Giuseppe Terragni and Alberto Sartoris, Rebbio’s working-class neighbourhood - Quartiere operaio di Rebbio (plan) (1938)
Quartiere operaio di Rebbio is a plan for a working-class neighbourhood located in the former municipality of Rebbio (now a hamlet administrated by Como), designed/produced in 1938 by architects Giuseppe Terragni and Alberto Sartoris. According to the principles stated within the Athens Charter (1933) and Como’s new urban plan (effective from 1937), Rebbio was to be developed as a residential area of apartment blocks and terrace houses well-connected to the city of Como. It should also have been equipped with all key public and private services; sports facilities and parks, schools and a church. Inspired by Rationalism, Rebbio was to be a modern, independent and ideal district. However, due to budget problems, a demographic increase and the outbreak of WWII, it was never built.
The Spatial Construction of the New Man’s Urban Reality
Narrative Rationalization: Staging a Collective Spectacle
A satellite town of Como, during the thirties Rebbio was a municipality inhabited by around 3000 people working mainly in the agricultural and textile industries. This urban reorganisation plan designed by Terragni and Sartoris (1938) anticipated the incorporation of two other villages, Breccia and Albate, due to the demographic growth of Como. The architects’ vision for the neighbourhood was in line with contemporary principles of urban development, based on the idea of ‘broad city’.
The plots affordable units were supposed to be proportionally parcelled and occupied by two types of affordable housing, apartment blocks and terraces, both of which would be already equipped with lighting, water, and heating facilities. Inside, the dimensions, room quality and lighting were all designed to make these environments a perfect family residence. All of the buildings would be surrounded by green areas and key community services such as a Casa del Fascio, complete with Torre Littoria (Fascist tower) and an Arengario (a place for public assemblies), nursery school, technical colleges and a public market.
Overall, the Quartiere operaio di Rebbio would be a modern example of Rationalist architecture: a working-class city born for a ‘practical’ purpose with excellent car, tram and train links to the city. The extensive use of local materials, in accordance with the Fascist economic principle of autarky, and cutting-edge construction techniques such as reinforced concrete, reveals the modern side of this urban planning that is in line with the ‘democratic’ principle of giving all the apartments the same, standardised elements.
The neighbourhood of Rebbio is an architectural design for private and public spaces for working-class families. While Novocomum and Muzio’s Ca’ Brutta were residential buildings for a wealthy middle-class – as also indicated by their location within the city – the design for Rebbio addressed the needs of people who contributed to the local economy with their labour. The architects intended to build a perfect place for a family-based community (bearing in mind how important family was during the Fascist era) but also a district for their leisure and free time, education and politics. A ‘suburban Fascism’ would be easily generated here not only through good connections with the city, but also thanks to a ‘representative Fascist architecture’ that would invite/favour/encourage active public participation in politics/political life.
Like in many other cases, the entire plan of Rebbio juxtaposes two opposite influences: on one hand the modernity of the buildings, inspired by an international Rationalist style and populated by living, public and service spaces, was in line with the most innovative studies on urban planning; on the other, a strong conservative tradition placed emphasis on the family unit as the cornerstone of public life. The neighbourhood of Rebbio was never built, but the sketches, typological plans and drawings that remain offer a valuable insight into architectural ideals at the time urban experimentation at the time and Fascism's visiion for urban population growth.
Ciucci, Giorgio (ed.). 1996. Giuseppe Terragni 1904-1943. Milan: Electa.
Marcianò, Ada Francesca. 2008. Giuseppe Terragni. Opera completa 1925-1943. Rome: Officina edizioni.