Sub-project 1: Legal space and modernisation: the role of law

Michele Luminati
Partners: Brigitte Mazohl, Martin Schennach, Stefano Solimano

The formation of Milan as a capital city in the first half of the 19thCentury has to be viewed as part of a broader process of redefinition of physical and cultural space that is commonly termed modernisation. Law was not only the instrument but also the object of this process: the modern State is defined as a “Constitutional State”, in accordance with which law increasingly becomes the principal instrument, and at the same time the limit, of politics. The definition and the administration/control of the territory, the judicial organisation, the relationship between “private” and “public”, education and culture are just some of the areas that are principally shaped, physically and culturally, through the instrument of law. The primacy of the legislator and the claim to limit legal sources to State law alone, whose maximum expression was the codes, also required a transformation of law. In this respect, law itself was an object of modernisation, subjected to radical reforms. Milan as a “capital” can therefore be seen as the result of the interaction between the evolution of law and that of other areas of society. The proposed research project intends to contribute to a greater knowledge of this transformation by following two paths:

(A) Analysing how law contributed to creating the new spatiality. The modern vision of sovereignty contrasts with the fragmentation and spatial discontinuity of pre-modern societies and conceives the territory as a neutral tabula rasacoinciding with the borders of the state and subjected to the will of the latter. Political power implements various strategies to achieve the congruence between “imagined” space and “lived” space, and law is one of the principal instruments within these strategies. The projectwill have to analyse how, and with what outcomes, the Austrian and French regimes constructed this modern spatiality through law.

For the Canton Ticino, the project will have to analyse the troubled construction of modern statehood. Ticino presents itself as a laboratory of modernity very different from that of the Milanese area, by which it is still influenced. The project will therefore focus on the same factors as will be analysed for Milan, thus allowing for comparison and the accurate detection of reciprocal influences. Also for Canton Ticino the project will deal with the codificatory dimension and the role codifications played in the nation-building process.

(B) The second path to be followed concerns the legal dimension of Milan’s urban-architectural transformations. The starting point lies in the legislative action on the concept of private property. On the one hand, civil codes are considered as instruments necessary for affirming bourgeois and capitalist interests, the liberalisation of the economy and the dynamism of the real-estate market for the purpose of urban expansion and the growth of building. On the other hand, liberalisation does not mean anarchy, but new order, and therefore the imposition of a very precise regulatory, material and procedural framework. Apart from the programmatic declarations and the contents of laws, the research will focus on the methods of implementation of the new private-law model, and the influence that the regulatory framework exerted on urban planning and building.

Subproject 2 - A transnational cultural model

Maurizio Viroli

Partners: Antonino De Francesco, Brigitte Mazhol

The city of Milan is here proposed as the laboratory of a modern transnational cultural space, one which embraces not only Lombardy bus also Ticino. The topic will be dealt with along two axes of research.

The first axis of research makes it possible to investigate how the transformation of Milan took place between 1796 and 1848. The development of publishing industry in Milan – which promoted its growth throughout Lombardy and Ticino – is unique in the Italian-speaking world and makes it an excellent observation point for grasping its peculiar modernity.

Milan is here taken as the capital of a cultural space that extends to Ticino itself and acquires a transnational dimension. It rested, on both sides of the border, on a shared political culture, inspired by the values of liberalism, destined to interdependence and mutual influence, though in different state domains. In other words, the birth of a cantonal reality and the developments of the national movement in Lombardy were different products of the same cultural renewal, and precisely for this reason they cannot be dealt with separately. The study of publishing – to be conducted jointly in Milan, Lombardy and Ticino – is an important opportunity to read Italian modernity outside the inevitably restrictive framework of individual states and in this way to depict a broader profile of it.

The second axis constitutes a sectoral development of the theme now proposed, because it addresses the transnational dimension of the Milanese cultural model through the work of Carlo Cattaneo. The many-sidedness of his thinking, his interest in the study of the city, and his close ties with Ticino make it possible to measure how far and in what ways Cattaneo is representative of this new cultural model. In this respect, the investigation will seek to gasp the extent to which his work reflected and at the same time informed public opinion of the time. Guiding the survey is the transnational profile of Cattaneo’s cultural model. The study of these two themes intersects with SP1, which analyses the legal framework for cultural policy and publishing, SP 3 documenting the projects debated in the press, and with SP4 reconstructing academic societies and the culture of actors.

Members: Francesco Dendena, Rapahel Ebgi, Fernanda Gallo, Emilio Scaramuzza, Pietro Tedeschi


Subproject 3 - Constructing architectural and urban space

Jean-Philippe Garric, Letizia Tedeschi

Partners: Richard Kurdiovsky, Francesco Repishti, Ornella Selvafolta


The analysis of plans and physical transformation of space in the city comprises two aspects: one is those spaces and buildings in public use. This will include those unimplemented proposals, temporary structures and arrangements (festivals and urban stage sets) that influence shifts in collective representation. The other concerns the private spaces in domestic architecture and residential districts.

Recent research on the former has shown the importance of the late 18thand 19thcenturies cultural models as transmitted in schools and disseminated in print. Implementing these models came up against and urban reality that rather involved the transformation and adaptation of existing structures: property confiscated from the clergy beginning under Joseph II and some the private aristocratic property adapted to public use after 1796.

Domestic architecture, meanwhile, reflecting ongoing patterns of living and a productive structure dependent on individual fortunes, was also determined by the increase in the number of printed models, particularly in French books. Within the framework laid down by regulations and the development of infrastructure, these private buildings formed urban settings that bound together the city’s various scales, from public space to interior space, as analysed in SP4.

Study of these operations is closely linked to SP1 dealing mainly with legislative actions and administrative decisions applicable to private property. These proposals and constructions also gave rise to public debate in contemporary publications (SP2). Finally, this study of projects and buildings will identify some of the main actors, enterprises and manufactories (SP4).


Members: Elisa Boeri, Pierre Coffy


Subproject 4 – Structures and actors in the construction community

Letizia Tedeschi, Jean-Philippe Garric

Partners: Francesco Repishti, Ornella Selvafolta

Just as SP3 is divided into two parts, so SP4 divides into institutional frameworks, academic structures and learned societies on the one hand and enterprises, manufactories and actors in the world of construction and arts and crafts on the other, who contributed to shifts in taste.

As for the first point, the institutional research will identify the role of newly created or existing organisms in the process of transforming space. We shall show their contribution to discussion of projects, educating actors, selecting and defining the models and principles that determined the transformation of Milan. This transformation involved a gradual separation between the careers of professional architects, engineers, both publicly employed, and its institutional and norm-giving consequences, just as the division of labour on building sites.

As for the second point, the new generation brought to the fore by the arrival of the French army and kept in place after 1814 (except for “Jacobin” architects, pushed aside by the Napoleonic Italian Republics from 1802), despite the gradual emergence of the new personalities and changes among entrepreneurs, reshaped the community of building actors. These were no longer mere implementers of projects; rather their practices, methods, know-how, initiatives and resistance contributed to both innovation and permanence, and thus affected the nature of the works they supervised.

Within this general perspective, the examination of the presence and role of professionals from Ticino, traditionally a significant proportion of the construction community, will make it possible to identify cross-border exchanges and transfers. These research issues are closely related to SP1 on legal frameworks and SP2 analysing the cultural background to the construction-related literature. This study closely linked to SP3 on projects and completed works.

Members: Valentina De Santi, Romain Iliou, Valeria Mirra, Serena Quagliaroli, Stefania Ventra