By Jennifer D. Webb

Benedetto Innocente Alfieri died in Turin on December 9th, 1767. The architect, best known for his innovative design for the Church of SS. Giovanni and Remigo in Carignano, initially trained as a lawyer at the Collegio dei Nobili in Turin. Even after embarking on his building career, Alfieri continued to draw upon his legal experience and also served as mayor of both Asti and Turin.

Although born in Rome, Alfieri’s family came from Asti in the Piedmont where he spent most of his life. It was for friends and relatives that Alfieri first worked as an architect. In 1730, his uncle provided him with the opportunity to build a family palace in Alessandria; it was while working on this project that Alfieri first met Filippo Juvarra who he succeeded in the post of First Architect to the King. Over the course of the 1740s and 1750s, Alfieri frequently expanded upon or continued projects begun by Juvarra.

In his approach to design, Alfieri drew from a number of traditions in order to create buildings that best suited the functional needs as well as met the interests of the patron. For example, in his design for the Teatro Regio in Turin (1738-40), Alfieri considered the connection between the theater and the Palazzo Reale. Addressing convenience for the royal family did not mean a sacrifice for the rest of the theater-goers; Alfieri also prioritized their viewing angles, comfort, and acoustical experience . It was in this theater that Alfieri introduced a horseshoe-plan with distributed boxes which became the standard. His interest in the viewer experience is also evident in the unique design of SS. Giovanni and Remigo. The semi-circular plan, which replaced a narrower, longitudinal church, features seven  different views “as controlled as grooves of a seashell” according to Richard Pommer.

In addition to these projects, Alfieri also executed the Segretaria di Stato (1739-67) and the Carceri Senatoriali in Turin. These two buildings, according to Peter Stein “anticipate” the “purpose-built functional architecture of the 20th century.”

References: Peter Stein. “Alfieri, Benedetto Innocente.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.; Richard Pommer. Eighteenth-Century Architecture in Piedmont. New York: New York University, 1967.

SS Remigio e Giovanni (1757-67), Carignano (Italy). Source: Wikipedia Commons.

Pietro Domenico Oliviero, Interior of Teatro Regio (c.1752) Source: Wikipedia Commons.

Further reading: Myers, Mary L. Architectural and Ornament Drawing: Juvarra, Vanvitelli, and Bibiena Family, and Other Italian Draughtsmen. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013; Millon, Henry A. Triumph of the Baroque: Architecture in Europe, 1600-1750. New York: Rizzoli, 1999.

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