Aldo Rossi (1931-1997) has achieved distinction as a theorist, author, artist, teacher and architect, in his native Italy as well as internationally. Noted critic and historian, Vincent Scully, has compared him to Le Corbusier as a painter-architect. Ada Louise Huxtable, architectural critic and Pritzker juror has described Rossi as "a poet who happens to be an architect."

Rossi was born in Milan, Italy where his father was engaged in the manufacture of bicycles, bearing the family name, a business he says was founded by his grandfather. While growing up during the years of World War II, Rossi’s early education took place at Lake Como, and later in Lecco. Shortly after the war ended, he entered the Milan Polytechnic University, receiving his architecture degree in 1959. Rossi served as editor of the Architectural magazine Casabella from 1955 to 1964.

Although early film aspirations were gradually transposed to architecture, he still retains strong interest in drama. In fact, he says, "In all of my architecture, I have always been fascinated by the theatre." For the Venice Biennale in 1979, he designed the Teatro del Mondo, a floating theatre, built under a joint commission from the theatre and architecture commissions of the Biennale. It seated 250 around a central stage. It was towed by sea to the Punta della Dogana where it remained through the Biennale. Rossi described the project in its site, as "a place where architecture ended and the world of the imagination began." More recently, he completed a major building for Genoa, the Carlo Felice Theatre which is the National Opera House. In Canada, the first Rossi project in the Western Hemisphere was completed in 1987 when the Toronto Lighthouse Theatre was built on the banks of Lake Ontario.

In his book, A Scientific Autobiography, he describes an auto accident that occurred in 1971 as being a turning point in his life, ending his youth, and inspiring a project for the cemetery at Modena. It was while he was recuperating in a hospital that he began thinking of cities as great encampments of the living, and cemeteries as cities of the dead. Rossi's design for the cemetery at San Cataldo won first prize in a competition in 1971, and is being built in stages.

At almost the same time period, Rossi's first housing complex was being built on the outskirts of Milan. Called Gallaratese (1969-1973), the structure is actually two buildings separated by a narrow gap. Of this project, Rossi has said, "I believe it to be significant, above all, because of the simplicity of its construction, which allows it to be repeated." He has since built a number of solutions to housing, from individual homes to apartment buildings and hotels.

The Pocono Pines Houses in Pocono, Pennsylvania represent one of his first completed buildings in the United States. In Galveston, Texas, a monumental arch for the city has been completed. In Coral Gables, Florida, the University of Miami has commissioned Rossi to design the new School of Architecture.

Other housing projects include an apartment building in the Berlin-Tiergarten district of West Germany, and another called Sudliche Friedrichstadt (1981-88). There have been numerous residence designs in Italy. His Il Palazzo Hotel and Restaurant Complex in Fukuoka, Japan is still another extension of his solutions for living quarters, completed in 1989.

When Rossi was introduced at Harvard to deliver the Walter Gropius Lecture, the chairman of the architecture department, Jose Rafael Moneo said, "When future historians look for an explanation as to why the destructive tendencies that threatened our cities changed, Rossi's name will appear as one of those who helped to establish a wiser and more respectful attitude."

Aldo Rossi of Italy Elected 1990 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate

Aldo Rossi of Milan, Italy has been selected as the 1990 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate. Twelve architects have been previously named over the past eleven years, six from the United States and six from other countries. Rossi is the seventh from the international community to receive the prestigious prize, acknowledged as the Nobel of architecture.

The prize, consisting of a $100,000 grant, a medallion and formal citation, will be presented by Jay A. Pritzker, president of The Hyatt Foundation, in a formal ceremony on Saturday, June 16 at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, Italy.

Rossi, who will celebrate his fifty-ninth birthday on May 3, received his architecture degree in 1959 at the Polytechnic University of Milan. In those three decades since, he has achieved international recognition not only as a practicing architect, but also as an artist and author of architectural theories and urban design concepts.

In recent years, he has completed a number of significant projects around the world, including the Toronto Lighthouse Theatre in Canada, the 11 Palazzo Hotel and Restaurant Complex in Japan, and in his native Italy commercial centers, various types of housing, theatres, museums, cemeteries, schools, and other public buildings. In the United States, he has completed two projects, one in Galveston, Texas, a monumental arch; and in Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania, the Pocono Pines houses. He has a major project underway in Coral Gables, Florida, the new School of Architecture for the University of Miami.

A number of other major works are under construction or design phases in Japan, France, England, the Netherlands, and West Germany. He has won design competitions and lectured in major universities around the world over the past thirty years. In the U.S. alone, he has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Yale, Cooper Union, and Cornell.

His drawings and paintings have won him acclaim in exhibitions. His designs for such objects as a coffee pot and furniture have given another added dimension to his career.

As an architectural and urban design theorist, he wrote The Architecture of the City in 1966. Originally published in Italy, it has since been translated into seven languages and has become an international reference on the subject. His A Scientific Autobiography which was first published in English in 1981 has provided even further insight to his beliefs.

