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Architecture and town planning in Tresigallo

Written by  Pier Giorgio Massaretti

The wonder of discovery

 On the road that leads to the Ferrara beaches, the chimney stack of the disused "Lombardi" industrial plant is the first visible sign of the town of Tresigallo. Continuing along the straight, wide avenue that takes us to the town centre, on both the left and the right we can still admire the remains of grand industrial architecture, only slightly re-converted from its original self-sufficient productive function.

The atmosphere we breathe is different here: different from the antique red brick walls of the city of Ferrara, we find ourselves in an environment that is alien to that of the Po Valley. Unusual. Made up of abandoned Sironian chimney stacks and metaphysical arched porticoes - like a clearly  visible tear in the fabric of the slow, secular history of the Estense agricultural territory.

A complex urban organism of "modernity", almost textbook and sufficiently intact and perceptible notwithstanding  the myopic modernization of recent years. Its position "on the border" of land that was the subject of the great mechanical reclamation of the Ferrara area, allowed the then Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Edmondo Rossoni, to experiment with a different, more updated strategic role for the town of his birth. Above all, he envisaged the modernization of the traditional Po Valley  village: equipping it with factories for the production of farm machinery, or industrial processing plants for the agricultural products from the surrounding estates (hemp, sugar beet, milk, fruit), or for the production of a self-governing trade sectors, drawn primarily from the processing of hemp fiber or its by-products. The existing agricultural village, the few and localized rural plants that were built prior to Rossoni's intervention, were almost entirely preserved and reinserted in the planned project of expansion. An experience of re-foundation, that integrates and blends the historical configuration of the town in a more monumental and spectacular urban setting. The road plan - this special geometrization of urban development, inherited from the more established historical patterns of town planning - is employed here as a generative element of the "urban design" of the town.

Tresigallo was decided, designed and configured by correspondence. Even though the executive architectural and town planning projects were technically formalized and graphically elaborated by the engineer from Tresigallo, Franco Frighi, he was provided with direct  indications in the form of notes, charts and written suggestions from the Minister in Rome, sent to Rossoni's factotum in the town (his friend Mariani). These indications contained disordered but evocative sketches of the new look of Tresigallo, the one that Rossoni dreamed of and desired.

In the second half of the 1930's the innovative construction technology of reinforced concrete and iron were extensively used in Tresigallo; new self-sufficient materials and updated construction site procedures were coherently experimented, with the aim of creating original techniques for new types of buildings. Everything was strategically inter-related with tactical alliances, entrepreneurial and speculative, especially with strong economic entities: insurance companies and national banks, together with the Opera Nazionale Combattenti (Ex-Soldiers Association) which, in the 1930's, promoted and guided the historic land reclamation and colonization of the Pontine Marshes. Tresigallo was therefore "designed", zoned and ordered hierarchically, still appreciable today for the care reserved for the image of the town, the attention given to the architecture of the square and streets, the use of specific solutions that create the urban environment. The planning and practical execution of the restoration (both old and modern) must be subject to interpretive understanding, the cultural and procedural settings of these various and well-established physical and material "stories". In this manner the concept of modern restoration, even in this case, in order to avoid damaging replacements or rhetorical falsities, must begin with those bricks, those buildings, those urban images, creating a real relationship of shared emotions; to be taken care of.