The first architectural manifesto of Futurism appeared in print on 29 January 1914, in the Roman newspaper Il piccolo giornale d’Italia, with the title “Futurist Architecture Too…and What is It?” (“Anche l’architettura futurista…e che è?”). The text was penned by Enrico Prampolini, an artist born in Modena in 1894. Initially trained as a painter, Prampolini later explored not only architecture, but also dance, cinematography and theatre, where he strove to remove the boundary between observer and performance, creating dynamic and immersive pieces without human actors. Prampolini’s manifesto was illustrated with two drawings of hypothetical structures. In fact, texts and drawings soon became the key expressive medium of Futurist architecture, especially after the outbreak of World War I.
Particularly important Futurist architectural drawings are the series Buildings for a Modern Metropolis and New City (Città Nuova) realized in 1914 by Antonio di Sant’Elia. Born in 1888 in Como, Sant’Elia trained as an architect at the Art Academy in Bologna and worked on several projects in Milan before joining the Futurists, thus gaining some experience of actual construction. His Futurist drawings marry such practical knowledge with unbridled fantasy, using new industrial materials to design soaring lightweight structures, enormous power plants, or super-fast transportation systems.
As Sant’Elia died during the war in 1916, he could never try and transform his visions into reality. In fact, this was the fate of Futurist architecture in general: soon after World War I, the Fascist regime crushed their dream of dynamic and technologically innovative buildings by selecting a clean and often academic classicism as the new national style.
References: Vincenzo Fontana. “Sant’Elia, Antonio.” Grove art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed January 27, 2016, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T075867; Ester Coen and John Musgrove. “Futurism.” Grove art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed January 27, 2016, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T030277.
Further reading: Guggenheim Museum, Italian Futurism 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe.
Enrico Prampolini, Design for hall, decorations, and furnishings for Aeronautica Company: Plan for Milan Triennial Installation, ca. 1932–33.
Antonio di Sant’Elia, Drawings from La Cittá nuova, 1914.