Arlecchino Fine Arts - Works by Salvatore FiumeArchitectures
An Introduction to the Architectures
of Salvatore Fiume
by Alberto Galardi, architect

Fiume's projects, to a certain extent paradoxical and utopian, originate from his wish to put forward a new and highly personal vision of architecture: an uninhibited vision deeply rooted in his world of images where architecture is conceived as a plastic/figurative art which could be a feasible alternative to the 'current' architectural conceptions.

Fiume's first projects date back to the early post-war years. Since then his architectural experimentation has been such a stimulating interest of his, that it could be said to represent one of the most important aspects of his work, at least in terms of pure invention. Yet, unlike the other forms of art to which he dedicated himself, Fiume's research in architecture remained almost completely unknown for many years. Until the early 1990s, in fact, his projects have only been published sporadically.

At first sight Fiume's architectures are literally astonishing because of their 'heretical' diversion from usually accepted canons, which makes them so difficult to read and interpret. A tentative definition of his enigmatic view might range between 'inhabitable sculpture' and 'sculptural architecture'.

With the exception of Spain's Gaudž, whose imaginative invention belongs to the same stream, Fiume's creations are unique in 20th Century production. Its characterizing elements are fantasy and imagination together with a reminiscence of classical culture which seems to be a major component in the symbolism of his figurative language.

Fiume's architectural sculptures have often the most fantastic and various shapes: anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, or even the shape of a huge orange or a gigantic pumpkin. Under his hands even capital letters have become architectures forming meaningful words within the urban framework.

Fiume explains:
"I keep dreaming of a world made of statues: cities, streets, the whole America with statues all over the place. Skyscraper-statues everywhere, on the islands as well as in Paradise where I wish people will be able to converse for a couple of millenniums at a time on large terraces and long arcades".
Clearly, the fantastic character of Fiume's inventions prevails over the volume/structure distribution preoccupation and this is undoubtedly due to the major influence he received from the metaphysical concepts of De Chirico and Savinio. It was the latter, by the way, who introduced him to the Scala Theatre management when it came to substituting for Salvador Dalž, suddenly fallen ill. On that occasion Fiume was invited to create the stage designs for La Vida Breve, an opera by Manuel De Falla, presented in 1952. Thereafter Fiume worked for quite a few major theatres in the world, including the Covent Garden of London and the Opera House of Rome, and this activity seems to have left its mark on a good section of his architectural production. In fact, his projects often seem to emerge from the imaginary space of the stage.

His idea of architecture is much more concerned with plastic forms than it is with the organization of inner space.

In his inhabitable sculptures one can find quotations from an exotic world and from civilizations remote in time and space.

Fiume's refusal of constructive conformance and of the general collapse of the fantastic component in modern architecture is at the basis of his proposal.
"I must confess" he wrote "that within my apparently paradoxical urbanistic concept there is a genuine wish to build real cities of statues. In fact, I know that those images do not only contain my pictorial joyfulness, they also contain the structures that would make such buildings reasonably easy to construct and to live in like any other residence. The inside of a sculputure/hotel contains a conventional building whose anthropomorphic shape is obtained by adding a few protruding elements to its flat walls. So, looking at one of these architectures you will tend to think that conventional buildings are like faces without cheeks. Unde-niably, this kind of intervention gives a unique physiognomy to the architecture, making it alive and similar to man. One may wonder why anthropomorphic cities should be built rather than traditional ones. The answer can be found in the spectacle presented by most of the cities whose growth has taken place in the outskirts of historical centres".

The almost total lack of the imaginative element in the poetics of the Modern Movement is strikingly confirmed in the History of the Modern Movement from William Morris to Walter Gropius by Nikolaus Povsner where, unbelievable though it may be, Gaudž's works are completely ignored.

It is therefore in a rebellion to the cold time-serving attitude of today's architecture that Fiume came to the idea of an architecture full of invention and originality which could be defined as 'figurative' or 'mythological'.

So, not by chance did I mention a link between Gaudž's and Fiume's works. In fact, at the end of the 19th century Gaudž presented a revolutionary vision of architecture characterized by an imaginative approach afterwards described as "belonging somewhere between paleoscience and science fiction, between the distant past and the near future". But in those years, as Le Corbusier admitted during the 1928 CIAM Meeting in Barcelona, the time was not ripe for the importance of that architecture to be recognized. Likewise, I think the time is now ripe for Fiume's highly personal world of images to be fully understood.

In conclusion, I believe that Fiume's architectural proposal, whose most interesting aspects can be seen here, is an extremely original contribution to the present debate, principally focused on the search for new certainties and values, after the wreck of the now obsolete architecture of the recent past.

 


A metropolis of statues
The urban space seems to be transformed here
in a stage scenery


 

 

Works by Salvatore Fiume

 

 

 

 

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A village on the sea-shore of the island of Favignana, Sicily
The main body has been conceived as a huge human head. On each side, a horse-shaped single-family house.

 


Anthropomorphic church dedicated to the Virgin Mary

 


"Horizontal skyscrapers"
A proposal for a city where large spaces are kept free on the floor level

 


A hotel for equatorial Africa

 


Project for a villa shaped like an African mask sculpture

 


Zoomorphic buildings: fish-shaped
The plastic/sculptural invention prevailing over problems of inner space management

 


Zoomorphic buildings: bull-shaped

 

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