Albini, house for Olivetti, Ivrea, Italy, 1955

Albini, house for Olivetti, Ivrea, Italy, 1955

Albini, house for Olivetti, Ivrea, Italy, 1955

The Italian Industrialist acted outside the umbrella of U.S. initiatives, still embracing ideas imported from the other side of Atlantic Ocean. An interesting example is the activity of Ufficio Consulenza Case Dipendenti (Employee’s Housing Consultancy Office), part of the vast array of services offered by Olivetti’s company to its workforce. Active in and around Ivrea, the office aimed at assisting employees in repairing or transforming existing dwellings, or in building new ones.

The program assumed a particular significance in that it wedded social politics to the attempt to modernize the architectural “taste” of the people living in the area it served.

Under the direction of its chief designer, architect Emilio Aventino Tarpeno, the office built more than six hundred dwellings for Olivetti employees. In 1957 the Olivetti’s company contacted leading avantgarde Italian architects – Luigi Figni and Gino Pollini, Franco Albini and Frenca Helg, Mario Fiorentino – to develop typological schemes to be used in the office’s design activity. Conceived by Adriano Olivetti, this undertaking aim to draw up a “catalogue composed of a select number of projects for standardized and typified houses” from which employees could choose their own home design.

The objective of this plan was to disseminate “high” architectural quality while building technically sound housing. More importantly, the proposed prototypes took on ideas popularized by the American media, including fully equipped kitchens, separate rooms for dining and entertaining, and a coverd space in which to park the car; the project by Albini and Helge, for example, featured the garage on one side of the single-story, single-family building.

[Cora Granata, Cheryl A. Koos; The human tradition in Modern Europe, 1750 to present]

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