In the dramatic context of post-war Europe, Britain and Italy proved extraordinary energies and a similar sensibility and attitude while facing the urgent needs for social, moral and physical reconstruction. In both countries the respect for tradition and heritage shaped the way towards the search for an appropriate answer to the new challenges. It is not by chance that the first post-war CIAM congresses were organised in these two countries – Bridgewater 1947, Bergamo 1949 and Hoddesdon 1951 - with a central role played by the Mars group in Britain and Ernesto Rogers and his partners in BBPR architectural firm in Milan, under the direction of Sigfried Giedion. In this context, the present paper aims to focus on the relationship between two major figures as Franco Albini (1905-1977) and Leslie Martin (1908-2000). At the memorial exhibition on Albini organised in Milan in 1980, Leslie Martin hold a conference emphasising ‘a parallel working life’ with his ‘friend Franco Albini’. His lecture gives evidence to a dynamic exchange between the avant-garde groups in the two countries. The School of Architecture of Cambridge, leaded by Leslie Martin, was a central place for international networks with Europe and America. The role played by the architectural magazines was also evidence of a growing mutual interest. In the late 1950s Italian contribution, and Albini’s works in particular, for temporary exhibitions and museums have been highlighted by Michael Brawne in Architectural Review for the capacity of a delicate dialogue with historic places. Leslie Martin suggested ‘rational analysis and creative transformation’ as complementary aspects of Albini’s work, and his capacity of creating transparency in the exhibition’s grids at the Milan Triennale of 1934-36 and, on the contrary, to conceive the ‘architecture of the cave’ in the Museum of the Treasury of San Lorenzo in Genua. Very little has been written on Martin and Albini friendship and cooperation, which includes a major role in the studies and competition programme for the new premises of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon in 1959-1960 and the projects for Kuwait City at the beginning of 1970s. Taking advantage of new sources available in the RIBA architectural collections, a deeper research on their post-war mutual exchanges could open new perspectives in the composition of a wider picture on the relations between Italian and British architects.
Franco Albini and Leslie Martin: 'a parallel working life' / Alici, Antonello. - STAMPA. - (2021), pp. 70-85.