Restauro storico

Like D'Andrade, also Luca Beltrami (18541933), a pupil of Boito's, was influenced by French restoration policy and practice. He studied and worked in Paris for about three years, and, in 1880, returning to Milan, he dedicated himself to the protection and restoration of historic buildings in Italy. He wrote frequently in journals, thus saving many buildings from destruction, participated in competitions, and was involved in restoration projects. Beltrami recognized the importance of documentation as a basis for any restoration. For this reason, his approach has been called 'restauro storico' (historical restoration), and he has been considered the first modern restoration architect in Italy (Bonelli 1963, XI:346). In practice, however, the difference between 'restauro storico' and 'stylistic restora

Figure 7.15 The Campanile of San Marco in Venice collapsed in 1902, and was reconstructed to the design of L. Beltrami similar to the original, 'com'era e dov'era'. The tower was considered important for the townscape of Venice

tion' is not always easy to define. At the end of his career, Beltrami surveyed the basilica of St Peter's in Rome after some earthquake damage. He faced certain alternatives of restoration, and was even tempted to correct the architecture by adding the statues foreseen by Michelangelo as a counterweight to balance the dome. However, he noted that the structure was no longer moving, and limited himself to replacing the broken stones in the buttresses.

Following Boito, he distinguished between different cases according to the type of monument, whether an ancient temple, a mediaeval structure, or a more recent building. The restoration of antique structures required great precision. In an ancient Greek temple, restoration was possible if there were sufficient fragments available to define the lines of the whole and its details. In a Roman ruin one could limit the work to structural brickwork, and avoid too detailed restoration in the decorative marble. The situation was different in mediaeval structures, and in Renaissance architecture. The restoration and reconstruction of the Sforza Castle in Milan (1893-1905) was based on some existing documents collected even from French archives. The works included the reconstruction of a Renaissance tower, Torre di Filarete, built in 1480 and destroyed in 1521, as an essential feature of the integrity of the monument. In the reconstruction, Beltrami allowed a certain flexibility, in the range even of some metres in height or some decimetres in details, as the effect was essentially in the design of the whole, and in the general movement of the masses (Beltrami, 1905).

Together with Boni, Beltrami was a member of the commission nominated to inspect the site of the Campanile of San Marco in Venice after its collapse on 14 July 1902. Debate about the reconstruction had echoes even abroad, and opinions were strongly divided into two camps: those who wanted to rebuild it, and those who were against reconstruction. The Academy of Fine Arts in Milan organized a competition for contemporary solutions. The desire to rebuild the Campanile in its old form prevailed, 'Dov'era e com'era! (Where it was and as it was). This was justified especially on account of its significance in the Venetian townscape and its function as a counterpoint to San Marco. It was also necessary in order to rebuild the exquisite Loggia of Sansovino which had symbolic value to Venice. Here all the original fragments were carefully collected, and the reconstruction was based on existing documentation. Beltrami was responsible for the preparation of the first project for the reconstruction of the tower, but resigned in 1903. The tower was completed in 1910 in reinforced concrete and without plaster rendering. A direct effect of the collapse was an immediate survey of all important buildings in Venice, resulting in temporary reinforcement in many cases (Beltrami, 1903; Milan, 1903, Venice, 1912).

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