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Portoghesi, Paolo

    Full Name: Portoghesi, Paolo

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1931

    Place Born: Rome, Lazio, Italy

    Home Country/ies: Italy

    Subject Area(s): architecture (object genre), Postmodern, and sculpture (visual works)


    Early Post-modern architect; architectural historian and Borromini scholar. Portoghesi described himself as having been born “in the shadow of Borromini’s San Ivo” (Steinberg) and hence much of his professional life as an architectural historian revolved around this architect. He entered the University of Rome, writing articles on Borromini in 1953 through 1955 and also a booklet on Borromini’s monuments in the Lateran Basilica I monumenti borrominiani della Basilica Lateranense the same year. Portoghesi graduated with a degree in architecture in 1957 and in the history of art in 1958. In 1959 he was appointed Professor at the school of advanced studies in the study and restoration of monuments. As an architect, Portoghesi designed in a neo-Baroque style, first exemplified in 1959 in the Casa Baldi (Via Flaminia, Rome). Making use of the traditional tufa material of ancient homes, he worked to relate his buildings to their contexts, both social and physical. The following year, 1960, he published a work on the eighteenth-century architect Bernardo Antonio Vitone, “Metodo e poesia nell’architettura di B. A. Vittone” (“Method and poetry in the architecture of B.A. Vittone”). He began teaching a course on architectural criticism at the University in 1961. Portoghesi and Bruno Zevi edited a festschrift for Giulio Carlo Argan in 1964, Michelangelo Architetto. That year, too, Portoghesi published his book Borromini nella cultura europea (“Borromini in European Culture”) and launched an architectural practice with Vittorio Gigliotti near Porta Pinciana in Rome. His commissions of this era included the Casa Andreis (1964-1967). He was appointed professor of the history of public architecture in Baroque Rome in 1966. A critical edition of Leon Battista Alberti: l’architettura and a second work on Vittone, Bernardo Vittone, un architetto tra Illuminismo e Rococò (“Bernardo Vittone, an architect between the Enlightenment and the Rococo”) were published. Portoghesi was appointed professor of History of Architecture at Milan Polytechnic in 1966 as well. The following year Portoghesi published his important Borromini, Architettura come linguaggio which was translated in English as The Rome of Borromini: Architecture as Language. In 1968 he became dean of the Faculty of Architecture of Milan Polytechnic, issuing L’Eclettismo a Roma (“Eclecticism in Rome”) and Editor-in-chief of the Dizionario di Architettura e Urbanistica or “DAU”. Another important architectural commission with Gigliotti, Casa Papanice, was completed 1969-1970. In 1976, Portoghesi’s most outstanding commission, the mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre in Rome was dedicated. He was appointed professor of architecture at the University of Milan the same year, where he taught until 1980. He next headed the architecture section at the Venice Biennial. That year, too, 1980, he accepted a professorship in architectural history at the University of Rome and published Dopo l’architettura moderna (“After modern architecture”). In 1982 Portoghesi became Professor of History of Architecture at Rome University. He accepted the Editor-in-chief position of Materia magazine in 1990. Portoghesi was named full professor of Urban Planning at “La Sapienza,” University in Rome in 1995. A 1974 manifesto, Le inibizioni dell’architettura moderna outlined his practicing architectural theory as a “system of places”. With Zevi, he promoted a modernists who, in their architecture, related their work to its environment, (e.g., Victor Horta and Frank Lloyd Wright). He was a founder of the first international exhibition of Post-modernist architecture (Venice Biennale,1980). Like many post-modern architects, he design furnishings of his buildings. He engaged in a celebrated debate (along with Zevi) countering the criticisms of Manfredo Tafuri on the purposes of architectural history.

    Selected Bibliography

    I monumenti borrominiani della Basilica Lateranense. Rome: Istituto de storia dell’architetura, Facoltà di architettura, Università di Roma, 1955; Metodi di progettazione nella storia dell’architettura. Rome : s.n., 1960; Borromini nella cultura europea. Roma: Officina Edizione, 1964; “La Biblioteca laurenziana.” in, Argan, Giulio Carlo, et al. Michelangiolo architetto. Turin: Einaudi, 1964; Disegni di Francesco Borromini. Rome: De Luca, 1967, English, Borromini. London: Thames & Hudson, 1968; Borromini: Architettura come linguaggio. Milan: Electa, 1967, English, The Rome of Borromini: Architecture as Language. New York: G. Braziller, 1968; Roma barocca: storia di una civiltà architettonica. Rome: C. Bestetti, 1967; and Borsi, Franco. Victor Horta. Rome: Edizioni del Tritone, 1969; and Gigliotti, Vittorio, and Mousawi, Sami. La Moschea di Roma/The Mosque in Rome. Palermo: Alloro Editrice, 1993; Roma del Rinascimento. 2 vols. Milan: Electa, 1971; and Moschini, Francesco. Progetti e disegni, 1949-1979/Projects and Drawings, 1949-1979 [of Paolo Portoghesi]. Florence: Centro Di, 1979; and Scarpa, Carlo. Cemetery Brion-Vega, S. Vito, Treviso, Italy, 1970-72. Tokyo: A. D. A. Edita, 1979; Aldo Rossi: the Sketchbooks 1990-1997. London: Thames & Hudson, 2000; and Tabarrini, Marisa. Storia di San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane. Rome: Newton & Compton, 2001.


    Norberg-Schulz, Christian. Alla ricerca dell’architettura perduta: le opere di Paolo Portoghesi, Vittorio Gigliotti, 1959-1975/On the Search for Lost Architecture: the Works of Paolo Portoghesi, Vittorio Gigliotti, 1959-1975. Rome: Officina, 1975; note, Steinberg, Leo. “Introduction.” Borromini’s San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane: a Study in Multiple Form and Architectural Symbolism. New York: Garland, 1977, p. xxii; Norberg-Schulz, Christian. “Paolo Portoghesi.” Dictionary of Art 25: 272-273; Bonis, A. de. “Interview: Aldo Rossi and Paolo Portoghesi.” Architectural Design (London) 52 no. 1/2 (1982): 13-19. [internet site]


    "Portoghesi, Paolo." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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