La Donna nella Citta
Diploma project at the Department of Architecture, University of Patras (2015)
Architects: Christiana Chaikali
Supervisor Professor: Panos Dragonas
La Νotte (The Night, 1960, dir. Michelangelo Antonioni) deals with the problems in the life of a long-term married couple. It concerns the marital difficulties of a successful Milanese writer, Giovanni Pontano (Marcello Mastroianni), and his wife, Lidia (Jeanne Moreau). At a certain point in the film, Lidia starts walking from the center of Milan and ends up in the suburb of Sesto San Giovanni.
Carrying out this walk myself, I took pictures of the contemporary city, imitating as closely as possible the images in Antonioni’s film. In this way, I was able to make observations about the juxtaposition of the cinematic city of the sixties and the real city of the present.
The architectural elements that compose the cinematic space of the movie are still visible today. Especially in the center of Milan, the shells of the buildings, the facades and the whole urban structure remain the same.
The project comprises two parts. The first part concerns the city of Milan and its connection with Antonioni’s movie. The analysis of the cinematic and urban space led to the conception of a path with five stops, each corresponding to one of the five places visited by the lead actress during her walk. At each stop, a sign will be placed at a specific height, framing the city view in the same way as the director’s camera.
Furthermore, these signs will provide the basis for launching a digital application that visitors can use with their smartphones. The application aims to help visitors learn about Antonioni’s work and interact with the city, both in reality and in cinema.
The app page visitor can access information about the architecture featured in each of the five scenes, an animation, and a map to locate the next point on the route. The animation will first display the film scene corresponding to the route’s location, followed by a 3D view of that location, highlighting the building that is the main focus of each scene. The lens of the camera’s ‘collapsing’ effect is reversed, allowing the viewer to better comprehend the relationship between the real and film space, as well as the complexity of Antonioni’s film frames.
The second part of the project involves designing an exhibition about La Notte in the industrial suburb of Sesto San Giovanni, which is also the final stop of the aforementioned path.
The exhibition is located at the site of the demolished water tower of Breda Industry, which is visible in a movie scene shot in Sesto San Giovanni. The newly designed tower closely resembles the original.
The lead actress follows a circular route around a central axis throughout the scene. This circular movement was crucial in designing the exhibition, including the vertical movement and the view from the highest level of the water tower. The exhibition features five scenes from the movie that correspond to the stops along the circular path. The exhibition area is divided into five levels, each one dedicated to one of the projections.
The exhibition focuses on Milan and Sesto San Giovanni, the urban architecture of the city, the role of women, and Italian culture in the 1960s.
The exhibition levels are connected by a spiral staircase enclosed by two high walls, creating the impression of a slowly unfolding vertical ribbon. This design interrupts the visual continuity between the levels. The staircase and the exhibition levels are analogous to the components of a movie, with the levels representing the film frames and the staircase representing the montage.
On the five levels of the exhibition, visitors can view a replica model of the red Alfa Romeo used in the film, female costumes worn by the lead actresses, bust sculptures featuring hairstyles from the 1960s as seen in the film, and architectural models of the buildings seen in the scenes. The exhibition also includes projections of the film scenes.
The water tower’s top level provides a panoramic view of the modern industrial suburb. This completes the reconfiguration of the cinematic narrative within the tower, revealing the true city.