This week I have a guest article from Diana Zahuranec, an expat living in Turin. Since I’m a big fan of interesting architecture, when Diana proposed this article I immediately said yes. In just a few weeks time I’ll be in Turin for the first time. Can’t wait to meet up with Diana and see for myself the amazing architecture of Turin.
5 Unusual and Eye-Catching Buildings in Turin
Turin is known for its rich collection of Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neo-Classical, and Art Nouveau architecture. Its tree-lined boulevards, miles of arcades, and royal castles make the one-time capital of Italy one of the most elegant and unique cities in Italy.
But forget Baroque masterpieces and ancient Roman city quarters — today, we’re going to look at buildings that break the mold. From famous landmarks, to off the beaten track, here are five unique and eye-catching buildings to see in Turin.
Via Giulia di Barolo, 9
Let’s start small. The Torinese affectionately call the Scaccabarozzi House “La Fetta di Polenta,” or the “slice of polenta.” Tall, skinny, and painted deep golden yellow, it’s easy to see why.
Alessandro Antonelli – the architect of another famous building designed the Scaccabarozzi House in 1840, finishing it in 1881. The construction of the house came about as a kind of bet. The tiny piece of land that Antonelli possessed for construction was an odd, trapezoidal shape. Negotiations to expand the property did not go through, but Antonelli wanted to prove he could construct a house, anyway – making up in height what was lacking in width. The building is 27 meters high and 27 meters long, but just 5 meters wide on one side – and 0.7 meters wide on the other!
Though it looks delicate, it has survived World War II bombings and an earthquake in 1887 that nearly razed the neighborhood to the ground. Originally Antonelli and his wife lived there because the locals were afraid it was unstable. The cheerful-looking Slice of Polenta was even the site of the Caffè of Progress, a refuge of the revolutionary Carbonari (“charcoal burners”) and other conspirators in the years before Italy’s unity in 1861.
Via Montebello 20, 10124
Called the Mole (mo-lay) for short, this impressive building is Turin’s architectural symbol. It marks the Torinese skyline with its tall dome and star-tipped needlepoint spire.
Mole means “huge,” and Antonelliana is named after its architect: Alessandro Antonelli, the same of the Fetta di Polenta. Originally planned as synagogue for the Jewish population of Turin, Antonelli’s ambitions soared higher and costlier than the original blueprint, and the Jewish community rejected the building. The Torinese population however, had been watching the building rise on their horizon since day one, and demanded it be finished.
The City of Turin granted a piece of land to the Jewish community to build their synagogue (an impressive Moorish Revival building), and funded the completion of the Mole in 1889. Today, it houses the interactive, multi-media, National Cinema Museum. A glass elevator takes visitors straight up through a hair-raising emptiness in the center of the dome to an unbeatable lookout point. The Mole Antonelliana is the tallest museum in the world, and appears on the back of Italian 2 cent coins.
Via Chiabrera, 25
This urban oasis of green in Turin is a model in sustainable architecture, and recalls the wonder of the Robinson Crusoe family’s extravagant tree house.
Architects Luciano Pia and Ubaldo Bossolono designed Verde 25, a five-story, sixty-three unit apartment and office complex. Curved balconies and winding staircases are built in wood, giving the place a handcrafted, homey feel.
The branches and tree trunks rendered in steel, appear to grow among countless trees, shrubs, flowers, and plants. There are 150 trees on the exterior and 50 in the courtyard, plus hundreds of other vines and plants that protect residents from noise and air pollution. Each plant has been thoughtfully selected to the changing of the seasons, so that something green blooms all year long.
The trees produce 150,000 liters of oxygen each hour and absorb 200,000 liters of carbon dioxide per hour. It’s not just a pretty building though — the whole mode of operation is sustainable. The heating and cooling systems use geothermal energy, and rainwater is recycled to help water the plants.
Campus Luigi Einaudi – University of Turin, Law and Political Science building
Lungo Dora Siena, 100
Situated on the western edge of the city center, the University of Turin has turned its formerly industrial surroundings into a modern architectural wonder of sustainable design.
Designed by Foster + Partners, the Law and Political Science department is housed in two buildings connected by an arching roof canopy that lets in plenty of natural light. Students probably love coming to this eye-catching, elegantly modern building for class. Instead of square edges and harsh angles, it’s all about curves — showing off sophisticated engineering on the exterior. Inside classrooms and lecture halls are flexible in order to fit professors’ and students’ needs. It is not only beautiful, but energy efficient, as it greatly reduces the need for artificial light. In fact, the buildings have several other passive sustainability methods built in, that reduce energy needs by twenty percent overall.
Chiesa del Santo Volto
Via Val della Torre
In a country where every church is a work of extravagant art and masterful decoration of past ages, this futuristic Catholic Church of the Holy Face stands out. If you’re in the area to check out the Law and Political Science building, this church is nearby – so don’t miss it.
Built between 2004 and 2006, the church was constructed at the convergence of three neighborhoods: San Donato, Parella, and Madonna di Campagna – where once major industrial sites and steelworks dominated (Michelin, Teksid, Deltasider S.p.A., and Pianelli &Traversa). When the area was revived with residential buildings plus the modern Law and Political Science department nearby, Swiss architect Mario Botta designed the church with the zone’s new identity in mind.
Its façade is characterized by seven towers, thirty-five meters high, that let in rays of light to illuminate the interior. Behind the altar is a pixelated version of the Holy Shroud of Turin made from pink marble of Verona.
Read more about the real Shroud of Turin.
A particularly surprising piece of architecture is the bell tower. This tall steel cylinder was once a smokestack from the steelworks –it’s wrapped in a metallic spiral with the bells at its base. Symbolically the Church of the Holy Face is the first church of the 21st century.
Diana Zahuranec is a writer, editor, and translator at Wine Pass, an online magazine (in Italian and English) on wine and wine tourism in Piedmont. You can also find her on her blog Once Upon a Time in Italy, or follow her on Twitter @zrdiana and Instagram @dianarz48.
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