RE: Great Expectations: Visionary Architecture for No One

Reading this post, I was able to relate instantly with Tina’s experience.  Last winter I spent a weekend in Chicago and found the same result of many businesses closed and not as much hustle and bustle as I would expect for such a large city.  I can also relate to this phenomenon of large built areas being vacant from my time abroad.

A class that I took in Rome, entitle Modernism in Rome, I was assigned to pick a neighborhood in Rome that was constructed as a public housing project. I chose to focus on the neighborhood of Corviale, which is located about 8 kilometers south west of the city center of Rome.

When I first arrived at what I thought was Corviale, I thought it seemed like any other neighborhood in Rome.  I soon discovered that I had yet to enter the actual “neighborhood”, but I had to hike up a non-pedestrian friendly hill to get there.  When I arrived, what stood before me was something I have never experienced before, but only read about.  It was a kilometer long concrete structure that was built to house 8,000 residents, which is more then my hometown’s population (1).

A view of the kilometer long structure

With 8,000 residents, one would think there would be lively activity all around and a great community feeling.  The atmosphere was completely opposite. The whole area was very much physically deserted with eerie sounds of live through the think concrete walls. I felt as if I didn’t belong there. And to be honest, there would be absolutely no reason for anyone that does not live there to venture to Corviale.

An interior/exterior hallway where residents can access their units is eerily empty.

There were large plans for an all-inclusive community, modeled after Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation, but with little success in filling all 1202 units, the commercial spaces and community centers did not survive (1 & 2).

I think what was the most striking thing about Corviale was that it is located in Rome, one of the most human scaled and hectic cities I have ever experienced.  The majority of the city is composed of smaller close-knit structures that create very inviting spaces for people. With a city like this and the Italian lifestyle of socialization, I am not surprised that a mega structure located so far from the city failed to support its residents.


A typical street in Rome that is busy with people and business.

(1) Sherwood, Roger. “Housing Prototypes: Corviale.” Housing Prototypes. 2002. Web. 29 Apr. 2012. <;.

(2) Pouliot, Hughe. “”Machines for Living” Reflections on Le Corbusier’s Plan Obus (Algiers) & Unite D’Habitation (Marseilles).” Shift Graduate Journal of Visual and Material Culture 4 (2011). Print.




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