Andreani's Project

Palazzo del podestà

The interventions carried out in the nineteenth century – some where not completed – radically and questionably changed the structure of the palace. It is however interesting to look at the original project by Andreani: he was inspired by particular aesthetic ideas and intended to restore and valorize the ancient building. 

Aldo Andreani
The massive and controversial renovation of the municipal buildings that took place in the forties of the twentieth century is the work of architect Aldo Andreani from Mantua. His style can be defined as architectural eclecticism, a style that, in the more general context of modernism, mixes references to very different periods, creating something that is almost exotic. Indeed the motifs from the past are merged following aesthetic, not functional, criteria. The past itself is reinterpreted and looked at with modern eyes, seen as something mythic, the way the first films at the beginning of the twentieth century were viewed.
The Project
Aldo Andreani was a talented and successful architect and sculptor. In the centre of Milan many civic buildings bear the visible sign of his intervention. It is worth mentioning the Palazzo in Via Serbelloni, Casa Zanoletti, Palazzo Fidia and Villa Rasin. It was however in Mantua that he created his masterpiece, what is today the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce, located between Via Calvi and Via Spagnoli, a few metres from the city hall. Here he managed to create an oriental atmosphere, with traits that evoke the Babylonian and Egyptian eras. The work, completed in 1914, cannot be defined as belonging to the canon of liberty style, rather, it can be likened to some examples of Viennese architecture. The image shows a plan of the complex of the Palazzo della Ragione and the Podestà.

Aldo Andreani had been studying the historical development of the municipal buildings of Mantua for many years. The opportunity to restore the beauty of these buildings, on the basis of his own tastes, presented itself when he became Verona's Superintendence representative for the monuments in Mantua and in the province. Thus in 1939 he began a series of works, which would be completed in 1944, that profoundly altered not only the look of the city centre but also the convent of San Francesco, far from Piazza Erbe and Piazza Broletto. His work, which in fact resulted in a complete reconstruction of the Palazzo della Ragione and in more limited interventions in the case of the Palazzo Podestà, was immediately received with strong criticism. He was criticized for lack of philological accuracy, and because his ideas were seen as an attempt to recreate a visual and functional reality that had in fact never existed.

This section of the Palazzo del Podestà and the prospect of Palazzo della Ragione offer a first idea of the general model of the intervention by Andreani. He is standing in front of the facade of the Palazzo della Ragione that the eighteenth century restoration had, according to him, disfigured. Moreover, the ground floor of the building was characterized by a jutting arcade where there had been numerous shops in the course of the centuries. Andreani eliminated the eighteenth century additions and created seven mullioned windows, for the illumination of the great hall. Below, the arches were placed at the same depth of the facade. The Astronomical Clock Tower was not changed much, with the exception of the entrance that was repositioned.

In this table we can clearly see, on the left, the so-called Arengario, radically changed by Andreani. He created the two mullioned windows on the first floor and the series of twin columns on the second floor. Continuing on the right, here is a glimpse of the Palazzo del Podestà in which the architect explains his conception of the grand staircase that today, after further restoration carried out in the sixties of the twentieth century, adorns the courtyard of Lattonai. In the past the staircase was inside the Palazzo.

The table shows the construction site of the Palazzo della Ragione in April 21, 1942. One of the main interventions by Andreani was to eliminate the second tower designed by Fancelli that adorned the Palazzo del Podestà and that stood on the right, looking from Piazza Erbe, and that was attached to Palazzo della Ragione. It was lower than the tower on the left, it rendered the whole building balanced and proportionate. Andreani knocked it down.

Here is the plan for the new mullioned windows of the Palazzo della Ragione, created and manufactured from scratch.

Even the bricks for the mullioned windows were designed and reproduced accurately. People, admiring the new look of the city halls, would naturally recall the past. Thus, the restoration work was actually a process of “masking” based mainly on imagination.

Andreani presents the side of the Palazzo della Ragione overlooking the Rotonda di San Lorenzo. Here are the first steps of the wide staircase, which still today leads to the inside hall. Between the Palazzo and the Rotonda there was a house that Andreani demolished in 1943, making the upper level accessible, and highlighting the medieval contour with its three arches, still standing after the many demolitions that had taken place in the course of time.

In 1934 Andreani won the competition for the town plan of Mantua. July 23, 1940 he was officially appointed by the municipality. His reinterpretation of the plan was submitted to the Superintendence for approval January 1941; the project was only partially approved in September. Work began on Palazzo della Ragione, with the elimination of the eighteenth century elements, and with the addition of the battlements. In September 1942, the floor of the hall was laid. The demolition of the portico brought on a fierce polemic. In 1943 the parts of the buildings on the side of Via Giustiziati were modified, including the Arengario. Finally, in 1944 Andreani attempted to gain permission to make some drastic changes to Palazzo del Podesta, the war however put an end to his plans.
In this image we can see how he intended all houses to be removed from Piazza Erbe, houses which dated to the fifteenth century, that partially impede the view of the right transept of the church of Sant'Andrea.

Credits: Story

Ideato e promosso da / Founded and Promoted by:
Mattia Palazzi (Sindaco del Comune di Mantova)
con Lorenza Baroncelli (Assessore alla rigenerazione urbana e del territorio, marketing urbano, progetti e relazioni internazionali del Comune di Mantova)

Coordinamento Scientifico / Scientific Coordinator:
Sebastiano Sali

Curatore testi e immagini / Superintendent texts and images:
Giovanni Pasetti

Foto di / Photo by:
Gian Maria Pontiroli

Redazione/ Editors:
Erica Beccalossi
Sara Crimella
Carlotta Depalmas
Veronica Zirelli

Un ringraziamento speciale a / A special thanks to:
Emma Catherine Gainsforth
Elisa Gasparini
Paola Menabò
Ciro Molitierno
Paola Somenzi
Università Iuav di Venezia

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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