Steven W. Semes: Gustavo Giovannoni and "L'Architetto Integrale" — Architecture, Urbanism, and Conservation

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Art print rendering of Palazzetto Torlonia in Rome.

Gustavo Giovannoni rendering of Palazzetto Torlonia, Rome (1908–09). image / provided

Cornell in Rome Spring 2023 Lecture Series

Gustavo Giovannoni was recognized during his lifetime as the central personality in the architectural culture of Italy in the first half of the 20th century. A complete biographical portrait would depict a multi-disciplinary career that embodied his ideal of the architetto integrale — the complete architect — a leader in architectural and urban design, architectural history, conservation of buildings and cities, public advocacy, legislation, and education. Credited as the "inventor of the concept of 'urban heritage,'" Giovannoni pioneered the practice of urban conservation in both its physical and social/economic aspects, developing one of the first and most coherent theories of restoration at both architectural and urban scales and expanding the temporal and geographical scope of conservation from individual structures to entire towns and landscapes. Many of his innovations are enshrined today in international agreements, such as the ICOMOS Charters and United Nations Declarations. This presentation will provide an overview of his multi-disciplinary work in the context of early 20th-century Rome and then take a closer look at his work in architectural and urban conservation. 

Steven W. Semes is Professor and Director of the Michael Christopher Duda Center for Preservation, Resilience, and Sustainability at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture. He was Academic Director of the Notre Dame Rome Studies Program 2008–2011 and currently splits his teaching duties between Rome and the main campus near Chicago. With degrees from the University of Virginia and Columbia University, he is the author of The Future of the Past: A Conservation Ethic for Architecture, Urbanism, and Historic Preservation (2009) and The Architecture of the Classical Interior (2004). His next book, New Building in Old Cities: Selected Writings of Gustavo Giovannoni on Architectural and Urban Conservation, coedited with Jeff Cody and Francesco Siravo, is due to be published later this year by Getty Publications. His many articles have appeared in The New CriterionNational Trust Forum JournalChange Over Time, Public Discourse, Common EdgeThe Classicist, Traditional Building, Palladio, and Ricerche di Storia dell'Arte. He is a member of US/ICOMOS, the Society of Architectural Historians, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation Leadership Forum and is on the editorial committees of Change Over Time, Opus, and Palladio. Prior to joining the Notre Dame faculty in 2005, he practiced architecture for three decades in Washington, DC, San Francisco, and New York.

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