Antonio Sant’ Elia, Architectural Drawings and Computer Realizations
On October 10, 1916, Antonio Sant’Elia died fighting Austro-Hungarian forces at the eighth Battle of the Isonzo near Monfalcone on the Adriatic coast. The Italian architect was just 28 years old and left behind only one completed building, his Villa Elisi in Brunate, outside of Como.
Anyone who has seen Fritz Lang’s classic silent film Metropolis (1927) or watched Harrison Ford hunt replicants in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) is already familiar with Sant’Elia’s imaginative vision of the city of the future. His fantastical designs inspired the visual worlds of those two films, and even today, 100 years after his death, the future he envisioned still resonates.
The work Sant’Elia is best known for—Città Nuova or “New City” in Italian—came with machine-like superstructures, stepped skyscrapers interlaced with suspended walkways and highway overpasses. Designed between 1912 and 1914, it was intended to be the architectural remedy to Modernism’s perceived disconnect from lived experience.
Sant’Elia believed that the primary task of a city in the industrial age should be to facilitate movement in the most efficient way possible. For his Città Nuova, he proposed three levels of traffic according to vehicle and speed: pedestrian overpasses, roads for cars, and tracks for tramways. These, along with vertical elevator shafts, were the only traffic arteries in the city. Sant’Elia also proposed that the city exist in a state of continuous construction. “We must invent and rebuild the…city,” he wrote. “It must be like an immense, tumultuous, lively, noble work site, dynamic in all its parts.”