Bianca Felicori’s Forgotten Architecture highlights unknown and lesser-known architecture products the present is yet to know
Virgo Sun and Rising
While reading up on Bianca Felicori, one may chance upon her revelation of being a Virgo Sun and Rising and a curiosity as to whether she leans towards spirituality – astrology to be specific – dawns. «I have to be honest. I started relying on astrology when I realized that I needed to believe in something, having never had a religious education. I believe in chances and destinies, a reason I do not think it is a coincidence that I am not only a Virgo Sun but also a Virgo Rising. Through this sign, I find a way to understand myself and grapple with my peace whenever I ask myself many questions about life. My zodiac sign influences my work in many ways, particularly in research. I am very organized and try to be as precise as possible because my work is as obsessive as my zodiac sign.»
Skimming through astrology on the traits of a Virgo, they carry out perfectionism in their career, relationships, finance, decisions, and life. People seek their intelligence as Virgos can fixate on the big picture while zoning in on details to materialize a project. They walk the talk instead of just talking the word and not walking the walk. Everything they do must be the epitome of the very best, so delays occur, drawn from what they consider good enough or acceptable means starting from scratch or revising every detail to achieve perfection. For their career, they get the job done right and veer off from changing activities as they thrive in systems and orders. They require directions and expectations as vagueness only leads to stress. They establish their standards in chasing and actualizing perfection, even if their concept of it shifts as their self-criticism reigns from time to time, if not all the time.
These traits infiltrate Felicori’s work ethic and career as an architect, researcher, and journalist. Her aptitude in research and investigation fuels her quest to get to the bottom of an issue rather than just rely on the gist. When her urge to expand her knowledge on architecture gripped her still, she gave birth to a project that now acts as her canvas to toy her Virgo traits. From the facts and figures related to a product of architecture down to the sourcing of the images to be uploaded, Felicori runs Forgotten Architecture, a space to explore and safeguard forgotten and less-known modern architecture worldwide.
Forgotten Architecture by Bianca Felicori
From early on, Felicori has displayed her knack for art as she painted with oils, attended pottery classes, sat down for comics lectures, and wrote creative and non-creative pieces. But knowing that she took up architecture as her undergraduate degree might evoke the question, why not art? «Architecture, at least for me, balances having scientific knowledge while getting closer to the world of applied arts. Before studying this, I knew I would never view and traditionally work on architecture. I remember once, in my second year at the University, enrolled in Architecture at the Politecnico di Milano and studying History II; I was talking to Giovanni, a classmate, about Grado, a seaside town that we both frequented as children. A building overlooking the sea known as ‘Zipser,’ a huge residential complex of family apartments. One day, Giovanni and I researched our history class on this building designed by Marcello D’Olivo, one of the most forgotten architects in Italian history. Thanks to this academic research, I found out that he had worked with a great friend of my father, Luca Sossella. So, I visited Luca, and he showed me an article published in Repubblica on the day of his death entitled ‘The Forgotten Architect Marcello D’Olivo.’ That was the beginning of my love for the forgotten and less-known architecture», Felicori tells Lampoon.
With over twenty-four thousand followers on Instagram and twenty-eight thousand on Facebook, Forgotten Architecture has amassed a cult who invests their time browsing through the remnants of the past that still pervade the present or contributing findings and stories concerning the topic to place on Felicori and the collective’s radar. «I think Forgotten Architecture has become popular because it is a way to talk about an elitist discipline to a horizontal audience. It does not pretend to be a historical platform; it just wants to give users the information they need to learn more about an architect or a building and, perhaps, to dote on them. The key to its success lies in the informality of the dialogues.»
The need to recover projects by unknown or less-known architects stems from a personal issue of Felicori, one that compels her to penetrate the box her university studies placed her in. «The criticism and history of architecture are different depending on the state, region, and city in which it is taught and told. So very often, certain characters are left out. Historians and critics highlight and explore specific architects, celebrating them as masters and leaving others in the shadows. I aimed to discover what I had not discovered yet, and in this way, to pay respects to the creators and their creations. We have found forgotten buildings that are now considered famous. I have contacted architects who have been in total silence for fifty years, and thanks to Forgotten Architecture, they are given a new light.»
