The architect Paolo Portoghesi has died

An absolute protagonist of the Italian and international architectural culture scene, disappears at the age of ninety-one. Architect, university professor and author, Portoghesi directed the first International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 1980

Paolo Portoghesi. Photo Giovanna Massorbio

With the disappearance of the architect Paolo Portoghesi, which took place on May 30th at his home in Calcata (in the province of Viterbo), the Italian architectural panorama loses one of its (discussed) points of reference. Tireless to the last – this is confirmed by the fact that he should have held one lectio magistralis Next June 9th in Rome, on the occasion of the initiative of the Order of Architects of Rome for the International Day of Archives and as part of the events dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the law that regulated the profession of architect in Italy, Portoghesi linked to the practice of the profession and the construction well-known works – especially the Mosque and the Islamic Cultural Center, in Rome – the activity of a teacher, historian, theorist and curator. Born in Rome in 1931, he studied at La Sapienza University, graduating in 1957. It was at this university and at the Milan Polytechnic (of which he was Dean from 1968 to 1976) that he taught: the history of architecture, which was also the linchpin of his work as an author and researcher. With his works, including the volumes on Baroque Rome and Renaissance Rome, on Francesco Borromini and Guarino Guarini, Portoghesi has linked his own path with the postmodern current, to which he also dedicated his famous works Postmodern. Architecture in post-industrial society. In turn, we owe him the founding and management of industry magazines, beginning with counter area.

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It shaped an era and is still constantly quoted today and is the subject of analysis and reflection. The presence of the pastthe first International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, directed by Portoghesi in 1980. On this historic occasion, as Director of the Architecture Department of the Lagoon Institution (function from 1979 to 1982), Portoghesi offered the choral experience of New street: He chose to flank the facades of ten life-size replica houses along a 70-metre path in the Corderie dell’Arsenale. The projects of Frank O. Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Arata Isozaki, Robert Venturi, Franco Purini, Ricardo Bofil and Christian de Portzamparc, as well as the architects chosen by the curator, led to a collective reflection on postmodernism, a movement that draws on the legacy of the Forms and decorative elements from history could offer an alternative to modernity and its canons.

Paolo Portoghesi, Casa Baldi, Rome 1959-61
Paolo Portoghesi, Casa Baldi, Rome 1959-61


Multiple awards, Knight of the Grand Cross of the Italian Republic in 2002, national member of the Lincei (2000), member of the Academy of Arts in Florence (since 1977), former President of the Accademia di San Luca, which founded Portoghesi works both in Italy and also abroad. His production in the sacred area is particularly well known, with the already mentioned intervention in the Capitoline Mosque, but also with the Church of the Holy Family in Frattein the province of Salerno, (1969) and more recently with the Cathedral of Lamezia Terme: Completed in 2019, its author reported in a volume published last year. Not even thirty years old, Portoghesi created one of his most characteristic works: the Baldi house, in Rome (1959 – 1961), conceived as a private home and characterized by the alternation of concave and convex surfaces and the use of tuff; Since 2019, after the restoration he carried out, it has been an event and commercial space. For this project, as well as in the note Papanice housestill in the capital, Portoghesi worked with his partner Study of the Porta Pinciana: the engineer Vittorio Gigliotti, who died in 2015. Also known to the general public for its “film fortune” and now home to the Jordanian embassy, ​​this three-storey residence testifies to the architect’s deep interest in the Roman Baroque heritage, with a composition based on the use of the curved line. For a critical reading of Paolo Portoghesis’ production and vision, we refer you to the portrait of Luigi Prestinenza Puglisi.


The news of the donation of the architect’s archive to MAXXI dates back to 2016: a legacy that includes models, drawings, correspondence, graphic materials but also exhibition panels. And among the first messages of condolence to arrive after news of the disappearance was that of Alessandro GiuliPresident of the MAXXI Foundation, who, as reported by the Cult Agency, stated: “One of the most important Italian architects of all time has died, as if Leon Battista Alberti had died. We should be able to say to ourselves and to our children that we were contemporaries of one of the greatest geniuses, one of the greatest humanists, one of the greatest lovers of Italy and its genius. Out of “great pain, great loss for architecture and the world of culture: a friend, a master and an intellectual who has always defended beauty‘ said the OAR President Alexander Pancispeaking on behalf of the entire Order of Rome and the Province.”OEach of us has a special memory of Paolo Portoghesiwrites the architect Stefano Boeri on his Facebook profile: My earliest memory is the fascination of hearing his extraordinary history class as an architecture novice in Milan. The latest is a recent long phone call to talk about Rome and his wonderful book Roma/amoR. Portoghesi, historian, critic and designer, was one of the few great humanists of modern and contemporary architecture. We will miss him”. As President of Milan Triennalethe architect further added: “Historian, critic, architect and author of fundamental essays on architectural culture, Paolo Portoghesi, to whom we awarded the Italian Lifetime Achievement Prize in 2021 together with the MAXXI, was a great humanist of architecture whose works have marked the last seventy years of the planet has the architecture.” Not to be overlooked, the near of Venice Biennalethat remembers”with deep respect and admiration for the great architect Paolo Portoghesi, an exceptional example of intellectual who served as President of the Biennale in the decade 1983-1992 and as the first Director of the Architectural Branch from 1979-1982. among many initiatives, the legendary Strada Novissima (1980), which left an indelible mark on the history of contemporary architecture and postmodernism.” An essential passage to which the owner of the MiC, Gennaro Sangiuliano, also refers: “Today is a day of mourning for Italian architecture. The disappearance of Paolo Portoghesi deprives us of a leading figure in both design and theory. He cultivated a global architectural concept in which harmony had to be achieved between man and the forms of the built and inhabited space. I especially like to remember him here as the one who wanted and promoted the first International Architecture Exhibition “The Present of the Past” at the Venice Biennale under the presidency of Joseph GalassoWith the “Strada Novissima” the wonderful rooms of the Arsenale are made accessible to the public for the first time.“.

Valentina Silvestrini

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