Hotel della Città et de la Ville

Corso della Repubblica, 127, Forli, Municipality of Forlì, Emilia-Romagna Region, Italy
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Year of build:
Original name:
Hotel della Città – City Hotel
Contemporary architecture
Gio Ponti
Past and Present Ownership of the Building/Site:

Private property - Livio and Maria Garzanti Foundation

Degree of preservation and status of protection

The building is a property protected by the Superintendency. Since 2015, the hotel complex has been closed and the entire building is unused. The structure is emptied of the fine furnishings originally designed by Gio Ponti.

Architectural Description

Project design: Studio Ponti Fornaroli Rosselli / Bosisio Pietro Giulio

The complex is divided into two main bodies of different volume and height: a tall building, in which the guests of Livio and Maria Garzanti Foundation Study Center have been welcomed for almost fifty years and a volume of three floors, used as a hotel.

Compared to the trapezoidal-shaped lot, the tower building hosting the Foundation occupies a decentralized position, shifted towards the northern part, while the straight building - the hotel - develops along the western perimeter. In terms of orientation, the first is bordered by Via Fronticelli, and the second by Via Fortis, while the east front is marked by a block of residences built in those same years by “Incis Houses”.

The "L" arrangement of the two main bodies leaves a large portion of the area free, which is transformed into a semi-public square surrounded by greenery and equipped with shops.

Blueprints present two buildings, connected by the two-level volume of the restaurant divided into a public one (located on the ground floor) and a private one (intended for the Foundation’s guests), on the upper floor.

The complex has an irregular plan and constitutes a real hinge element even if not completely passing through, with the exception of access to the first level of the tower. The highest building has a rectangular plan with the shorter sides broken into two segments folded inwards, to accommodate, on the left, the volume containing the ski lifts and, on the right, the single-storey, from which it is possible to get into the hall. The accommodations for the Foundation guests are five per floor and occupy the five floors of the tower, while on the mezzanine level there is a large hall, for parties and exhibitions. The bedrooms overlook the rear front, while on the main front there is an about two meters corridor. The corner between Corso and Via Fortis is occupied by a single-storey volume of commercial use, which continues in the hotel-restaurant block. The hotel rooms (ten on each floor) occupy three levels, with a view to the garden, while the distribution corridor runs parallel to Via Fortis.

A considerable part of the design focuses on the opening views, which clearly reveals the traits of Ponti’s "expressive building" poetic, through a design characterized by different linguistic registers that identify different functions. On the Hotel’s main façade, there are modular openings while the corridor leading to the rooms is cut by long ribbon windows.

The reiteration of the hexagonal shape of the main facade of the tall building then becomes a motif that recalls the aesthetics of the diamond shape very dear to the architect.The themes of spatial research and "finished form" through the use of horizontal and vertical planes was conceived to delimit spaces, rather than to close volumes and ensure that the edges between the facades and side walls are emptied and that the connection is made by folding the walls. This aspect creates an effect of great lightness that culminates in the roofs of the three buildings, which appear as inclined, separate and floating planes on the underlying masses. The cracks created between the facade floors or between the facades and the roof are accentuated by lighting devices that testify to how this architecture is also designed for night vision.

The four-star hotel has a vast parking lot that allows access to cars and buses. The large garden is enriched by the presence of a pool, designed by Gio Ponti. The wide staircase at the entrance leads to the reception and the bar, which is also accessible from the outside. In the three-storey building there are 37 rooms with bathrooms (some for disabled people). In the five-storey building there are 25 large rooms with entrances and bathrooms. The two bodies of the hotel complex are equipped with lifts and stairs connecting the floors. On the mezzanine floor, there are also: two restaurant rooms, a kitchen, the bar, toilets and a recreational, multifunctional hall with a cloakroom.  Restaurant and reception can also be reached from the entrance located in via Fortis, without accessing the hotel, as they have been redesigned not to be only for the hotel’s guests, but open to the city. In the main building, above the entrance, on the first floor, there was a lounge to host events. Below the entire complex, there is a basement as well, in which service rooms (changing rooms, toilets), storage rooms, technical rooms, cold rooms, central elevators) are located.

History and Historical Context

Between 1939 and 1945, the area where the building stands was characterized by a large open space and by a village, called Strada di Mezzo; then, Pio, Vittorio Emanuele II, Muti, della Costituente, and now Corso della Repubblica. In that vast lot obtained from the demolition of the Albanesi and Bazzotti houses in 1939, some people remember that there were tanks, bombs and weapons abandoned by the German Army. Many children went to play with the panzers’ wrecks, until a child was killed in an accident and then the access was forbidden. In 1952, the municipal administration presented a tender for the construction and management of a city hotel, which Forlì did not have at the time, to be built on the main road axis (Corso della Repubblica), according to the city’s masterplan for the historic centre, draft by Luigi Donzelli and approved in June 1931.

The development of this area merges with the story of Aldo Garzanti, well-known founder of the Garzanti publishing house, born in Forlì in 1883. Although he had moved to Milan, his relationship with Forlì was always strong. In 1852, Aldo left the direction of the publishing house to his son Livio Garzanti, with the aim of devoting himself to the realization of an important facility: a foundation, which would have given hospitality to artists and writers in need, in the name of his parents. The municipality of Forlì gave the land to Garzanti free of charge and, thus, the works for the establishment of “Livio and Maria Garzanti Foundation” began.

