May 6th, 2008
Giovanni Muzio’s Ca Brutta (1923) faces Gio Ponti’s Palazzo Montecatini (1936) across the junction of Via Fillipo Turati and Via Moscova in Milan. The buildings were completed within fifteen years of each other and display different approaches to to a similar problem: how do you make a facade which forms a thin sheath on a modern structural frame? Muzio in the Ca Brutta (’Ugly House’) chooses to ignore the structural concrete frame beneath and emphasise the individuality of the residences and homeliness of the building. This was an explicit rejection of the ‘renaissance palazzo’ type as a model for urban housing in which the individual apartments would be dominated by the overall composition. The sense of bricolage in the Ca Brutta was implicit in the client’s brief - Muzio was required to incorporate windows that had been purchased before the scheme was designed. The Palazzo Montecatini is of course a different building type: a headquarters building. The central entrance is emphasised and the window frames are pushed to the face of the cladding. The central block in the composition includes vestigial acroteria perhaps indicating a root for Ponti’s style in the clasically derived rational architecture of Vienna at the turn of the century.