THE PERSONALITY OF A CITY
Year 3 Dissertation
Timetable of Turin’s evolution;
Personality and Identity of a city;
Turin under the Roman Empire;
The Baroque city of culture;
The one company city;
Modern issues of a city;
A City of Opportunities;
An uncertain but hoping future;
1. Timetable of Turin's Evolution
27bc Romans Establish Augusta Taurinorum
940 Contea di Torino (Countship) Founded
1404 Paletine Towers Rebuilt
1498 Turin Cathedral built
1563 City Becomes Capital of the Duchy of Savoy
1565 Citadel Built
1638 Piazza San Carlo Laid out
1658 Royal Palace Built
1660 Castello Del Valentino Built
1680 Palazzo Carignano built
1720 City becomes capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia
1801 Fortifications Demolished
1802 City becomes part of the French Empire
1861 City Becomes Capital of newly United Kingdom of Italy
1864 Torino Porta Nuova Station Opens
1899 Fiat Automotive manufactory in business.
2006 Turin Metro Begins Operating 2012 Metropolitan Turin 2025 planning started
2025 Conclusion of Metropolitan Turin
2. Personality and identity of a city
Cities are humanity’s areas of settlement for many centuries and have brought people from being nomads into creating a community. A city could be interpreted as a symbol of heritage and tradition, as it has guided the local people within history and it has shaped itself in the base of humanity’s needs and requirements.
As humanity and technology evolved, so it has the personality of the city, that changed and along centuries. However, how is a city formed and who decided what is right to maintain in the identity of the city and what has to change for a better future. Additionally, if a major change occurs, how will it affect the personality of the city and its architecture along with history.
Turin is one of the oldest founded cities in the north-west of Italy and it has been a place of multiple changes that reshaped its identity and functionality as well as the living conditions of the people within its boundaries.
It has been founded by the Roman empire at the beginning of the 1st century starting as an army base before the Alps. Afterward, the city passed under the Savoy’s rule, for then to become the capital of their empire and the newly unified Italy.
Turin has then moved in a period of industrialisation with the help of FIAT that gave an international name to the settlement as well as multiple issues and contrasts. Within this essay, I will analyse and explore the evolution of Turin and how its architecture and personality have changed with the purpose to understand if the identity of the city needs to be maintained as a heritage or if it needs to constantly evolve to maintain people’s living requirements.
I would like to explore what happens when the aim of preservations stands before the aim of human welfare and the effectiveness of a city might impact the day by day life and the future of the city.
3. Turin Under the Roman Empire;
In our modern days, it could be argued that Turin is an important stone in Italy’s heritage and history. The city was founded approximately 2400 years ago by the Taurini, a Celtic tribe that came from the Alps.
The original city was almost destroyed when Hannibal arrived in Italy during his conquest. Afterward, it was rebuilt by the Romans around 27 BC, founding the military camp “Augusta Taurinorum”. The area where Augusta Taurinorum was built is very strategic and important for its evolution. The city was protected by natural elements that surrounded the settlement. The Alps protected the city on the North and Western side while high hills stand on East and South of the area. Additionally, the city was designed on River Po which determined the prosperity and efficient evolution of the settlement.
These natural boundaries determined the city from expanding excessively, maintaining the Masterplan concise and focused on the centre of it for them to expand into a “County Belt” in the future. The roman walls used to surround the city centre and defined the boundaries of Augusta Taurinorum, similar to how Vitruvius is describing Cities in the “Ten Books of Architecture” , where walls are meant to protect the city and its locals keeping the life inside of them and the issues outside. The Palatine Gate which was the main entrance to the Roman camp still stands in good condition and is an artifact of the Roman history in Turin.
The gate of the city is very minimalistic built only using red bricks which could symbolise a landmark that guides people towards the city and invites them inside to live and settle under defense and protection.
I believe that Turin is built on opinions from the people and its evolution are marks of what people needed during a specific time. Each monument tells a story of the city past and the Palatine Gate is a memory of Turin’s roman symmetry and the care that the city gives to the people who are living inside of it.
One of the key features of the Roman design was that the streets were forming squared areas that have turned into districts and city zones in the present. This factor allowed the Roman army to move quickly around the city without getting lost and arriving at a specific point in an effective time range. This element gave to the city of Turin its highly symmetric aspect where every building is thoughtfully placed and where everything has a meaning. However, its symmetric elements will contrast the city’s Baroque style in the future, gaining its mesmerizing beauty and factors that made Turin become an acclaimed cultural and historic city of Italy.
