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The Citadel of Alessandria : tracing the documents of a great military complex

Temirlan Nurpeissov

The Citadel of Alessandria : tracing the documents of a great military complex.

Rel. Edoardo Piccoli. Politecnico di Torino, Corso di laurea magistrale in Architettura Costruzione Città, 2017



Architecture deals with a great variety of questions and problems, which have diverse origins and exist over different periods. Ideological, social, technological issues and many other aspects shape cities and their surrounding areas. The great architectural dilemma is how to simultaneously respond to all the necessities of a human being, to its life. However, the needs of people are temporal and evolve over time, thus their surroundings must change accordingly. Architectural space has been taking different forms and scales to fulfil human needs. Building types are also constantly changing: collective housing, developing from a mere shelter to today’s various private or shared residential units, and similarly, public buildings and spaces, evolving from the fixed building types of the early modern period to the more variable building forms and public spaces of today (including hybrid public/private buildings, such as commercial centers); all these changes can be acknowledged both in urban and suburban contexts. Countless existing buildings are being physically reshaped by this evolution, yet many haven’t been touched at all; and the issue of what and how to change in an existing structure is a particularly conflicting one when we deal with the architectural heritage. The Pantheon, being one of the best preserved ancient Roman buildings, has been carrying a sacred function through the centuries. It is still a religious building, however, more evidently it has become a place for both domestic and foreign visitors. It has been called the most visited state owned museum site in Italy, attracting millions of people every year (about seven million visitors in 2016).1 Most of the European royal palaces and residences have been converted into museums, exposition halls. The Palace of Venaria, or Reggia di Venaria Reale, once being the royal hunting residence adjacent to the capital city of Savoy, Turin, has become a popular attraction.

Although the spaces offered by the heritage buildings are in abundance, and their reuse and adaptation thus is commonly challenging, it is our responsibility to preserve them

nonetheless. While they are sometimes seen as a burden for the modern urban life, historical buildings possess unique qualities, both tangible and intangible, that are a great opportunity for our generation to take the advantage of. However, careful and thorough study must be carried out to conceive a comprehensive reuse plan on each of the buildings that would guarantee their prosperity and preservation.

The following work concentrates on the study of military architecture, and in particular on the citadel of Alessandria. Once built as a strategic defense site for the State of Savoy, the vast military complex is now dismissed and largely unused. On the one hand, the citadel poses a great challenge: the structure was built in the XVIII century with the function that is not a part of the today’s life. In other words, the citadel, as such, is obsolete. Massive walls, bastions, inner architectures were built to be cannon-shot proof. This architecture is inadequate to modern requirements. For instance, the outer walls of the buildings built within the citadel are up to 2.5m thick. Paradoxically, today’s market prices have scaled down the dwelling sizes, making room widths of comparable dimensions: an average room of a city flat could fit within the citadel’s massive wall. Moreover, the covered spaces available around the citadel most probably won’t be considered adequate by the local building regulations: comfort levels, energy consumption, security and alike. On the other hand, the citadel of Alessandria is a unique object that has a great potential to be reused and to become an integral part of the modern life. To reveal and discover the unique qualities of the citadel and its spaces, an in-depth study must be carried out.

This research is a part of a bigger study, that is starting to develop, in the collaboration with the state, local institutions and the university (Politécnico and Future Urban Legacy Lab (F.U.L.L)). Its aim is to perform a critical analysis of aspects of the cittadella, and of archival sources regarding it, that will be essential when developing a reuse masterplan for the area. Part one of this work starts by concentrating on the study of modern fortifications and their origins. Furthermore, it demonstrates that the citadel of Alessandria is one of the most mature examples of the fortificazione alla moderna. The study of a series of 18th century contracts signed for the construction of the complex and of the attached drawings follows, and highlights some of the unique material qualities of the cittadella. The second part couples the historical study and the multiple personal inspections, trying to understanding the current state of the military complex. In particular, the spaces of the ex-hospital building, the largest building built within the wall perimeter, are examined. Lastly, I argue that the possible future function of those spaces must come out of the building’s inherited qualities, and that it also must follow a general redevelopment plan for the whole citadel.

Relators: Edoardo Piccoli
Publication type: Printed
Subjects: A Architettura > AP Architectural survey
Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea magistrale in Architettura Costruzione Città
Classe di laurea: New organization > Master science > LM-04 - ARCHITECTURE AND ARCHITECTURAL ENGINEERING
Aziende collaboratrici: UNSPECIFIED
URI: http://webthesis.biblio.polito.it/id/eprint/6216


1 Modern Fortifications and its attributes

1.1 Origins of citadels. Notions and principles

1.2 The citadel of Alessandria

1.2.1 Geometry and politics behind the perfect hexagon

1.2.2 Variation of the form as a defense strategy

1.2.3 Construction within the fortification perimeter, XVIII-XIX c

1.3 Reading and interpreting historical documents

1.3.1 Comprehending the contracts

1.3.2 Construction campaigns of the four major projects

1.4 A collection of drawings without description at the BCA

1.5 Images for Part I

2 Spatial Heritage: L’ OSpedale Militare

2.1 The largest complex and its language

2.2 Possible design tactics. The future of the citadel

2.3 Remarks

2.4 Images for part II

3 Appendix I - Contracts from the State Archive of Turin (ASTO)

3.1 Contratti fortificazioni and how to read them

3.2 Table 1: List of contracts

3.3 Terms found in the contracts / Italian-English glossary

3.4 Units

4 Appendix II -Drawings from the Central Architectural Library (BCA)

4.1 Drawings without description from the Central Architectural Library




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