Today the issue of eco-sustainability has unfortunately reached an unprecedented level and Casa Chiesi wants to honor the work of an undervalued Italian architect who previewed the problem way back.
His name is Paolo Soleri, a precursor of organic architecture, that with its architecture + ecology = archology formula, had already dealt with the theme of compatibility with the environment in the 1950s.
We went for you to Vietri, a town near Salerno that overlooks the marvelous Amalfi Coast, to visit the Solimene ceramics factory, which he had conceived and built in 1954, which still today is a destination for many visitors for its conceptual and aesthetics uniqueness.
The particularity of this construction is also underlined by the fact that it represents the only project realized in Italy by Paolo Soleri who later moved to the United States wherein the 70s he devoted himself to the realization of another futuristic project of a much more impressive scale: Arcosanti, the ideal utopian city in Arizona, between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon.
This futuristic place designed by Paolo Soleri, developed with the principles dear to him of respect for the environment, heedful use of energy resources and care of the interpersonal relationships of its inhabitants, is still considered a cutting-edge experiment in the architectural field.
The Solimene ceramic factory has a visually striking façade, covered with more than 16.000 terracotta and enamel green water vases that masks, like a bizarre container, the entire structure of the factory itself. The purpose of this choice is to remind and honor the tradition of the majolica domes typical of the Amalfi Coast that takes origin from the Arabic architecture.
On the front door, we met the son of the old owner who, noticing our interest in the structure, told us about the genesis of the project.
Vincenzo Solimene, his father, whose family had been working in the ceramic sector for more than a century, in 1951 met Paolo Soleri, who was in Vietri on a family vacation with a self-constructed camper on the beach. They were very young and they became friends: it was the encounter of two 24-year-old visionaries who combine their talents to achieve something that at the beginning didn’t have an easy life.
Paolo Soleri had at his disposal a very small space leaning against a mountain and inspired by the Guggenheim Museum in New York, he invented a space that looked towards the sea, illuminated by large triangular windows and a very bright roof structured with timbered ceilings. Inside the factory, the structure is supported and broken up by a “forest” of reinforced concrete pillars, which recall the landscape intertwining of the olive grove present before the excavation of the rock necessary for the realization of the project.
Naturally, the project was long opposed by the local administration both for the unusual aspect of the building and for environmental reasons: it took nine years to complete it but since 2005, it has been recognized as a monument, and it’s under the protection of the Fine Art Superintendency.
We know that ceramics have been invented twice in the history of humanity: among the Saharan populations and in Japan and from these places it has spread throughout the world.
The oldest ceramic remains have been dated to around 15,000 BC: I believe that Paolo Soleri wanted his project to be a monument to this secondary art which, in its domestic simplicity, has accompanied the history of mankind for over 17.000 years.
Here is a video regarding the Solimene Ceramic Factory: