20/20: Italian Influence

“Le Mani Sulla Citta” (Hands Over the City) is a drama film directed by Francesco Rosi, an Italian film director, in 1963. The story built on the political corruption in real estate development in the post-World War II period of Naples, Italy. Danielle Matuch presented her study on this film at this week’s 20/20 luncheon in the Princeton office. She studies images from the movie to analyze building speculation, and how it could be tied to our society today.

At the time where Brutalist architecture was flourishing, most cities and buildings were developed without much consideration into the human scale. It inspired a conversation on how we as a firm should speculate our projects and the cities that it resides. Do we build buildings that are as large as most Brutalist architecture, or do we design for the smallest details like Carlo Scarpa in Venice?

It brought us to a discussion on the city of Newark, where pedestrian bridges were built to keep people safe from the street. Today however, the city has switched its focus to the urban streetscape on a human scale. Like Jane Jacobs’s sociological concept of “eyes on the street” in her book “the Death and Life of Great American Cities,” most have now come to believe that a lively street is the best way to keep it safe. In contrary to the images from Le Mani Sulla Citta, contemporary building design now provides windows and porches that allow a clear view of the streets, storefronts for shops and café, and public spaces around the entrances. This is the way architecture can change its urban city.