-published.

1936

  • With Gino Levi Montalcini, and Emilio Pifferi, “Per un’architettura urbanistica,” Domus, 101, May, p. 1.
  • “L’amante del Duca,” Il Selvaggio, May 15, pp. 13–16.

1940

  • “Lucidità nel tempo,” foreword in: Velso Mucci, Le Carte, Il Selvaggio, pp. V–XVIII.

1941

  • “Incanto e volontà di Antonelli,” Torino, May, pp. 1–15 (French translation: “Magie et volonté d’Antonelli,” in: L’étrange univers de l’architecte Carlo Mollino, exhibition catalog, Editions du Centre Pompidou, 1989, pp. 130–142).

1943

  • Camera da letto per una cascina in risaia,” Domus, 181, January, pp. 12–16.
  • “La casa e l’ideale: casa in collina,” Domus, 182, February, pp. 50–54.
  • “Urbanismo e condizione umana,” Stile, 31, July, pp. 9–13.
  • “Proposizioni sui mobili tipo che i costruttori di mobili sono invitati a leggere,” Stile, 31, July, pp. 33–37.

1944

  • “Disegno di una casa sull’altura,” Stile, 40, April, pp. 2–11 (French translation: “Dessin de maison sur une hauteur,” in: L’étrange univers de l’architecte Carlo Mollino, Editions du Centre Pompidou, 1989, pp. 143–153.

1945

  • With Franco Vadacchino, “Architettura e unificazione,” Stile, January, pp. 2–3.
  • “Urbanistica, tecnica dell’utopia,” Il Costume, September 29, p. 11 (French translation: “Urbanisme, technique de l’utopie,” in: L’étrange univers de l’architecte Carlo Mollino, Editions du Centre Pompidou, 1989, pp. 154).
  • Edited by Carlo Mollino, Picasso (text by Ramón Gómez de la Serna), Chiantore.
  • Carlo Mollino, “Le rose di Grosz,” foreword in: Trentasei disegni di Grosz, Orma, pp. I–VI.
  • "Frammento dall’Agonia degli Apollidi”, written in 1932 and published in: Il Costume, September 18, 1945, p. 53.

1946

  • “L’isola di Moreni,” in the presentation brochure of the exhibition of Mattia Moreni at the Galleria La Bussola, Turin, February–March.
  • With Umberto Mastroianni, “Monumento ai caduti per la liberazione d’Italia,” Tendenza, 1, April, pp. 3–6.
  • “Gusto dell’architettura organica,” Tendenza, 1, April, pp. 26–28 (French translation: “Du gout de l’architecture organique,” in: L’étrange univers de l’architecte Carlo Mollino, Editions du Centre Pompidou, 1989, pp. 155–156).
  • “Per una critica dell’architettura,” Unione culturale, 2–3, April–May, pp. 4–5.
  • “Testimonianza della casa,” Tracciati, May, pp. 112–121.
  • “Le rose di Grosz,” Stile, 61, June, pp. 31–32 and VII.
  • “Vedere l’architettura,” Agorà, August, pp. 13–19; September–October, pp. 19–24; November, pp. 18–25.
  • “Frammento dall’‘Agonia degli Apollidi,’” Il Costume, September 18, p. 53 (written in 1932).
  • Biographical note and comments to two paintings by Albino Galvano, “Architettura,” and “Natura morta,” in: Stefano Cairola, Arte italiana del nostro tempo, Istituto Italiano d’Arti Grafiche, p. 38 and pls. CXIV, CXV.

1947

  • “A proposito di vedere l’architettura,” Agorà, April, p. 27.
  • With Franco Vadacchino, Architettura. Arte e tecnica, Chiantore.

1949

  • “Utopia e ambientazione,” Domus, 237, pp. 14–19; 238, pp. 20–25; also published as: “Dalla funzionalità all’utopia nell’ambientazione,” Atti e Rassegna Tecnica, March–April, pp. 59–67 (French translation: “Du fonctionnel à l’utopie dans l’architecture d’intérieur,” in: L’étrange univers de l’architecte Carlo Mollino, Editions du Centre Pompidou, 1989, pp. 157–165 / English translation: “Utopia & Interiors,” in the supplement of Art Review, April 2012, pp. 22–33).
  • “Breve storia dello sci,” La lettura del medico, March, pp. 20–25; April, pp. 18–25.
  • “Drom og virkelighet—Fact and Fancy in the Home of Today,” Bonytt, October, pp. 170–174 and XI–XIV.
  • Il Messaggio dalla Camera Oscura, Chiantore (English edition: Message from the Darkroom, AdArte, 2006).
  • Carlo Mollino, Il linguaggio dell’architettura. Il volto delle città, Chiantore.

