Vittorio Gregotti, the Italian urban planner, writer, and architect behind the Barcelona Olympic Stadium died today, Sunday, March 15, of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. He had developed pneumonia and passed aged 92 away in the San Giuseppe hospital in Milan, where his wife Marina Mazza is also being treated.
Gregotti was born in Novara, east of Milan, in 1927. After graduating from the Politecnico di Milano in 1952 he worked for Italian architecture magazine Casabella, first as an editor from 1953-1955, then as editor-in-chief until 1963. Later he founded Gregotti Associati International in 1974, going on to design the Belém Cultural Center in Lisbon alongside architect Manuel Salgado, the Grand Theater of Provence in France, the Arcimboldi Opera Theater in Milan, and numerous stadia including the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa. As an urban planner, his studio worked on the Bicocca district of Milan and Pujiang New Town in Shanghai, China. Outside the world of design, Gregotti was a major cultural figure in the Italian Communist Party.
Some of his most notable work, however, was a curator. In 1975 he curated Regarding the Stucky Mill (A proposito del Mulino Stucky) which explored options for abandoned granary mills on Venice’s Giudecca, being hosted in the Magazzini del Sale alle Zattere. The exhibition focused on land art and architecture and signaled the first steps to be taken by La Biennale di Venezia towards an exhibition on architecture, being a precursor for the Venice Architecture Biennal, established in 1980.
“I don’t really know why [they asked an architect to curate the Biennale]—it was very strange,” Gregotti told AN’s editor-in-chief William Menking in 2010. “I agreed to do it only if we also had a small first exhibition of architecture. That was the condition because if not, well, I wasn’t going to do it. The biennale had never had an architecture section, so this would be the first one.”
In 1976 Gregotti was appointed as Director of the Visual Arts Section of the Biennale and he titled that year’s Art Biennale Werkbund 1907. He expanded the festival to include the visual arts and architecture, hosting exhibitions in seven venues across Venice, with five being dedicated to architecture and design. Gregotti was also Director for the 1978 Biennale, Utopia and the Crisis of Anti-Nature: Architectural Intentions in Italy.
“In 1976 we started a different approach to exhibiting architecture,” said Gregotti. “One part was a historical exhibition, and the other was an exhibition of modern architecture featuring a group of Europeans and Americans in order to compare the two different positions. It was the 23 time of the New York Five, and in Europe there were two or three different positions, such as Oswald Mathias Ungers in Germany, James Stirling in England, Serge Chermayeff and a few others.”
In response to Gregotti’s death, fellow Italian architect Stefano Boeri in a post on Facebook described a “master of international architecture” who “created the story of our culture.”
Dario Franceschini, Italian Minister of Cultural Heritage also added: “With deep sadness I learn of the disappearance of Professor Vittorio Gregotti. A great Italian architect and urban planner who has given prestige to our country in the world. I cling to the family on this sad day.”