This symmetric and squared shaped roads remained unchanged in the design of the city, still being a key aspect in Turin’s personality and the public; which allows everyone to move freely and access each area of the city normally quickly. This factor also allowed public transport in Turin to be efficient and fast, as well as very reduced in the number of buses and Metros that are currently running.
Turin’s personality was marked by the Romans and some of their buildings and key aspects that created Augusta Taurinorum are still visible today. However, Turin was mostly impacted and shaped by the Baroque period and by the knowledge and architecture that the Savoy has brought to it. Turin still is a cultural city, based on history and multiple changes that the city has undertaken; but some of the key aspects and factors that originated from the Roman era were changed and I believe will still be changed in our modern age.
4. The Baroque city of culture
The city marched towards its modern aspect under the reign of the Savoy. In 1280 Turin was conquered by the monarchs becoming part of the Savoy territory along with the Northern West area of Italy.
In 1563, the Savoy transferred their kingdom’s capital from Chambery to Turin. The Savoy brought art and culture to the Italian city, giving it an important piece of its personality and heritage along with the help of some of the most famous architects during that time such as Guarino Guarini and Filippo Juvarra. The Savoy changed a small medieval town into their capital bringing baroque ideas and culture into the city. Guarino Guarini built multiple churches and palaces in the baroque style that the Savoy’s most desired. The Church of San Lorenzo is famous for the baroque technique used by Guarino Guarini. John Julius Norwich suggests how “The plan is remarkable for its curved bays pressing into the central domed space; an idea developed from Borromini, but the dome is even more remarkable. It is a masterpiece of ingenious construction the ribs carry the lantern above them which is also used to produce dramatic contrasts of light and shade.”
This explores how the Church of San Lorenzo represents the Baroque style brought by the Savoy with the energy and movements in sculptures. As explored in the previous chapter, the baroque style seems to contrast the initial symmetry of the city created by the romans.
Palazzo Carignano, as well designed by Guarini, is also a symbol of the baroque style. With its unique wavy facade. Inside Palazzo Carignano, you can find an asymmetric spiral staircase bringing the visitors to the ballroom. The ballroom is lit up from above through a big glass cover. Filippo Juvarra was one of the most important architects for the Savoy family in Turin. Juvarra gave to the city its Baroque personality creating some of the most mesmerizing palaces in Turin. These include the Royal Palace of The Savoy in the centre of Turin, the Hunting Palace of Venaria Reale, the Hunting Palace of Stupinigi and The Basilica of Superga.
Juvarra is considered to be the Master architect of the savoy and of Turin itself, due to its use of symmetry and perfection in contrast with the movement and energy of the Baroque Style.
This atmosphere can be noticed in the Hunting Palace of Venaria Reale. The design of this palace includes a “Great Gallery” where symmetry and energy of the baroque style come together to create a mesmerising beauty that resembles Turin’s personality and identity. The Hall has Baroque decorations on the walls and ceiling, while the whole composition gives the impression of a never-ending corridor. However, the opposite sides of the hall are completely symmetric. Additionally, the marble floor adds to the symmetry factor gives a tone of simplicity to the whole design. In my opinion, I believe that the Great Gallery is still a symbol of Turin’s Baroque and symmetric personality; and it is a piece of heritage in the culture of the city as a memory from the past as well as a representation of the future.
During his works in Turin, Juvarra carefully fought about the location of the Savoy palaces, as they are strategically placed in the centre of the city, is considered the headquarters of their kingdom, and outside the walls city on higher grounds, forming a “defencing wall” and boundary of the city as well as an escape plan for the royals in case of an imminent attack.
Around 1801 the Fortification walls of the city were demolished allowing Turin to expand outside the original boundaries, whereas before the area was only used for camps and farm for the Savoy family. These multiple farms became living spaces where people moved in as the city was constantly expanding forming multiple counties such as Venaria Collegno and Grugliasco. The Savoy’s family managed to make Turin change from a fortification to a constantly expanding city that engaged in a perfect balance with the environment around. However, Turin’s expansion did not influence its identity and baroque personality. Turin’s central architecture remained unique for its beauty while the Savoys embelished it with pride and energy. The Baroque period and the heritage artifacts that the Savoy brought to Turin are advantages points in its modern days due to the high tourism and art passionate people who are visiting Turin every year.
