When Neoclassicsm Is Out Of Place

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This is the Piazza Signorelli in Cortona.  The piazza was formed in the late 1100s from the remnants of the Roman era forum.  The imposing building on the left is Palazzo Casali, former home to Cortona’s Florentine overlords, now home to the Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca.  The building was built in the 13th century.  Adjacent to the right is the Teatro Signorelli.  It was by architect Carlo Gatteschi in 1854 in a neoclassical style.

While the façade would be handsome in many settings, the building simply looks out of place here. The size of the building does not fit with its neighbors – it is too squatty and elongated.  It does not ride the slope well, as witnessed by the uncomfortable way the façade rides obliviously above the ground.  The façade also appears to be tacked onto a much more utilitarian structure.  The windows and shutters are too big for the piazza.  The pediment looks phony compared to the solemness of the surrounding buildings.  While the arcade is great in a sudden rainstorm or on a blazing summer afternoon, it doesn’t seem to speak to the rest of the architectural fabric of the city; Cortona is not an arcade town.

I wonder how architects conceive of buildings that do not fit their context.  Is it pride?  Is it poor ability?  Is it arrogance?  This does not mean that architects should merely copy the building next to them.  But in existing cities, there is a rhythm that has been established over time, a dialogue that needs to be joined, not shouted over or ignored.

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