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Colleferro Foundation City – Città di Fondazione –  became a “Monumental City” in 2018 when it won the Lazio City of Culture award, but what does this recognition mean? Why did it get it?

Colleferro is one of the few cities that has a precise date of birth, June 13, 1935, and a mind that conceived it from the beginning. It was born from a vision of Senator Leopoldo Parodi Delfino who charged the engineer, Riccardo Morandi to realize his dream.

The story of an Industrial Revolution with a gentle soul in which there is no mention of exploitation of the workforce, where there was elimination of slavery of the working class, here there was  a factory that had to bring development to an entire territory.

Colleferro was therefore born as a unitary project of an entire city, in practice it is the opposite of spontaneous architecture of the 1980s. This is why it is called “Foundation City” and joins others born around those years, but it is the only one that has an industrial and non-agricultural character.

Colleferro is a “different town” that is part of a territory of ancient towns that survived thanks to an rural economy. Colleferro has always been identified as an industrial town, for better or for worse. The industry has also involved development, growth, training of staff, and been the meeting place of the 20 regions that have arrived and have formed a totally new community “.

These are the words of Pierluigi Sanna, mayor of Colleferro who, in addition to promoting the cultural awakening of the city, has also promoted a new way of looking at the history of this town. For example, instead of creating its own festival or food festival, it has created an event that is a tribute to the people of all the regions of Italy who helped build Colleferro (Regionando sulla radici).

But let’s go back to Colleferro – Città di Fondazione, or rather to its birth.

The urban, architectural and structural design was entrusted to the young and talented engineer Riccardo Morandi rather than to an architect, perhaps because Leopoldo himself was an engineer and was at ease with his colleagues. The result speaks for them.

Morandi was about 30 years old when he experimented with the design of an entire city that was to be born in symbiosis with the factory and accompany the growth of an entire community.

The result of this choice is unique: an urban settlement that has no equal if it does not go back in time or change its country. A city where technique and form are combined in a unique way. The buildings are extremely efficient but always have their value in the form, the choice of public buildings is functional to the factory but has an advanced social sensitivity for its time.

Colleferro began as an industrial centre, for which identity is to be productive, proactive, innovative. But Colleferro is also a social experiment: the city had all the services that served as a support to the industry. There were the houses for the employees (divided according to the class they belonged to: workers, staff or managers), there were schools, the church, the hospital, the barracks, the town hall but also the shops, the kindergartens and the market.

The design of the city started in the 1930s but survived the war period unscathed and continued until the 1960s with the design of industrial buildings and conference rooms. On the contrary, in the post-war period in Colleferro bold reinforced concrete structures were experimented, that is in structures in which the iron was subjected to tensioning to produce the compression beams before being brought to the construction site.

This system experimented by Riccardo Morandi is still used all over the world, and serves to increase the “power” of the beams that can have longer ‘lengths’, i.e. have fewer pillars and more free spaces.

Due to its unique history, the unitary design of Colleferro has survived the years without too many changes and most of the buildings have not changed appearance. Apart from the Colleferro market, which was the subject of a modernization intervention in the 1980s that changed its architectural lines. But trade and consumer habits constantly change over time to the point that today we are returning to the approach of Riccardo Morandi but with the addition of digital equipment.

The crisis of big industry in the 90s sent the identity of Colleferro into a crisis that became a city of waste and forgot that it is also a City of Space inserted in the system of European Space Cities. The crisis had caused the loss of pride and with this the ability to dream.

Colleferro City of Foundation and Capital of Culture of Lazio in 2018 had the great merit of having placed a spotlight on the positive stories of this town. Not a nostalgia for the past but the discovery of the roots on which to build the future. On the high-tech industry that takes us into space, a protagonist of man’s upcoming challenges to discover the secrets of the universe.

The merit of the rediscovery of the Morandian work as an element of the identity of an entire town and a source of pride for those who live there, is certainly the architect Luca Calselli, that with the artistic direction of Dario Biello coordinates the Ri-Gymnasium work group. To them goes the recognition of having re-evaluated this cultural heritage that had been underestimated together with the whole Italian twentieth century.

For more information on the architectural and urban history of Colleferro, visit the website where the entire Morandian archive regarding the city is being inserted.

Claudia Bettiol

IT Ingegnere, futurista e fondatrice di Discoverplaces. Consulente per lo Sviluppo Turistico dei Territori, specializzato nella sostenibilità e nella promozione culturale dei piccoli territori e delle piccole imprese. Ama i cavalli ENG Engineeer, futurist, joint founder of Energitismo and founder of Discoverplaces. Consultant for the development and promotion of the Touristic Development of Territories specialising in sustainability and in cultural promotion of small places and small enterprises. She loves horses