If you’ve spent any time in the Italian countryside, you’ve likely seen them: skeletal, concrete structures that consist of little more than a couple floors suspended by columns, connected by a single staircase. “It’s one of those things that makes up the Italian landscape today, on the tops of hills, by the beach, on the seaside,” says architect and writer Joseph Grima. “Some are in states of disrepair, and some are fully functional buildings.”
Le Corbusier, the famous Swiss-French architect and pioneer of modernism, didn’t design these structures, but they bear his fingerprints. Each is built in the image of the Maison Dom-Ino, his World War I-era blueprint for standardized housing. When Le Corbusier unveiled his drawing in 1914, he had an idea without a client. And while it never took off as he envisioned, it was adapted by a generation of Italian architects.
Grima, founder of the design group Space Caviar, grew up in Italy amidst these odd structures. Like skyscrapers in New York and Pizza Huts across America, they are steeped in design history but rarely noticed. When they are, it’s not always favorably: “It’s a design innovation that’s been turned into something, especially in Italy, that is regarded as something completely the opposite. It’s a form of architectural blasphemy. It became synonymous with an eyesore, and a dilapidated landscape,” Grima says. […]