Architecture

The ex Eni Village of Borca di Cadore. One of the most visionary architectural projects of the 20th century

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Text and Photos: Fabio Gubellini

In the mid-1950s, Enrico Mattei, president of Eni, decided to build a tourist village in the Dolomites, reserved for the Group’s employees and their families.
It was 1954 when the architect Edoardo Gellner, to whom Mattei entrusted the project, identified, on the southern side of Mount Antelao, the right site for the construction of the holiday village. The design of the village is an operation that, in the eyes of the far-sighted entrepreneur, has above all a social value.
In addition, the village should be a meeting point between the Society and the rest of the world: a place of representation that expresses the ideas of progress and modernity, typical of Eni, at that time.

La Colonia – Photo: Fabio Gubellini

To understand the size and importance of the village is enough to talk about the numbers that distinguish it: in an area of about 150 hectares are perfectly integrated into the natural environment 263 detached houses, a church,a hotelwith over 140 beds, a residencea colony for 600 children, a campsite for 200 children and meeting places, such as a food shop and bar. More than 20 km of paved roads, a 15 km water supply (because the water was not available on site) and pieces of grass are brought back from various parts of the Cadore to create a forest, where until recently, there was simply an expanse of stones.

La Colonia – Photo: Fabio Gubellini

Thus was born the social village Eni di Corte di Cadore, which owes its name to the village of Cortemaggiore, in the province of Piacenza, where Eni had just started the first oil extraction on Italian soil. Construction work on the site continued until 1963, then, following Mattei’s death, the village project was reduced in size and only the structures that had already begun were completed. Between 1974 and 1990 the project of the social centre, conceived as the fulcrum of the whole intervention, was subjected to continuous modifications by Gellner, but none of the 6 solutions was implemented. The subsequent privatisation of Eni resulted in the sale of the entire property stock. The village continued to serve as a tourist destination until 1992, the year of its disposal.

The colony was built between 1955 and 1962 to accommodate 600 children, aged 6 to 12 years, in 28-day shifts. Because of the conformation of the ground, it is not made up of a single body, but of 16 buildings, joined together by a system of connections to covered ramps, which gravitate around the large central pavilion. This architectural element, in addition to giving movement to the entire complex, serves to replace the stairs and offers greater comfort, in an environment intended for the life of children. The ramps are characterized by the use of bright colors, red and yellow among all, and the presence of small square windows, of different sizes, which create fun and fascinating play of light and shadow.

The most important architectural element of the colony is certainly the auditorim central, in fact it is around this building that all the remaining “satellite pavilions” are arranged. This was also the only covered place able to accommodate simultaneously all guests and staff of the structure.

Auditorium – Photo: Fabio Gubellini

The Church occupies a prominent position in the village project (photo below). It is located on a hill at the top of a path with ramps covered with wooden and granite steps. The Church of Nostra Signora del Cadore stands out for its verticality, accentuated by the shape of an equilateral triangle and by a bell tower which, with its high steel spire, gives lightness and balance to the entire composition, becoming an evident sign in the landscape.
For this project, in September 1956, he asked for the collaboration of the architect Carlo Scarpa.
The Venetian master collaborated on the artistic side, merging with Gellner’s design: the result was a total architectural work that involved architecture, landscape and furnishings. The most important place of the religious complex is represented by the churchyard, from where, before the forest merged with the buildings, it was possible to see the entire village. The churchyard is paved with wooden blocks drowned in concrete: the continuous assonance and contrast between natural and artificial materials are the predominant feature of the project.

La Chiesa – Photo: Fabio Gubellini
Le Camerate – Photo: Fabio Gubellini
La Colonia – Photo: Fabio Gubellini
Esterno Auditorium – Photo: Fabio Gubellini
La Colonia – Photo: Fabio Gubellini
Dettagli Colonia – Photo: Fabio Gubellini

Apparently all seem to be the same, the more than 260 villas built in the Village (photo below), but each differs from the others in some detail and the way in which it is inserted into the environment that surrounds it. They were designed for the stay of employees with families and children, their allocation was made by drawing lots, and the shifts of stay had a duration of 20 days. In this way, it was not unlikely that a simple usher could spend his holiday next to a manager, or a worker near a manager. During the winter period, only the houses with the heating system, about 160, were used. The Villas were equipped with all the necessary goods for the stay: the dishes were Richard Ginori, the cutlery of Krups and the linen of Lane Rossi. The guests were responsible only for the out-of-pocket expenses and consumption. Mattei himself wanted this aspect in order to make his staff aware of energy saving, a concept that was already very fashionable at the time, particularly during the years of austerity.

