The flying architect
2015 IS CARLO MOLLINO’S BIRTH ANNIVERSARY: HERE’S HIS STORY OF ARCHITECT, ACROBATIC AVIATOR, SKI INSTRUCTOR, ECCENTRIC GENIUS.
Intrepid descents and climbs. Carlo Mollino adores the mountains, speed, acrobatics, risk. He fies, runs and bursts with energy. At 110 years from his birth, this is the story related by Fulvio and Napoleone Ferrari, who have created the Museo Casa Mollino in Turin. Long forgotten, controversial and undisputed Italian 20th- century master, Mollino’s reputation was already frmly established during his lifetime. «Right from that bleak journey to the Americas, I have experienced only frustration... such as would be unbearable for absolutely anyone...», he says in a letter three years before his death addressed to the engineer Aldo Brizio, who was heading the reconstruction of the Turin Teatro Regio, designed by Mollino himself. He feeds the myth of the unruly and eccentric genius. In everything he does, there is creativity, discipline and method. As a racing car driver, he designs prototypes. As acrobatic aviator, he performs perfect manoeuvres. He becomes a ski instructor and author of a downhill skiing manual. Photography is another life-long passion – he is one of the frst to use the Polaroid for his portraits of women. It is from his father, the engineer Eugenio, that he acquired many of these passions. They worked together for over 20 years, sharing projects, commissions and constructions. It was a complex relationship. The father reproaches him for his dogmatism, irregular hours and his unruliness. In 1943 Mollino writes to Gio Ponti: «I must confess that, apart from the daily silent Homeric struggle with my father whom I love dearly, I do not wish to change where I live and work: (...) it leaves me free to be alone with my imagination, let’s call it my inner landscape». In that studio he fnds the freedom and the possibility to express that inner world, the imagination which he vindicates in the face of the conformism of bourgeois society that is especially Turinese. Yet it would be impossible to think of Mollino without Turin – the industrial city, Fiat, «conservative, boring, highbrow», but also esoteric and metaphysical. It is here that he realizes his masterpieces, some architecture, houses and furniture, visualizations, scenic design. Many competitions, many lost, many works disappeared in a city that seems to show no fondness for him. But then, in the mid- 60s, it rediscovers him and assigns him the design of the new Palazzo degli Afari for the Chamber of Commerce and the Teatro Regio - he wins at last. Only Gio Ponti, who was also unloved by