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Antonio Sant'Elia

Italian Architect

Antonio Sant'Elia Photo
Movement: Futurism

Born: 30th April 1888 - Como, Lombardy, Italy

Died: 10th October 1916 - Isonzo, Gorizia, Italy

"Futurist architecture ... is not an arid combination of practicality and utility, but remains art, that is, synthesis and expression"

Summary of Antonio Sant'Elia

An architectural visionary, Antonio Sant'Elia is best known for his futuristic designs for a modern city, La Citta Nuovo (1913-14), that anticipated many contemporary technologies as well as pre-empting the styles of Art Deco. A significant member of the Italian Futurists, Sant'Elia helped to form the movement's ideas on architecture and was a key figure in the production of the Manifesto of Futurist Architecture (1914). His career was cut tragically short by his death in the First World War at the age of 28. Because of this, few of his designs were actually built, but he is remembered for his skilled draftsmanship, bold sketches, and unique view of the future.

Key Ideas

Incorporating innovative technology into his designs was of the utmost importance to Sant'Elia who saw new ideas, practices and materials as having the potential to remake the urban world. His buildings have vast expanses of glass and are constructed of new materials such as steel and concrete. He also included technologically focused infrastructure such as tramways and airplane hangars in his work.
Geometric shapes, particularly cubes and pyramids, form the essential building blocks of much of Sant'Elia's work and this places him firmly in the modernist canon. Many of his later pieces are also on a huge scale, and he used the oversized nature of the buildings, in conjunction with their distinctive shapes, to physically represent their modernity.
Although not directly associated with the movement until 1914, Sant'Elia shared a lot of ideas with the Futurists. Most notable amongst these is his concept of the city as a mechanized organism with both man and machine at its very heart. Sant'Elia's legacy was maintained and popularized by Marinetti in the post-war period and he became an inspirational figure to the second generation of Futurists.
Scene from <i>Metropolis</i> (1927) futuristic German film directed by Friz Lang

The brevity of Antonio Sant'Elia's life was not the only thing that prevented his designs from becoming reality; it was as if his thinking was too futuristic for the time into which he was born. But his influence has endured, extending into mainstream science fiction cinema, including Fritz Lang's Metropolis and Ridley Scott's Bladerunner.

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