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Coronavirus claims the life of a famed Italian architect

Vittorio Gregotti was 92.

Coronavirus claims the life of a famed Italian architect
Vittorio Gregotti [Photo: Alberto Roveri/Mondadori/Getty Images]

Famed Italian architect Vittorio Gregotti died of COVID-19 in Milan’s San Giuseppe Hospital on March 15. Gregotti was 92 years old. Nearby, the Arcimboldi Theater, which Gregotti designed, remains shuttered following a nationwide lockdown issued by the Italian government on March 9 to curb the spread of coronavirus.

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Gregotti had a long and prolific career as an architect, critic, professor, urban planner, and architectural theorist. He is known for his large-scale building projects, that ranged from sports arenas to opera theaters, and popularized the postmodernist architectural movement that emerged in the late 1960s as a reaction to the modernist principles that dominated the previous decades. (The movement summed up in a phrase: “Less is a bore,” as postmodern architect Robert Venturi said). And it’s still going strong in all its colorful and often asymmetric eccentricity, decades later.

The Marassi Stadium, in Genoa. [Photo: bdsklo/iStock]

Gregotti was born in Novara, in northwestern Italy in 1927, and graduated from Politecnico di Milano. His contributions to the design industry come from all sides, including as a critic; he served as the editor of Casabella, an Italian architectural magazine, from 1953 to 1955. He went on to serve as the magazine’s editor-in-chief until 1963, according to the Architect’s Newspaper. Gregotti was also the director of the Venice Biennale in 1978.

Gregotti’s work as an academic and thinker helped us better understand broad architectural movements, too. Yes, he was an influential participant in both the Neo-Avant Garde movement that emerged in the late 1960s and Postmodernism, but he also analyzed those styles and their historical context as a critic. A 2000 interview with Gregotti published by MIT Press said in the introduction that “his writings and buildings were instrumental both in the revision of some of Modernism’s foundational myths and in the spectacular rise of Postmodernism during the late 1960s and 1970s.”

Università Bicocca in Milan [Photo: Alessandro Gubertini/iStock]

But his longest-standing impact is in the architecture he designed. Gregotti founded his own firm, Gregotti Associati International, in 1974 and went on to build a range of large-scale buildings of cultural significance in addition to the Arcomboldi Theater: The Marassi stadium in Genoa; a major renovation of the Barcelona Olympic Stadium; the Università Bicocca in Milan (which had a mixed critical reception); the Grand Théâtre de Provence in Aix-en-Provence, France, among others.

Gregotti died of pneumonia after he was hospitalized in Milan having contracted coronavirus. Gregotti’s wife is currently being treated for coronavirus at the same hospital where Gregotti passed, according to Dezeen. Neither a date nor a location for the architect’s funeral have been announced, and the service itself could be in question as funerals are now banned under Italy’s new restrictions against gatherings.

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About the author

Lilly Smith is an associate editor of Co.Design. She was previously the editor of Design Observer, and a contributing writer to AIGA Eye on Design.

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