The complex incorporates the Hotel della Città et de la Ville, whose design was entrusted in 1953 to the architect Gio Ponti, director of the magazine “Domus” (1928 -1940). Ponti's will was to create an architectural organism from which a new form of urban landscape emerged, starting from the planimetric arrangement, delimited but, at the same time, open to the City. At first, the design approach produced some contrasts with the administration, which ultimately accepted Ponti’s ideas. The Foundation was built by the Company Orioli Enea, to which Aldo Garzanti granted full confidence. Gio Ponti carefully assisted the work of the Engineer Bosisio, a highly experienced technician from Milan. Garzanti left nothing to chance: he chose high-level collaborators - including Doctor Bovelacci and the Lawyer Bruno Angeletti - and frequently travelled to Forlì to check himself the building site’s progress.

With the proceeds of the Hotel, the Foundation should have provided hospitality for artists, scholars, scientists and writers who had excelled in these disciplines or who were simply in need of economic and/or financial support. For this reason, the four-storey part of the building was designed as a hotel, while the high tower, on six floors, was built as a "residential" centre. For economic reasons, the residential centre remained in operation for only a few years; then, the building became a hotel in its entirety without undergoing any type of architectural intervention.

Between 2003 and 2015, the architect Fabio Berni was commissioned to make the entire complex functional for a modern hotel use, also converting the section that was originally meant as “residential”. The entire building was subjected to radical restoration and scientific conservative rehabilitation, with the creation of one new entrance for both buildings and one single reception area: "a functional hinge" able to sew the two bodies into a single fabric. All the interior spaces were renovated, respecting the former prestigious architectural context.

In the period 2005/2007, Garzanti’s Foundation - Hotel de la Ville was one of the projects on which the Regional Directorate for Cultural and Landscape Heritage of Emilia-Romagna focused and placed funds coming from national programming related to contemporary architecture.

Values of the Building

The building is one of the most interesting cases of national contemporary architecture. The complex stands out for its inverted slopes, the hexagonal windows, the open space and the breath between the bodies. On the Hotel’s façade, there is a mosaic of San Mercuriale’s Abbey in Forlì, which bears the inscription “Livio and Maria Garzanti Foundation”. Gio Ponti has brought Italy to Europe and to the world, confirming that character of universality that architecture has and through which we can find those identity values ​​we seek as European citizens.

For the realization of the restoration project - Analysis, studies and polymetodological investigations to support the planning of the restoration intervention of the Garzanti Foundation - Hotel de la Ville, an agreement was signed with the 'Aldo Rossi' University of Architecture of Cesena, who identified a study group coordinated by Prof. Maristella Casciato which also includes the officials of this DR, arch. Paola Mazzitelli flanked by the Architect Loredana Deb and Paolo Frabboni and, on the other hand, identified an operational group of external consultants with the coordination of Arch. Roberto Pistolesi.

Both groups operate under the supervision of Architect Paola Mazzitelli, who drafted the funding request and defined the procedures for the project implementation. The acquisition of these data allowed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for the experimentation of compatible materials for the restoration of contemporary architecture. The process of knowledge unfortunately had an arrest because the original drawings made by Gio Ponti, kept at the Center for Studies and Archives of Communication of the University of Parma, could not be consulted, as they needed urgent preliminary restorations.

In that period, the complex has hosted many events, including the Romagna Biennale of Contemporary Art, medical meetings and several cultural events.

In 2007, the Foundation hosted the conference "The Architecture of Gio Ponti": an international meeting about Ponti, the theme of conservation, enhancement and protection of contemporary architecture, to celebrate the 50th anniversary since the inauguration of the Hotel de la Ville - Garzanti Foundation’s complex. The initiative was promoted with the patronage of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities and the Region Emilia-Romagna, organized in collaboration with the Regional Directorate for Cultural and Landscape Heritage and the Region, with numerous public bodies (including the Municipality of Forlì, University of Bologna and the Directorate General for Architecture and Contemporary Art). On that occasion, the publication "Architecture in Emilia-Romagna in the late twentieth century " was presented.

Description of the Urban Context and Development

The building occupies an entire block in the heart of the historic city centre and is located in a central position between Piazza Aurelio Saffi and Piazzale della Vittoria. The hotel is set back from the main street front, thus modifying the linear profile of the street. This peculiarity, commissioned by Gio Ponti, was the cause of a pressing debate between the Municipality of Forlì and the Architect himself. Eventually, the Municipality agreed to the construction of the two blocks, as they are located today.

New Cultural Tourist Offer Focused on Selected Building/Site

Since March 2015 the City Hotel has been closed and inactive. In October 2016, Garzanti Foundation in agreement with the municipal administration launched a public call: “We appeal to local entrepreneurs, since Hotel della Città is not just a piece of history, but a symbol of Forlì”. After that, some tourist operators expressed their interest in relaunching the hotel. With the new Statute, the Foundation opened to the Forlì headquarters of the University of Bologna and, currently, a qualified representation of the University is envisaged on the Council. The Foundation has extended the field of intervention to the promotion of cultural, literary, scientific events and interventions to encourage the inclusion of less well-off or handicapped young people. With these choices, the Foundation intends to favor interventions, in order to stimulate global cultural growth together with a critical capacity.

Thanks to the collaboration between Serinar, the Municipality of Forlì and the University of Bologna, two rooms inside the building of Garzanti Foundation were restored to host university classes. The two classrooms are located within the Hotel della Città complex.New interventions and the restoration of the building for university accommodation are being evaluated.