Some people I have spoken about Turin in the present days with love and interests stating that “they are never getting bored of the city and they feel that they can learn something new about its identity every day they are living in the city”. This is because the centre of the city is currently maintained with the same parameters as it was designed in the past. Piazza Castello where the main Savoy’s Palace is located has not received major changes unless a few restorations of Palazzo Madama’s Façade10 using Juvarra’s designs.
This is because the project remained incomplete by the architect and it still is a piece of Turin’s Heritage to be completed.
These elements suggest that Turin’s historic and cultural heart has remained unchanged throughout the centuries despite the evolution of the cities and the changes that it has undertaken. When you visit Turin’s centre you might feel that you are transported 300 years ago during the baroque period. The architecture in Turin continues to mesmerise tourists and locals, however, multiple issues aroused during the industrial period of the city since the FIAT was founded. The city is currently coping with present issues caused by the rapid rise of technology and the industry, however, we still need to analyse if the city will still maintain the identity and the heritage that was brought along the ages or will it have to drastically change its personality parameters with the purpose to make an effective improvement.
5. The one company city
This city has a remarkable capacity to question its identity, reinvent new models for itself. After the Italian unification on the 17th of March 1861, Turin became the first capital of the country until 1865. This period raised multiple industrial opportunities in Turin that changed its functions and made the city become part of the industrial triangle of Italy.
In 1864, Porta Nuova train station was built, allowing the city a faster public transport around the newly unified Italy. This element allowed new architects and investors to industrialise the city, however, I believe despite the rapid evolution during this period, Turin still maintained its baroque identity and heritage, trying to cope with the new issues that were arising.
Turin’s industrialisation evolved around the 1870s. Technologies such as Olivetti’s Typewriter, or the new Italian cinema industry managed to emerge from Turin with a rapid expansion Around the north and centre of Italy.
In 1899, Giovanni Agnelli founded Fiat, which shaped the newly industrialised city into a legendary power and workforce in Italy, improving Turin’s social and spatial patterns. Fiat factories help the city to maintain the production units and continue to evolve in technology and the industry after it was not a capital anymore.
Additionally, the city was dealing with a massive migration flow that never happened before. The city had around 200,000 living people whereas in 1861 the population arrived at around 1.1 million. This factor forced the city to expand even more than what already did. Old farming camps were used as new possible district areas where to build either livings spaces or industries. On the other hand, the building parameters of the city did not allow the city to evolve drastically. For example, in Turin, no building should be taller than the Mole Antonelliana, the most famous building in the city.
This ideology raised multiple past and present issues in the industrialisation of the city. A current example could be the newly built San Paolo Bank Tower by Renzo Piano. The tower raised multiple criticisms due to the fact of it being 200 meters tall whereas the Mole stands at 170. Guido Montanari stated that “Turin has a horizon view that is preserved from the 1800s. This is its beauty” as well as “The problem does not include if skyscrapers are right or wrong whereas if Turin needs a skyscraper.” The fact that Turin is not able to build higher forces the city to expand and remove the green fields around the city that might cause multiple environmental issues. Fiat’s importance in Turin 20th century economy goes far beyond the automobile and mechanics industry: it induced a large range of activities such as designing and finance. Fiat became the largest Italian company and was dealing with political social and planning issues along the 20th century. Turin became dependent on the Fiat company still without losing its 1800s atmosphere and maintaining its identity continuing to increase power in the industry. Fiat was also a high influence over the second master planning of Turin. Fiat took over big infrastructures such as Mirafiori and Lingotto and reshaped them to its own needs and functionality giving locals a workplace and an international identity of the city.
On one hand, Fiat helped the city to gain an international identity that allowed it to grow financially. On the other hand, however, the city lost the balance that the Savoy family gave. Turin lost contact with the environment and old natural areas are currently covered in industries and warehouses built by Fiat. The one company town managed to use the space around very effectively and its spread was still minimised. An example could be the Lingotto factory that was designed with a testing race track on the roof in order to save space around.
