5 March 2020

Of Hubris, Immorality, and Defeat: The Rome Hilton

gta Institute, ETH Zurich

In 1950, the Italian real estate developer Società Generale Immobiliare (SGI) and Hilton Hotels International (HHI) teamed up to build a hotel on top of Monte Mario, the highest hill in Rome. In 1963, after years of controversy, the Rome Hilton was ready. The building would become the epitome of capitalist hubris and have a lasting impact on Roman architectural discourse and Italian historiography. It would not, however, become part of the canon. This presentation will expound the reasons behind this damnatio memoriae by recounting the history of the Rome Hilton as a product of tensions between American and Italian architectural and leisure cultures in the post-war period. The text is an abridged version of the second-to-last chapter of my PhD dissertation, which examines SGI’s activities in Rome from 1945 to 1973, and in particular the company’s land politics, built residential work, organisation of work, agency as an architectural patron, import of French construction technology and American building types, and influence on Italian architectural discourse.

Printing for the ‘City-Builder’:
London and the Emergence of the Building Guide (1650–1720)

gta Institute, ETH Zurich

From the second half of the 17th century, London became the stage of a rapid and intense process of urban expansion, a time often recognised as the birth of a modern capital. Especially in the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1666, the fast rebuilding of the city was led by a new class of self-made investors and speculators, also known as ‘City-Builders’, who came to dominate the building market with early forms of real estate development.
This lecture traces the emergence of the building guide as a literary genre tailored to instruct the 17th-century ‘City-Builder’ in the operative knowledge necessary to navigate the complexities of the London building world. Over the second half of the 17th century, more than fifty building guides appeared in London, delineating basic procedures for managing construction, like surveying land, calculating interest rates, purchasing building materials and supervising contactors.
The London building guide is examined as an original form of publication with a long afterlife, uniquely tailored to formalise and regulate the network of stakeholders and finance of real estate markets, and therefore born largely alongside, rather than within, a tradition of architectural publishing.
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