Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

© Jeff Matthews  entry Feb 2011

Luigi Cosenza  (architect, 1905-84)


German author Günther Grass was on Italian TV the other night. He remarked how he still doesn’t write with a computer, but prefers his old and very tactile, loud Olivetti typewriter; he lamented that since Olivetti has gone belly up, he has trouble getting typewriter ribbons. The moderator assured him that after the program, he would certainly be inundated with ribbons, and maybe even entire typewriters, from Italian well-wishers.

I remember when Olivetti had a factory in nearby Pozzuoli. It was part of the then still optimistic industrial profile of Pozzuoli and adjacent Bagnoli. Then, along came post-industrialization, an earthquake (and subsequent large-scale abandonment of the center of Pozzuoli) and modern computer technology all conspiring to close the Olivetti factory around 1980, not too long after it was completed. It wasn’t torn down or anything; it was nicely recycled. Today the place is still called the “ex-Olivetti” and the vast premises have become a small post-industrial city unto themselves: electronic print-shops, conference halls, shops, firms engaged in information technology, etc.

The Olivetti factory in Pozzuoli was the work of Luigi Cosenza, the prominent Neapolitan architect. He was from a family of engineers and studied engineering and architecture at the University of Naples, graduating in 1928. He has some smaller buildings in Naples and major ones elsewhere (the Gallery of Modern Art in Rome, for example), but in Naples his two “monuments” are (1) the Olivetti factory in Pozzuoli, built on the slopes of an extinct volcano overlooking the bay; it was built between 1951-54 with additions going on until 1970; (2) the main building of the Engineering Department (photo, above) of the University of Naples (built between 1955-72, located in Fuorigrotta at Piazzale Tecchio near the San Paolo soccer stadium and the main entrance to the Mostra d’Oltremare).

Cosenza was also a contributor to the major plans to rebuild the port area of Naples after the devastations of WWII as well as a shaper of the post-war planning and construction of large-scale prefabricated housing in many of the suburbs of Naples.

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