Giancarlo De Carlo

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Giancarlo De Carlo in the 1950s

Giancarlo De Carlo (12 December 1919 − 4 June 2005) was an Italian architect.[1]


"Garden of Novices" (Monastery of San Nicolò l'Arena)

Giancarlo De Carlo was born in Genoa, Liguria, in 1919. In 1939, he enrolled at the Milan Polytechnic, where he graduated in engineering in 1943. During the Second World War (WWII), he was enlisted as a naval officer. Following the armistice of 8 September 1943, he went into hiding, taking part in the Italian Resistance with the Movement of Proletarian Unity in which other Milanese architects such as Franco Albini also participated. Later, De Carlo organized an anarchist-libertarian partisan group in Milan (the Matteotti Brigades), together with Giuseppe Pagano.

At the end of the war, De Carlo publicized Le Corbusier in Milan and joined the anarchist movement, eventually participating in the first congress of the International of Anarchist Federations in Carrara. In this period, he began his collaboration with the anarchist magazine Volontà, in which he tried to launch new social ideas for reconstruction and the incessant need for social housing.

In 1948, De Carlo resumed his studies at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia (Università Iuav di Venezia) where he received his degree in architecture on 1 August of the following year (1949).[2][3] In 1950, he opened his own studio in Milan. In 1951, he organized an exhibition on spontaneous architecture and, three years later, presented three short films written with Elio Vittorini in which he denounced the drift towards a modern metropolis run by bureaucrats and technicians, in whom interest in man is not a priority, and urged the spectator to act personally.

In 1955, De Carlo obtained a professorship in urban planning, which he maintained until 1983, coming into contact, and often clashing, with the major names in Italian architecture and urbanism such as Giuseppe Samonà, Carlo Scarpa, Bruno Zevi and Paolo Portoghesi. Between 1952 and 1960, De Carlo was part of the new generation invited to participate in the Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM).

In 1956, as an Italian member of the CIAM, De Carlo presented his own project for a housing complex in Matera in which all the principles of le Corbusier are ignored at the expense of specific attention to the geographical, social and climatic context of the region. It is a strong break with the old generation of architects and the myth of a unique international architectural model. Thus, in the 1956 congress, the end of the CIAM was marked with the start of Team 10, which brought together the new generation of architects (including De Carlo, Alison and Peter Smithson, Aldo van Eyck, and Jacob Bakema) to conceive a new type of architecture, one which was better suited to local social and environmental conditions and where man "is not reduced to an abstract figure".[4]

In 1964, De Carlo was in charge of the first General Town Plan of the city of Urbino. From 1965 onward, he was in charge of designing the campus and facilities of the new University of Urbino. In the design, the campus is designed to merge with the existing hilly landscape. It was this project that saw him busy for many years of his life, and that gave him his first real international recognition. During the 1968 movement in Italy, he sought a constructive dialogue with his students and published a series of texts and essays in which he theorized a more democratic and open "participatory architecture".

Libertarian socialism was the underlying force for all of his planning and design. De Carlo saw architecture as a consensus-based activity: his designs were generated as an expression of the forces that operate in a given context, including human, physical, cultural, and historical forces. His ideas linked the CIAM ideals with the late twentieth century reality.[4]

Faculty of Education, Urbino. Photo by Paolo Monti, 1982.

Although his political beliefs have limited his portfolio of buildings, his ideas remained. From 1970 onward, he began building houses for workers in Terni, together with the workers and their families themselves. This was the first example of a participatory architecture in Italy, which turned out to be a success, being repeated with different results and procedures; in 1972 for the Rimini City Plan, and in 1979 for the recovery of Mazzorbo Island in Venice.

"Red Room" inside the Monastery of San Nicolò l'Arena

In 1976, De Carlo founded the ILAUD (International Laboratory of Architecture & Urban Design), based on the principles of Team X, which for 27 years took place every summer in Italy, in order to carry out continuous research in the evolution of architecture. In 1978, he founded and directed the magazine "Space and Society" which kept the network created by Team X active and guaranteed an alternative and independent voice in the European architectural sphere for the next 20 years.[4][5]

In Siena, De Carlo was in charge of a project for the new suburb of San Miniato which he criticized for its practical implementation (with its execution completed almost entirely by the municipality of Siena) and from which he dissociated himself later.

"Garden of Novices" and roof of Heating Plant, University of Catania

De Carlo died in Milan in 2005.[6]

Honors and awards[edit]

Several times he was invited to universities around the world for conferences and meetings, receiving numerous awards and recognitions. De Carlo received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 1995.[7]


Faculty of Education (Urbino)
Detail of Palazzo Battiferri (Urbino)
Thermal power plant, Garden of Novices
Helical staircase and thermal power plant, Garden of Novices (Monastery of San Nicolò l'Arena)

Commencing in the 1950s[edit]

Commencing in the 1960s[edit]

  • 1961–1965, Municipal Masterplan for Milan (with Alessandro Tutino and Silvano Tintori).
  • 1961–1963, Summer Camp, Riccione.
  • 1962–1965, Collegio del Colle Student Accommodation, Urbino.
  • 1963, Restoration of retirement housing (Palazzo degli Anziani), Urbino.
  • 1966–1968, Faculty of Law, Urbino.
  • 1967–1969, La Pineta Quarter, Urbino.
  • 1967–1969, Mirano Hospital, Metropolitan City of Venice
  • 1968, Ca' Romanino (Casa Sichirollo), Urbino.
  • 1968–1976, Faculty of Education, Urbino.
  • 1969, Italian Pavilion, Osaka, Japan.
  • 1969–1972, Redevelopment, Piazza del Mercatale, Urbino.

