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Brutalism in Ruins: Exploring Casa Sperimentale, Italy’s Lost Architectural Relic

Paul Keskeys Paul Keskeys

As far back as the 18th century, people have been fascinated with ruins as picturesque compositions, but our collective obsession with the shells of forgotten architecture is not limited to quaint abbeys, run-down warehouses, and rural cottages.

In the town of Fregene on the outskirts of Rome, Italy, photographer and urban explorer Oliver Astrologo has been documenting a very different kind of deteriorated building: architect Giuseppe Perugini’s Casa Sperimentale (experimental house), a wild, eclectic ode to Brutalism that is slowly crumbling away on a wooded plot near the coast.

The architect built the house in the late 1960s as a way to explore ideas pertaining to form and space at a 1:1 scale. Perugini passed away in 1995, and, for the past 20 years, the house has been left to deteriorate, steadily overwhelmed by plant life, and vandalized with graffiti.

The home is a striking, Frankenstein-like amalgamation of volumes that possess dashes of Paul Rudolph’s Brutalism and Le Corbusier’s Modernism. There are even echoes of Casa Sperimentale present within contemporary experiments by Moshe Safdie (see Habitat 67) and Rem Koolhaas (check out OMA’s Maison à Bordeaux). But Perugini’s house is far less famous than those architects’ radical residences. Astrologo’s new images provide a fresh view of this neglected curiosity and help tell its story to a new generation of architects.

The photographer places models within this melancholy but eerily beautiful setting to add a sense of scale and emphasize the contrasting textures of metal, glass, and concrete present within Perugini’s cacophony of brutalist gestures. From the cascade of glazed cubes to a gargantuan concrete sphere complete with a circular portal, the building, now, appears as an architectural playground where the original rules of program no longer apply.

For more neglected brutalist icons, check out Tiffany Jow’s article on Saint Peter’s Seminary in Cardross, Scotland.