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« Art Deco | Main | Tacit Knowledge -- 30 »

April 24, 2003

Pic of the Day


Your posting on Art Deco led me, by some mental alchemy, to remember the architectural drawings of Antonio Sant’Elia. He was an immensely gifted young Italian, associated with Futurism, who cranked out a series of visionary architectural drawings before being killed in World War I at the age of 28. (I’m not aware of his having built anything, but a great many famous architects would be in the same boat if they too had died at 28.)

His drawings are simply amazing. The implied tensions, dynamism and thrust are absolutely on a par with the most audacious abstract art. As architecture, however, they leave me with mixed feelings; I suspect I would react to some of his more flamboyant designs (if actually built) with a degree of horror. Several of his designs suggest a kind of 20th century, reinforced concrete version of the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle in the Wizard of Oz. (And they wouldn’t need flying monkeys to seem creepy.)

So what does that make Sant’Elia—a proto Fascist? The world’s greatest set designer? (He’d get my vote.) A passionate young man who saw in industrial architecture a metaphor for his own boundless nervous energy? What would he have become had he lived? Would he have become more of a humanist?

I don’t know, but it’s fun to speculate. What do you think? Some more of his efforts are in the small thumbnails below.



posted by Friedrich at April 24, 2003


I bet the set designer on the original "Batman" movie (the Tim Burton one)--Anton Furst, was that it?-- saw these drawings. He won an Oscar, and then committed suicide if I recollect. Perhaps that's Sant'Elia's fate.

Posted by: annette on April 24, 2003 9:01 PM

The picture leads me to wonder, are you folks familiar with the Codex Seraphinianus? It strikes me as outstanding Blowhard fodder.

Posted by: Will Duquette on April 24, 2003 11:59 PM


Well, that's a connection I didn't think to make. Sant'Elia and the designer of Gotham City--that's a pretty good pair.

Although I suspect that Sant'Elia would have been brokenhearted to be associated with a deliberately retro design!

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on April 25, 2003 12:33 AM

hmmm...not bad. Compared to some modern architecture his designs look almost ordinary.

Posted by: Lynn S on April 25, 2003 10:43 AM

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