Additionally, Fiat also redesigned new structures to use as factories around the boundaries of the city; and highways that made transport of materials more effective as well as locals to travel in and out of the city. Multiple institutions were based on Fiat’s influence that allowed Turin to improve its qualities in healthcare, social housing, teaching, and the local newspaper. Turin became the one-company town, where Fiat helped the city to improve its identity changing its shape and personality. The city remained with a 1800s image only in the central area with the modernisation that was occurring and with all the industries running. This explored 2 contrasting images of the city where it remained cultural and historic on the touristic side, but it continued to expand and evolve on the technology and the workforce. Turin had to cope with the issues of urban redevelopment and urban regeneration.
The City started a so-called “cultural Risorgimento”, by giving more even more values to its heritage and 1800s image rather than the industrialisation of Fiat. Within a time, range of 15 years, Turin’s redevelopment shaped the way the city can be viewed and experienced. The city centre became a walkable area as cars were not allowed to enter certain areas of it and designing more underground parking areas. The city was given more to the people that were living in instead of the industry and its architecture managed to enhance its personality again after its period of industrialisation.
Similar to what Aldo Rossi mentioned: “One cannot make architecture without studying the condition of life in the city”; Turin was studied, and the criticism of people was listened by giving back the image of the city.
Currently, Fiat is still a power in the city, however, it does not have as much influence as in the past since the city is focused more on making it greener, cleaner and more cultural rather than industrial. These elements could affect the city in the future in both disadvantaging and advantaging the evolution of it. In this case, the city could be greener and focused on the culture, however, some key issues such as overpopulation, current transport and a minimum range of productions could turn to bigger problems in the future and further planning of the city might be developed.
6. Modern Issues of a city
Despite all the issues and changes that the city has overcome over the centuries; Turin has multiple challenges yet to overcome and address in order to find solutions and make effective changes. Since 2006, after the Winter Olympics, Turin has become an international metropolitan city.
However, multiple issues with the city were not solved or properly analysed. Traffic is drastically increasing in the last 10 years due to the roads being squared and the centre of the city not being accessed at certain times of the day due to the LTZ (Limited Traffic Zone) created to preserve the historic area of Turin.
This policy advantages the tourism and the public access to the centre of the city and allows them to walk on the original roman roads made of stones in the historic area. However, traffic is badly affected as multiple vehicles are forced to avoid the central area by going around the boundaries of it, making journeys longer as well as overpopulating the adjacent roads to the centre.
Additionally, the LTZ should be an advantageous policy for producing less pollution in the city due to the fact of fewer cars driving in certain areas. However, some surveys and research of the area in 2013 proved that Turin is one of the most polluted cities in Europe. In fact, locals are at risk diseases caused by car, and industrial fumes emissions.
Other issues that the city is currently having are the overpopulation of the city as well as the high costs of living spaces. Turin is mostly a city of students due to its top-rated university “Politecnico Di Torino”, therefore every year multiple students are trying to find temporary accommodation during the studying term.
However, due to the lack of space for building and due to the small residential apartments along with the city, housing turns to be highly unaffordable and difficult to find.
Additionally, transport within the city seems to be lacking its efficiency due to the historic maintenance of the city. The city has only one underground train line which is connecting 2 sides of the city.
Therefore, the transport in Turin is based on buses and trams which are less efficient in terms of timing and the number of people transported on one ride. Some might argue that the issues that Turin is currently dealing with are mostly formed from one “choice”. The ideology of maintaining the city historically and keeping its baroque personality is currently creating more issues rather than a solution for the city.
Since people want to keep the 1800s atmosphere of Turin, therefore the city has to deal with 21st-century issues with outdated methods of solution.
Therefore, how could architecture solve these modern issues? Turin may have lost its original Baroque identity due to its industrialisation and misplaced its balanced architecture. Should a city change its personality again for the effectiveness of a better life for the people living inside, similar to what happened during the industrial period?
On the contrary, there could be a balance between its Baroque identity and more effective solutions that could enhance these aspects without ruining their beauty.
Currently, the city seems to be in an existential crisis as the contrast between the Baroque and industrial identity has raised more issues rather than solutions.
I believe the question to ask and consider about Turin is if it is worth a beautiful Baroque city or a city designed for the safety and commodity of the people living inside of it.
7. A city of Opportunities
Within the recent year, it has arrived at a point that the city needed a new planning and effective solutions to solve the issues explored above.
