Giovanni Muzio, Ca’Brutta, Milano, Italy, 1919-1923
The Ca’Brutta is the first major work done by Giovanni Muzio after World War I and was built in the years of 1919-1923 to be used as a residential building. It was built in the Novecento style, and provoked a violent reaction from the citizens of Milan who named it Ca’Brutta or “ugly house”.
The complex occupies a busy corner intersection on the Via Moscova and the Via Principe Umberto (today’s via Turati) that was an important approach to the train station which could be seen a few blocks away along this curving street. The building was unusual at the time and characterized by a huge leap in scale compared to the built up urban environment. It consists of two buildings that are point-access types but organized around an interior alley so that they almost look like a typical double-loaded corridor apartment building. Characteristic of the house is the presence of the first underground parking, reserved for tenants, built in Milan.
The facade has three levels: the bottom in travertine, the intermediate to gray plaster and top in white marble, black and pink. You notice heavy use of classical elements, whose rigidity and symmetry, however, is dissolved in the arrangement of windows on Via Turati and other elements typically asymmetrical. The architectural elements of the courtyards are outrageously ironical and mannerist: giant undecorated columns, doorways mounted with pairs of obelisks and covered with corrugated cement shingles and enormous vases. These provocative decorations, partly grotesque, made the Ca’ Brutta a true act of liberation, comparable to what was happening in painting simultaneously in the Novecento movement. For the citizens of the twenties, the Ca’Brutta abandoned the Milan customs and the “good taste” of architectural rules: the composition of the facades and ornaments showed an irresponsible and unscrupulous use of the classical vocabulary.
Interni : la rivista dell’arredamento; N. 580 (2008), p. 2-13, Fot. c.
Frames : Architettura dei serramenti : bimestrale di tecnologia, progetto e architettura per la qualità di porte e finestre; N. 36 (1992), p. 48-53, FOT. C.
Anna Bęza and Dominika Puchalska November 2016