The cottages are scattered in the woods, none prevails over the others, they must guarantee at the same time the privacy of family life and the possibility of living moments of aggregation. In order not to spoil the landscape and to have an optimal view of Mount Pelmo, Gellner obtains from Mattei the permission to bury all the electrical systems. The materials used and the construction systems are the same as those used for the rest of the village; in this case, as for the colony, Gellner studies the interior furnishings recreating warm and familiar environments.

Le villette – Photo Fabio Gubellini

All’interno del villaggio Eni, l’albergo (foto sotto), era stato inizialmente voluto per accogliere i collaboratori soli e per le coppie senza prole. La struttura del complesso alberghiero, attiva sia d’estate che d’inverno, perché provvista di impianti di riscaldamento, è un edificio a 6 livelli con 78 camere. Gli ospiti si alternavano in turni di soggiorno della durata di 14 giorni. La facciata principale dell’edificio è caratterizzata dalla presenza di plinti in cemento, e colonnine in legno. Ogni dettaglio è studiato con cura: le camere sono essenziali ed eleganti, ciascuna ha una panca di appoggio in teak che diventa gradino di accesso al terrazzo esterno che si trova su un piano differente rispetto alla camera. In questo modo ogni stanza riceve un’illuminazione migliore. Nella hall di ingresso trova spazio il genio ingegneristico di Gellner con l’uso della grande trave lignea.

Albergo Villaggio Eni – Photo: Fabio Gubellini
Albergo Villaggio Eni – Photo: Fabio Gubellini
Albergo Villaggio Eni – Photo: Fabio Gubellini
Albergo Villaggio Eni – Photo: Fabio Gubellini

Il residence (foto sotto) era invece destinato ad accogliere il personale di servizio. Per entrambe le strutture, i materiali utilizzati sono: il cemento, il legno, la pietra e il rame per la copertura.

Residence Villaggio Eni – Photo: Fabio Gubellini

The campsite (photo below) is located in the highest part of the village, between 1200 and 1250 meters above sea level. It was created to allow the children of the employees, now adolescents, to stay in the mountains. In fact, children aged between 12 and 16 used to stay here and, for this reason, the part of the campsite is also known as the Children’s Village. It consists of 44 huts made of masonry and wood, each of which has 6 beds.
The campsite could accommodate up to 240 children at a time. The young campers were given uniforms and kits in use, moreover, they were given an alpine bag in memory of their stay in the mountains.

Il Campeggio  – Photo: Fabio Gubellini
La Colonia – Photo: Fabio Gubellini
La Colonia – Photo: Fabio Gubellini

The structures of the Cologne are now home to an artistic residence, active in the summer, realized with the collaboration of the staff of Contemporary Dolomites.
Progetto Borca is a residency program designed by the curators of Dolomiti Contemporanee, a reality that has been working for years to enhance the territories of the Dolomites through art projects of various kinds. The artists who take part in these residences, realize their works with materials that are recovered in the same places of the stay. Therefore, through art and function, a recovery of the structure takes place.
Moreover, the organizing committee of the next World Ski Championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo in 2021, and the committee that has nominated Cortina d’Ampezzo, together with Milan and Turin, to host the Winter Olympics in 2026, look with interest at the Colony made by Gellner, as a possible home of the Village of Athletes that, in these events, will take part.

http://www.fabiogubellini.it
ProgettoBorca www.progettoborca.net
Architecture, landscape, photography. Studies on the archives of Edoardo Gellner: issuu.com
Eni Village. A pleasant stay in the future: villaggioeni.com
Icondesign: icondesign.it

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Annalisa Guerisoli

Instagram addicted, appassionata di luoghi abbandonati, mi cibo di viaggi e di nutella. Astenersi fan dell’uncinetto e del cucito.

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