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Sant'Elia Futurism

Term Paper History of Architecture

Purnima Pawar
Roll Number: 25
Sushant School of Art and

Futurism was a movement, concerning art and social issues that originated in Italy in
early 20
century. This was the time when telephone, telegraph, aero plane,
automobile and other new technological inventions were changing the face of the
western European society. Along with Italy, parallel movements were taking place in
other parts of Europe.
The movement affected a lot of poets, thinkers and scientists. The futurists practiced
in every medium of art including painting, sculpture, interior design, architecture
among the many others.
The futurists were concerned with new technologies and some of the themes of the
movement were youth, violence, speed etc. the need for new things led to a
complete disposal of the past. New technology and the need for new things drew the
futurists towards the fast moving city life. Hence their ideas were mainly concerned
with improving the lifestyle of people.
Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, an Italian poet founded the movement and produced its
first manifesto; the manifesto of Futurism in 1909.The futurist movement attracted a
lot of architects beside poets and artists, but at a later stage. Antonio SantElia was
one such architect who was swayed by Futurism. His bold urban forms in his
architectural designs were an outcome of the futurist vision.
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The Futurist movement started to lose its momentum after the death of Umberto
Boccioni in 1916.
SantElias Futurism
Futurism architecture was a form of architecture characterized by anti-historicism,
meaning do not look back.
Speed, motion and urgency by the use of long horizontal lines were brought forth in
this type of architecture. A lot of manifestos regarding paintings and sculpture were
written by the futurists, but there was no manifesto on architecture until 1914, five
years after the movement had been founded. Futurism was concerned with changing
civilizations and building new cities, hence making architecture one of the major
areas that had the capability to directly influence the society. Therefore no manifesto
in this field meant no recruit in architecture, which was both strange and ironic.
In August 1914, the manifesto Futurist Architecture was published supposedly
by Sant'Elia, though this is not settled and is subject to debate.
Antonio SantElia was born in 1888 in Italy. It was here only that he trained
and qualified as a builder after which he moved to Milan and continued his education
in architecture. Till 1912 SantElia was not involved in the futuristic movement
.however he was under the influence of the movement and its ideas by 1914.
Despite the fact that Antonio SantElia died at a young age of 28, he made a huge
impact on futurism architecture. SantElia got caught up in the movement, which was
about looking to the future and forgetting the past, in his 20s. The futurist movement
was about embracing and celebrating the new age of 20
century and rejecting
traditional architectural forms. SantElia translated this vision of the futurists into new
dynamic industrial aesthetics. His drawing was a window into the fantasy world of
iconic and demonstrative form.
In the manifesto, Futurist Architecture, Sants Elia stated that
"The decorative value of Futurist architecture depends solely on the use and
original arrangement of raw or bare or violently colored materials".
Architecture now makes a break with tradition. It must perforce [per forza]
make a fresh start.
The decorative must be abolished.
Things will endure less than us. Every generation must build its own city.
Sants Elia was a visionary and his thoughts were for a highly industrialized
and mechanized city of the future. He believed in raw form which was the trademark
of futurism. SantElia emphasized on the need to respond to the new industrial age
and to celebrate the essentials and requirements of the contemporary urban life:
railway stations, ports and grand hotels. That Futurist architecture is the architecture
of calculation, of audacious temerity and of simplicity. In this architecture reinforced
concrete, steel, glass, cardboard, textile, fibre etc. that enabled to obtain maximum
elasticity and lightness were to be thought of as substitutes for wood, stone and
brick . He believed that it was necessary to reinvent the city as a dynamic entity, full
of energy and movement and to construct buildings like gigantic machines.
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In the manifesto SantElia emphasizes on the usage of degradable materials
along with new designs and technologies. He emphasized that each generation
needed to have its own architecture and not follow what already existed and hence
build their own towns. The architecture which was for the past will not be able to
meet the social challengers of future and therefore each generation must build its
own city. Also the decoration element superimposed on architecture was absurd and
the decorative value of the futuristic architecture depended solely on use and
arrangement of raw or bare or violently coloured materials. The use of new materials
along with old designs was considered as wastage of material, as stated in the
His drawings show the image of a future metropolis where streets are no
longer confined to the ground floor and the buildings form a part of an integrated
urban complex. He began drawing up designs for the utopian society known La Citt
Nuova. It consisted of futuristic cityscapes forming a technological metropolis that
was intended to be "a battery of human and mechanical energy." This was the
machine aesthetic in action. The buildings were a combination of sharp diagonals
and sheer verticals.
He never left the full plan of La Citt Nuova. His drawings represent individual
parts of the city.
The drawings were composed of entirely of sketches and perspective. Each
drawing represented one building as a component of the mechanized city. The
buildings of La Citta Nuova had several consistent features. One of the features was
the verticality of each building. As a designer SantElia realized the importance of
minimizing footprint and building upwards to maximize per square footage without
wasting the precious land that could be used for public circulation. In some drawings
exterior elevators travelling up the outside of the buildings can be seen helping to
make these buildings and futurism themes more believable and functional. He also
used large arched bridges with water below them. These bridges had train tracks
and routes for automobiles. This shows us SantElia knew that combining all modes
of transportation into single paths of circulation will help decongest the city. The
buildings that he labelled were one of the most crucial ones to the city as believed by
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Stazione ferroviarai e Aeroportuale(* Building design * by Antonio St'Elia
1888-1916 * public domain {{PD}}
One such building is station for airplanes and trains .use of straight lines and
symmetry can be seen in the drawings of the building. Two arched flanked towers as
seen in the picture are located on either side of the 7 centrally located ramps. The
ramps elevate the trains from the ground to the airport located behind the station..
The towers are crowned by three antennas hence showing that even in 1914s
SantElia recognized the need for communication between the station and the rest of
the world. He fused different modes of transport (rail and air) into a single multi-
levelled structure with cable cars and elevators emphasizing the mechanistic
purpose of the building and its dynamic role within the life of the city. With its
symmetrical towers and colossal scale, however, it resembles a cathedral of the
future, a monument to the vision of a future way of life. In 1920 a German impression
created a film in which he depicted a futurist society with many of the same themes
as La Citt Nuova.
Even though SantElia created a highly imaginative drawing, ramps used to
elevate trains were highly impractical because of the increase in need of energy to
do so.
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Another building is the Centrale Ellictrica. The electrical plant is located right
on the river and most likely uses the water for generating electricity. SantElia loved
the electricity and thought the whole city should embody the energy of
this drawing, use of straight line creates a sense on movement.

