An exhibition at Udine Castle celebrates Marcello D'Olivo, visionary artist and architect

Until April 30, 2022, Udine Castle is hosting the exhibition "Marcello D'Olivo, Architect of the World in Friuli Venezia Giulia" dedicated to the artist, architect, urban planner and visionary designer on the occasion of the centenary of his birth.

Udine celebrates the centenary of Marcello D’Olivo ’s birth with a major exhibition set up in the Parliament Hall of Udine Castle and adjacent rooms. Marcello D’Olivo, architect of the world in Friuli Venezia Giulia, this is the title of the exhibition dedicated to the artist, architect, urban planner and visionary designer, curated by Silvia Bianco and Bernardino Pittino and open until April 30, 2022.

Who was Marcello D’Olivo?

Born in Udine on Feb. 27, 1921, he became interested in architecture through an encounter with Raimondo D’Aronco’s nephew, who opened his uncle’s library and introduced him to the world of building. He graduated from the Venice Art School, and one of his teachers, the painter Giuseppe Cesetti, became one of the main references, besides Picasso, for his dreamlike paintings, characterized by curved lines. The first exhibition by Marcello D’Olivo, Fernando Toso and Gino Valle dates back to 1943.

During the war years, D’Olivo was arrested by the Nazis, along with his friend Loris Fortuna, because he was suspected of having many friends in the Resistance, was deported to a detention camp and then to a concentration camp. He managed to get out of the camp after stealing an SS uniform, and speaking German managed to escape. He returned to Venice to attend the Faculty of Architecture. During his time at university he became passionate about calculus, statics and science in all its aspects. Graduating in 1946, he collaborated with Gianni Avon and Provino Valle; until 1949 he worked for the Udine-based Rizzani company, and it was the industries around which D’Olivo’s path was solidified. A friend of Pier Paolo Pasolini and Giuseppe Zigaina, the three would get together to discuss art, politics, and painting. His career as an architect-painter began with the design of the Lignano Pineta subdivision plan.

In 1955 he settled temporarily in Rome for the satellite city project; between 1957 and 1958 he restored the dome of the Sakhra el Musciarafa Mosque in Jerusalem and worked on hospital facilities, roads and schools in Saudi Arabia. From 1959 to 1964 he was joined by Valentino Simonitti to build the Gusmay Hotel, the only built part of the village of Manacore on the Gargano. In 1965 he made the first sketches for the master plan of a satellite town of Libreville, Gabon. He traveled between Europe, the Middle East and Africa, where he planned and built numerous projects, such as school and sports complexes, hotels, neighborhoods, bank headquarters, ministries and highways.
In the 1970s he frequented artists, poets, and men of letters, such as Alfonso Gatto, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Giorgio De Chirico, Leonardo Sinisgalli, Orson Welles, Giulio Carlo Argan, Bruno Zevi, Luigi Nervi, Palma Bucarelli, and Luchino Visconti. In 1972 a solo exhibition was dedicated to him in Trieste and he published Discourse for Another Architecture, his manifesto, with a preface written by Giulio Carlo Argan. In 1977 he presented a scheme for the reconstruction of Friuli after the previous year’s earthquake. He moved to Africa and, two years later was commissioned to build the structures of the Monument to the Unknown Soldier in Baghdad completed in 1982, and participated in the 1978 and 1982 editions of the Venice Biennale. At the end of 1985 he returned to Udine, where he decided to turn more attention to his pictorial production, which, like his architectural work, has always dealt with the link between man and nature. He died at dawn on August 24, 1991, in Udine.

The exhibition aims to acquaint the public with the many facets of the artist and architect, who over the course of a forty-five-year career designed nearly four hundred pieces of architecture, worked all over the world, and moved several times to various cities, but always with his heart to his homeland: between architecture and art, the public has the opportunity to come into contact with Marcello D’Olivo’s thinking, great creativity and infinite love of nature.

Described by architectural historian and art historian Nikolaus Pevsner as “among the most gifted Italian architects of the postwar period,” D’Olivo designed, he drew, his signs were never random. He depicted nature by reinterpreting its forms in his works in which he made art and architecture coexist. Nature and artifice, drawing and sign are his fundamental elements not only in the field of architecture, but also in graphics and painting, as can be seen in the drawings on paper and canvas on display, which come from private collections. Sketches and technical drawings made in pencil, pastel and India ink present D’Olivo’s vision of the Friulian territory. The exhibition focuses on the works designed in Friuli Venezia Giulia: on the drawings made for architectures that were never built but are extremely significant of his idea of making architecture, of his carving deep marks on the territory following the forms of nature, with soft curves or sharp edges.
At the same time it is possible to see drawings and paintings, examples of the painting that was the artist’s first expressive tool. On display are roosters, horses and bulls, the thinkers and trees that he never tired of drawing and also relating to the built, the artificial.

The works he created can be seen through photographs, through historical images kept in theD’Olivo archive, which show the construction site and buildings immediately after their construction. D’Olivo’s thought is very current as it is based on an architecture in balance between nature and technique, on an architecture that is always in relationship with the territory. Thanks to the collaboration with the Friulian Photographic Circle and the Friulian Plastic Arts Center, it is possible to realize the current character of his architecture: photographers and artists reread D’Olivo’s architecture. In addition, thanks to the collaboration with the Friulian Plastic Arts Center, of which D’Olivo was a member, the exhibition opens to the city with the diffuse path"Rileggere D’Olivo,“ which intends to retrace the ”missing places," that is, those places for which D’Olivo conceived projects that were later never realized. In Udine, in the vicinity of the latter, such as viale Venezia, piazzale Osoppo, via Leonardo da Vinci, via Bariglaria and the bus station, five installationshave been placed, then enriched on site by artists with pictorial interpretations.

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An exhibition at Udine Castle celebrates Marcello D'Olivo, visionary artist and architect
An exhibition at Udine Castle celebrates Marcello D'Olivo, visionary artist and architect

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