1950

  • Interview: “Tutto è permesso sempre salva la fantasia,” Domus, 245, April, pp. 20–27.
  • “Esiste l’architettura moderna?” Omnibus, May 7, pp. 21–23.
  • “Critica cinematografica e arti più o meno figurative,” in: Le belle arti e il film, Bianco e Nero Editore, Rome, pp. 70–75; also published in: Bianco e nero, August–September, pp. 77–82.
  • Foreword in: Arredamenti di Rava, Görlich.
  • Introduzione al discesismo, Mediterranea.

1951

  • “Coppe o denari,” Vita Fotografica, January–March, 1951, pp. 5–9.
  • “La stazione della funivia del Fürggen,” Prospettive, 1, December, pp. 32–37; later published in: Atti e Rassegna Tecnica, March 1953, pp. 89–90.
  • Biographical note of the author in: Leo Gasperl, Discesismo, Hoepli, 2nd edition (and 3rd edition, 1955): pp. 87–94.
  • “L’architettura attuale in Italia,” in: Marco Valsecchi and Umbro Apollonio, Panorama dell’arte italiana, Lattes, pp. 55–60.

1952

  • “Retoriche e poetiche della proporzione,” Domus, 269, April, pp. 33–34, 67; also published in: Atti e Rassegna Tecnica, April, pp. 116–117.
  • Carlo Mollino in conversation with Lodovico Belgiojoso, Ignazio Gardella, and Augusto Cavallari Murat, “Fedeltà o evasione dalla funzionalità e dalla razionalità?” Atti e Rassegna Tecnica, July, pp. 193–203.

1953

  • “Architettura spazio creato,” Vita Sociale, 17, March–April (French translation: “Architecture, espace créé,” in: L’étrange univers de l’architecte Carlo Mollino, Editions du Centre Pompidou, 1989, pp. 166–168).
  • “Schemi linguistici nell’architettura,” Galleria di arti e di lettere, 2, March–April, pp. 13–15; 3, May–June, pp. 17–19.
  • “Un libro su Eric Mendelsohn (1887–1952),” Atti e Rassegna Tecnica, November, pp. 461–462.
  • La stazione della funivia del Fürggen,” Atti e Rassegna Tecnica, March, pp. 89–90; published earlier in: Prospettive, 1, December 1951, pp. 32–37.
  • With Gino Seghi, Istruzioni ad uso dei candidati ed aspiranti alla qualifica di maestro scelto, CoScuMa, Milan.

1954

  • “Tabù e tradizione nella costruzione montana,” Atti e Rassegna Tecnica, April, pp. 151–154 (English translation: “Taboos and Tradition in Mountain Constructions,” in: Napoleone Ferrari, Mollino. Casa del Sole, Museo Casa Mollino, 2007, pp. 37–41).
  • “Classicismo e romanticismo nell’architettura attuale,” Metron, 53–54, September–December, pp. 4–11; also published in: Atti e Rassegna Tecnica, December, pp. 453–459.

1957

  • Architectural lessons for the Italian television.

1961

  • Preface in: Robert Berton, Les Cheminées du Val d’Aoste, Sigla Effe, pp. 7–8.

1962

  • With Aldo Morbelli, “L’architettura, intenzioni e caratteristiche,” in: Marziano Bernardi, L’Auditorium di Torino, ERI, p. 28.

1964

  • With Alberto Galardi, Carlo Graffi, and Antonio Migliasso, “Il progetto del Palazzo degli Affari a Torino,” Cronache economiche, 264, December, pp. 17–19.
  • “Del Drago da Passeggio,” New Year greeting card, self-published; later published in: Westuff, September–October, 1987, p. 26 (French translation in: L’étrange univers de l’architecte Carlo Mollino, Editions du Centre Pompidou, 1989, pp. 169–170).

1965

  • Preface in: Robert Berton, Les Constantes de l’Architecture Valdôtaine, Sagep, pp. 11–14.

1966

  • Interview in: “Il nuovo Regio,” Torino, May–June, pp. 32–44.

1973

  • “Criteri distributivi ed architettonici,” Atti e Rassegna Tecnica, September–October, pp. 17–54.
  • “Perché?” foreword in: Elirio Invernizzi, Invernizzi in Liguria, Ediz. Fotografia Invernizzi, 1977, pp. 5–6.