(Terraced Building with exterior elevators
The Final building is the setback high rise building. The setback from each
floor provides balconies to each floor and maximizes the entry of natural light into the
building. Such buildings would have got maximum carbon rewards in todays
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contemporary milieu. Further, in several sketches he has lifted the ground floor to
allow the traffic to pass by. Verticality is one of the main features in SantElia s

In Santelia design one can clearly see a hint of monumental architecture with
monolithic pillars and facades, hence conclude that the objective of the futuristic
movement, to create a new city separate from the past, was an impossible task.

These buildings could not be built because Sant' Elia's vision far exceeded the
technological capabilities of the day. In other words, the Futurist interest in the
machine arose from a nave celebration of the machine as a symbol. They failed to
grasp the practical aspects of technology and could not adapt to the technological
limitations of the day. For that reason, Sant' Elia's designs remained on the drawing
Even though Sant' Elia's designs remained on the drawing board ,in the mid-
century his works inspired the Googie movement, the futurism of southern
California. His works also set the stage for derivatives of futurism later in the century
with architects like John Lautner, Frank Wallace, Csar Pelli and more. His ideas on
fusing of multi-modes of transport, decongesting cities, going vertical to reduce
horizontal foot-print, thereby paving the way for more economic use of land etc are
now found highly relevant and in fact in vogue today. He could foresee from the
perspective of architecture the pressure of increasing demand of buildings,
increasing population and eventual scarcity of land. The technology has evolved
significantly in the whole of twentieth & early twenty - first century, making it possible
to implement his vision of architecture,. Such dynamism in architecture is now seen
even in developing Countries and the credit for such vision should largely go to
futurist architecture like SantElia.

(2012, 04). La Citta Nuova (the New City) by Antonio Sant Elia.
Retrieved 04, 2012, from
Manifesto of Futurist Architecture ("Manifesto of Futurist Architecture". 8-01-2011.)
Meyer, Ester da costa, The Work of Antonio Sant'Elia: Retreat Into the Future s.l:
Yale University Press, 1995
Frampton, Kenneth. Modern Architecture - A Critical History. pp 84-89. New York:
Thames and Hudson Inc, 1985
Sant'Elia, Antonio. Manifesto of Futurist Archtiecture. 1917. 8 Dec 2004

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