In announcing the 1990 choice of the Pritzker Prize, Bill Lacy, secretary to the jury quoted from the formal citation:

"Aldo Rossi, the architect, has achieved acclaim as a theorist, philosopher, artist and teacher. His words as well as his drawings and buildings have distinguished him as great. He is a master draftsman, steeped in the tradition of Italian art and architecture; his sketches and renderings of buildings have often achieved international recognition long before being built.

"Rossi has been able to follow the lessons of classical architecture without copying them; his buildings cavy echoes from the past in their use of forms that have a universal, haunting quality. His work is at once bold and ordinary, original without being novel, refreshingly simple in appearance but extremely complex in content and meaning. In a period of diverse styles and influences, Aldo Rossi has eschewed the fashionable and popular to create an architecture singularly his own.

"On a solid foundation of theory, he uses his talents and ability to solve design problems in memorable and imaginative ways. His influence is extensive and expands with every new commission. With this honor, Aldo Rossi joins a dozen architects already singled out for their contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture."

 

Read Aldo Rossi's Essay

Architecture is a profession in which talent matures slowly. It is a discipline which requires many years of thoughtful observation, of testing principles, of sensing space, and experiencing the many moods necessary for seasoning and nurturing. Wunderkind in architecture are extremely rare.

The array of abilities that permit an architect to work with a sure hand and achieve the intended result allows for no shortcuts. An architect who would be the best he can be must serve a lifetime apprenticeship, well beyond that required for official licensing. He must know human behavior, understand structures and materials, and how to shape forms and spaces to serve intended purposes in inspired and original ways.

The Pritzker Architecture Prize Jury has found these qualities and more in Aldo Rossi, and have selected him as the 1990 Laureate.

Known for many years as a theorist, philosopher, artist and teacher, Rossi has spent time developing his architectural voice, and pen. Words as well as drawings and buildings have distinguished him as one of the great architects. As a master draftsman, steeped in the tradition of Italian art and architecture, Rossi's sketches and renderings of buildings have often achieved international recognition long before being built.

His book, Architecture and the City, published in 1966, is a text of significance in the study of urban design and thinking. Out of this theoretical base came designs that seem always to be a part of the city fabric, rather than an intrusion.

Each of Rossi's designs, whether an office complex, hotel, cemetery, a floating theatre, an exquisite coffee pot, or even toys, captures the essence of purpose.

Rossi has been able to follow the lessons of classical architecture without copying them; his buildings carry echoes from the past in their use of forms that have a universal, haunting quality. His work is at once bold and ordinary, original without being novel, refreshingly simple in appearance but extremely complex in content and meaning. In a period of diverse styles and influences, Aldo Rossi has eschewed the fashionable and popular to create an architecture singularly his own.

On a solid foundation of theory, he uses his talents and ability to solve design problems in memorable and imaginative ways. His influence is extensive and expands with every new commission. With this honor, Aldo Rossi joins a dozen architects already singled out for their contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.

 

Jury Members

J. Carter Brown (Chairman)
Giovanni Agnelli
Ada Louise Huxtable
Ricardo Legorreta
Kevin Roche
Jacob Rothschild
Bill Lacy (Secretary to the Jury)

Palazzo Grassi, Venice, Italy

Located on the Grand Canal in Venice, the Palazzo Grassi design of the building is attributed to Giorgio Massari (1687-1766), who was at that period terminating Ca' Rezzonico on the opposite side of the Grand Canal. Palazzo Grassi was the last palace to be erected in Venice before the fall of the Republic and the largest sited on the Grand Canal. The building of monumental marble palazzos, dominating a noble and panoramic site was certainly one of the most recognizable and unmistakable signs of a family's newly-acquired status and wealth. It is believed that the Grassi family began to purchase land and buildings for their Palazzo beginning in the 1730s. Having amassed enough land opening on to the Grand Canal in the early 1740s, they could undertake their ambitious building project.

The first great fondaco-houses along the Grand Canal were built in the thirteenth century. It was during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that resplendent and colorful Venetian Gothic style was employed. During the Renaissance, however, architectural orders and rules based both on Ancient Roman as well as modern precepts were used.

The white marble palace for the Grassi family was completed by 1872. Its architecture expresses an academic classicism that is somewhat out of touch with the surrounding Venetian palazzos. It has a formal palace façade, lacking the lower mercantile openings, with an especially rhythmic arrangement of the bays.

After the Grassi family sold Palazzo Grassi in 1840, its ownership passed through many different individual hands. In 1983, the Palazzo was purchased by the FIAT group with the goal of transforming the building into an exhibition space for the visual arts. Since 2006, the palace is owned by the French entrepreneur François Pinault who exhibits his art collection there.

The Pritzker Architecture Prize ceremony honoring Italian architect, Aldo Rossi, took place at this palace in Venice in 1990.

 

Read Aldo Rossi's Ceremony Acceptance Speech

 

palazzo grassi

Ceremony Highlights

Full Ceremony