The influences of the forgotten
Felicori’s testament visits her social media feeds to publish these projects. In 1974, Günther Domenig, in collaboration with Volker Giencke and engineer Otto Thaller, designed the dining hall of a school for nuns in Graz, Austria. Positioned in the courtyard of the school, the architecture resembles a spaceship from the science fiction cinema, underscored by the gem-like objects that top the roof, the Y-form of the framework, and the metal structure detailed with lines.
Inside, the circles on the roof filter the sunlight to illuminate the beige interior and the hall where the nuns dine. Felicori moves on to a weekend house designed by Michael Jantzen in 1977 in Illinois, USA. The home can be assembled using low-cost materials, a getaway suitable for both the countryside and the seaside; the indoor space may house eight people; the windows double as the walls to let the sunlight spill from the outside. She also posted the apartment Alberto Salvati and Ambrogio Tresoldi, two architects from Milan, created for an art collector that owns the works of Lucio Fontana, Giuseppe Capogrossi, Giuliano Barbanti, Enrico Baj, and Thea Valle, where royal blue falls in sync with the specks of white along with design.
«It depends on whether these architects I have to mention should be forgotten or not,» Felicori starts to tell Lampoon when asked about the architects and projects that have influenced her work ethic. «Certainly, one of the people who has influenced my path the most is Ettore Sottsass jr. Reading his texts changed my life and made me understand that my work is my passion and, for this reason, coincides with my life itself. I discovered a flat in Milan that Sottsass designed for the artist Arnaldo Pomodoro thanks to Forgotten Architecture. Not even the Pomodoro Foundation and Barbara Radice Sottsass knew it was still perfectly preserved. Thanks to Forgotten Architecture, I made another wonderful discovery was Andrejs Legzdiņš, an architect born in Riga who lived in Stockholm and was part of the European radical and visionary movement. I interviewed him for Domus, and his work will be published in the Forgotten Architecture book, which will be coming out soon. As for the rest, it is impossible not to mention Gian Piero Frassinelli, a former member of Superstudio, to whom I am personally linked, and my Ph.D. subject, which is the facet of my present I care most about and where I am investigating the relationship between art and architecture in the 1960s and 1970s, the time the new radical and visionary architecture was born in Europe and America.»
Abandoned versus forgotten
It takes time to construct a building and, more so, for people to marvel at it – to treasure it for pleasure. Contrary to this, a product of architecture may be forgotten or abandoned in a flick. «As I mentioned before, very often it is the critics and the history of architecture that decide who should be celebrated and who should be forgotten. Thanks to the internet, this process can be more easily reversed, and the problem can be solved more easily by sharing images and information. One must be careful not to confuse ‘forgotten’ with ‘abandoned’; sometimes, concepts can coincide, and other times, they do not. It tends to be the case that the abandoned buildings that are part of Forgotten Architecture’s large archive have been abandoned for various reasons. A frequent cause is a disuse because the function for which they were built no longer reflects the needs of the present society, such as the maritime colonies in Italy». Rifling through Forgotten Architecture, Felicori’s statement rings true: the structures, once revolutionary in their period, can no longer adapt to the modernity of the present.
These days, Bianca Felicori pours her dedication and time working on her Ph.D. and researching Forgotten Architecture. On the horizon, her book related to her master project will soon hit the stores, culminating her collaborative work and effort with architects and architecture enthusiasts across the globe. In Spring 2022, she will also be shooting a documentary involving the architecture around Italy, scouting for gems to unearth and archives to study.
As for her journalism career, «I will surprise you mainly because I believe that work coincides with life, and this is an old belief that I learned from my studies on radical architects. It is also necessary to talk about one’s discipline and other topics. For example, I would very much like to talk about feminism linked to the theme of the body and sport, from body shaming to nutrition, from catcalling to eating disorders. I would like to talk about general culture and read about my activity and those of other professionals working in the world of architecture and art, sharing their sporting side, which for me is very important. In general, I would like to be asked more often to talk about the present». She has a plethora of activities on her plate, but she invites neither anxieties nor worries as she organizes them in systems. As a Virgo, she does such and will succeed. In the meantime, her flair for investigation, research, and data analysis – backed by her traits as a Virgo – calls her to spotlight architects and architecture in all their forms.
Bianca is an architect, researcher, and journalist for Domus, Artribune, ElleDecor Italia, and ADItalia. Her degree in Architecture and Urban Design at Politecnico di Milano kicked off Forgotten Architecture in 2019, a platform where she rediscovers forgotten and lesser-known modern architecture worldwide.