The new Mayor, Piero Fassino, is currently dealing with the issues and has developed a new masterplan for the city, Metropolitan Turin 2025, which has the purpose to reshape the city again in a better place for the people turning it into “a City of Opportunities” by 2025. Piero Fassino states that “in 2025 Metropolitan Turin will be a leading European city positioned for economic success on a global scale and offer unmatched quality of life and social welfare” ; suggesting multiple opportunities for the city at an international level, bringing back the city to the potential of the industrialization period but with better and cleaner policies that are mostly prioritizing the people living in the city and their welfare.
Turin is transforming from a company town to a vibrant cultural and innovation place where people and culture matter more. In June 2012 Mayor Piero Fassino started the third strategic planning effort to identify key solutions to the issues and challenges of the city. The Metropolitan Turin 2025 strategic plan is teamwork that traces the path of the city towards new opportunities and life-changing solutions.
Metropolitan Turin 2025 has discovered multiple assets that the city has such as learning possibilities from the Polytechnic University of Turin which is globally recognized; its strategic geographic location from the industrial triangle of Italy; and its cultural heritage full of history, theaters, museums and facilities that contribute to the tourism of the city. Additionally, the planning team researched the main challenges that the city has to overcome which also includes the 2008 main Italian crisis that lowered the public financing of the services; and the aging population of the city that was caused due to the emigration of the young people from the city after completing the studies.
On an architectural basis, City of Opportunity Metropolitan Turin aims to:
• Increase domestic and international investment ;
• Reduce inefficiencies in public services;
• Capitalise on cultural, artistic and touristic assets;
• Increase quality of life and social inclusion
The architecture strategic plan of the city aims to achieve a better spatial disposition in each sector of the city and provide more housing for the people by giving prioritizing each area and its unique values. Additionally, Turin aims to integrate Metropolitan mobility by including private and alternative forms of transportation. This will give a better public transport within the city boundaries and will decrease the private cars used by the locals, making the roads more sustainable and cleaner from pollution and traffic. Turin wants to become a “more sustainable metropolis” by creating more public green spaces and private gardens within the new accommodations. These elements are aimed to purify the air and increase the social connections of the city with the use of a more sustainable architecture which will also enhance its historical and cultural values by revitalizing the royal gardens of the Savoy’s that will be more open to the public.
As a final step the programme wants to provide more social services and improve the welfare of the people living inside of the city by providing them more benefits such as a better healthcare and learning environments. With this factor the city might solve the issue of migration and ageing population by offering newly graduate students a reason to remain in the city and contribute to its evolution towards a better future full of opportunities. Similar to what Le Corbusier mentioned in “Towards a new architecture”: “architecture is the art above all others which achieves a state of platonic grandeur, mathematical order, speculation, the perception of the harmony which lies in emotional relationships, This is the aim of architecture.”; the city aims to use the mesmerising art of architecture to bring the social relationship connected again.
Turin has yet major issues to overcome and find a solution for. However, I believe that the identity of the city will still be preserved, and its baroque atmosphere and personality will be enhanced by the architectural approaches that the government will pursue. On the other hand. The image of the city still mesmerises locals and tourists, but the city needs innovations to evolve and enhance its image prioritising people and not only its history and heritage.
8. An uncertain but hoping future
By analysing the history and the evolution of the city, we can observe how its identity emerged from multiple choices based on what is right to keep as heritage and what did not work for the welfare of the people and the image of the city.
Turin, was and remains a baroque city with a picturesque identity that continues to mesmerise tourists and locals. Additionally, it also continues to remain an industrialised power of Italy, with the help of Fiat and multiple financial opportunities.
However, in the modern days, Turin turns to become a greener city, more sustainable and that wants to give a balance between history, industry, and natural world. Turin’s identity has overcome minor changes that continued to maintain its origins and I believe that a more sustainable world would also enhance its architecture and baroque image.
To conclude, the aim of preservation of the city will be maintained and it might be the right thing to do. However, the priority needs to be the living quality of the people and how architecture permits these commodities to happen. As architect, we are building for the people while buildings become pieces of preservation and heritage, and I believe that the city of Turin has found that balance and will continue to pursue it with the Turin Metropoly 2025 and with future masterplans that will shape the city towards a better architecture.
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