Commencing in the 1970s[edit]

  • 1970–1975, Villaggio Matteotti Housing Development, Terni.
  • 1970–1972, Plan for the center of Rimini and San Giuliano.
  • 1971–1975, Restoration of Francesco di Giorgio's Staircase, Urbino.
  • 1973–1983, Student Accommodation, Urbino.
  • 1972–1985, Faculty of Engineering, University of Pavia.
  • 1977–1982, Restoration of the theatre, Teatro Sanzio, Urbino.
  • 1977–1979, Elementary and Middle School, Buia/Osoppo, Udine.
  • 1979, Plans for the Redevelopment of the Historic Center of Palermo.
  • 1979–1985, Housing, Mazzorbo, Venice.

Commencing in the 1980s[edit]

  • 1980–1981, Restoration of the historic church and buildings of Cascina San Lazzaro, Pavia.
  • 1980–1981, Competition entry for Piazzale delle Pace, Parma.
  • 1981–1983, Restoration of the Prè area of Genoa.
  • 1983, New seat for the Scuola del Libro High School, Urbino
  • 1982–2001, Faculty of Medicine and Biology, University of Siena.
  • 1983–1987, Restoration of the historic boatshed, Cervia
  • 1986–2005, Carlo Cattaneo High School, San Miniato, Province of Pisa.
  • 1986–1999, Restoration of Palazzo Battiferri, Urbino.
  • 1986–2004, Restoration and Redevelopment of the Monastery of San Nicolò l'Arena, Catania.
  • ?-1989, Masterplan, historic centre of Lastra a Signa.
  • 1989–2005, Sports Complex, Mazzorbo, Venice.
  • 1989–1994, New Masterplan, Urbino.

Commencing in the 1990s[edit]

  • 1992–2005, New Palace of Justice, Pesaro.
  • 1993–1999, Restoration and redevelopment of the hamlet, Colletta di Castelbianco, Savona.
  • 1994–2000, Entrance gates to the Republic of San Marino.
  • 1995–2002, Café/Bathing Establishment, Nuovo Blue Moon, Lido, Venice.
  • 1996, Plans for ferry dock, Thessaloniki, Greece.
  • 1997–2001, Restoration of Castello di Montefiore, Recanati.
  • 1997–1998, University campus, via Roccaromana, Catania.

Commencing in the 2000s[edit]

  • 2000–2001, Competition entry for Ponte Parodi, Genoa.
  • 2003, Competition entry for the Porta Nuova Gardens, Milan.
  • 2003–2006, Housing, Wadi Abou Jmeel, Beirut, Lebanon.
  • 2003–2005, Children's center, Ravenna.

Further reading[edit]

  • Benedict Zucchi (1992) Giancarlo De Carlo, Oxford: Butterworth Architecture ISBN 978-0-7506-1275-3
  • John McKean 'Il Magistero: De Carlo's dialogue with historical forms', Places (California/Cambridge Mass) Vol 16, No 1, Fall 2003 ISSN 0731-0455
  • John McKean, Giancarlo De Carlo, Layered Places, Stuttgart and Paris (2004), published in English by Menges (Stuttgart) and in French by Centre Pompidou as "Giancarlo De Carlo: Des Lieux, Des Hommes". ISBN 978-3-932565-12-0
  • John McKean, “Giancarlo De Carlo et l’experience politique de la participation”, in 'La Modernite Critique, autour du CIAM 9, d’Aix-en-Provence – 1953', ed. Bonillo, Massu & Pinson, Marseille: editions Imberton, 2006
  • Alberto Franchini (2020) Il Villaggio Matteotti a Terni. Giancarlo De Carlo e l'abitare collettivo, Roma: L'Erma di Bretschneider ISBN 9788891320469 [1]


  1. ^ "Giancarlo de Carlo (1919-2005)". Architectural Review. 30 January 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  2. ^ "DE CARLO, Giancar Biography".
  4. ^ a b c "Spatial Agency: Giancarlo de Carlo". Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  5. ^ Wood, Adam (28 June 2018). "Giancarlo De Carlo: How to Keep Educational Architecture Human or Creative Anti-Institutionalism". Architecture and Education. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  6. ^ "Giancarlo de Carlo 1919-2005". Architects Journal. 23 June 2005. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  7. ^ "Honorary Graduates - 1966 to present" (PDF). Retrieved 5 March 2019.

External links[edit]

  • [2] Faculty of Architecture, Università di Roma3. Students workshop and exhibition "Giancarlo De Carlo, Partigiano dell'Architettura" (Italian)