The Villa Malaparte was designed by Adelberto Librera in 1932 on a rock outcropping overlooking and almost within the Mediterranean Sea. Approach by land is only along a narrow ledge of rock that has been carved from the stone, or one can ascend to the villa from the dock below. The house is essentially a stair to a plateau. This project is most unlike most other Rationalist work. This villa is private, inwardly contained, designed as a subtractive solid and elusive in the same sense that the meaning of a DeChirico painting is enigmatic. This constantly questions what the viewer’s role is in relationship to the building. The two paths to the villa (and I can only assume that those within are qualitatively similar) are suggestive of some murky Romanticist attitude that movement is primarily a ritualistic event.
- Alan J. Warner
from a letter dated 27 April 1985, Como
Travel can be both an exciting and a dangerous thing; for some places have the power to shape and change the ways in which we think. I have just returned from an extended and rather extraordinary trip to Germany- a country imbued with a quixotic spirit of contradiction, where contrasts themselves are juxtaposed. My stay in industrial Dortmund, in West and East Berlin, and in quiet Aachen provided an insight into four, quite different faces of Germany.
In Dortmund, I had some difficulty finding the Zeche Zellern II, a coal mine built in the second half of the 19th century. The city’s Tourist Information was hardly specialized in industrial architecture, the Staatarchives were shut for inexplicable reasons, but fortunately the historical library was able to put me in touch with Herr Spieckermann, the mine’s caretaker, who was a kindly and helpful guide.
The mine, like Ledoux’s Saltworks and Renard’s Grand Hornu, is organized an autonomous, miniature city. Here, familiar civic components find their industrial counterparts: precinct walls, gates, common green, housing, a school and the grandiose director’s office are integrated into the whole. The great machine hall, constructed in 1902 by Bruno Mohring, lies at the end of a long axis. The machine hall is entered (rather atypically) through the short axis of the building. The entry portal was salvaged from the Weimar Pavilion of the 1889 Paris Exposition. The vast hall is dominated by an elevated platform with a marble screen on which the switches and controls for the heavy machinery are located. Overhead, hangs a magnificent brass clock; a perfect example of the glorification of the mechanical. The man who flipped the central switch must surely have felt like a god.
-Alan J. Warner
from a letter dated 14 October 1983, 34 rue du Cotentin, Paris