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Roberto Masini, Riccardo Gizdulich. Le ragioni del luogo

Firenze: Tassinari, 2012
Ezio Godoli
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Roberto Masini, Riccardo Gizdulich. Le ragioni del luogo, Firenze: Tassinari, 2012

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XXe siècle

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Gizdulich Riccardo (1908-1983)
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1The monograph by Roberto Masini entitled Riccardo Gizdulich. Le ragioni del luogo (Edizioni Tassinari, Florence 2012), a re-elaborated version of a doctoral thesis, offers the first synthetic analysis of the work of a major figure of Tuscan architecture in the second half of the 20th century, overlooked by the historiography until now. Riccardo Gizdulich (1908-83), born in Fiume (Rijeka), first studied in Trieste and in 1928 he was sent to Florence for his military service where in 1930 he entered the Architectural School. Before he graduated in 1940, he worked as a draughtsman from 1935 to 1937 in the Sovrintendenza all’Arte Medievale e Moderna degli Abruzzi e del Molise and from 1937 to 1938 he was responsible for the restoration of two medieval churches in the province of Chieti. Back in Florence, he returned to his studies (Giovanni Michelucci was one of his teachers) while at the same time working for the Sovrintendenza all’Arte Medievale e Moderna della Toscana. Called to arms in 1943, he took part in the liberation of Italy from September 1944, in the Seconda Brigata partigiana Rosselli of the Partito d’Azione, then in the XXII Brigata Garibaldi Lanciotto and lastly among the General Division Staff, as a topographer for the Information Service. After the liberation of Florence, Gizdulich was appointed to recover fragments of Bartolomeo Ammannati’s Santa Trinita bridge, destroyed by German mines during the army’s retreat during the night of 3 to 4 August 1944. From 1945 to 1958 the identical rebuilding of this bridge, completed in association with the engineer Emilio Brizzi, was Gidzulich’s main project and also the one for which he has been best known until now. Moreover in the first years of the post-war period, Gizdulich stood out for his participation, in collaboration with other architects, in competitions for rebuilding the centre and bridges of Florence: the ponte alla Vittoria (1945, with Leonardo Ricci, Giuseppe Gori, Leonardo Savioli and the engineer Giorgio Neumann, second prize), ponte alla Carraia (1945, with Giovanni Michelucci and Danilo Santi, second prize), ponte alle Grazie (1946, with Giovanni Michelucci, Edoardo Detti, Danilo Santi and the engineer Piero Melucci, two projects that won the first and the second prize, built between 1953 and 1957) and finally the reconstruction of the area near the ponte Vecchio (1946, with Edoardo Detti, Danilo Santi and Rolando Pagnini). In addition to these, he participated in the project that won the competition for the ponte alla Fortezza in Pisa (1959), built in collaboration with the engineer Letterio Donato. Until the beginning of 1980 Gizdulich’s work was mainly concentrated on restoration, but he also mounted some exhibitions in Florence (Frank Lloyd Wright, with Edoardo Detti and Oscar Stonorov, 1951; Etruscan sculpture, 1951; Late Etruscan sculpture of Volterra, 1952; Alvar Aalto, with Paolo Marconi and Leonardo Mosso, 1965) and he planned some buildings for private clients (an apartment building in the San Frediano area of Florence, 1953; the data-processing centre of the Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze, 1953; the “l’Olmo” villa on the hills of Fiesole, 1962-65; “La Torricella” house in Grezzano del Mugello, 1963-65). A particularly interesting period in Gizdulich’s career, to which however the book devotes few pages, is his work in Tunisia, where he completed seven projects between 1963 and September 1966 when he was appointed by the Italian Foreign Ministry and where he lived from October 1966 to February 1968. In Tunisia he worked as advisor to the Service des Monuments Historiques et Sites Archéologiques, he trained the Tunisian staff, planned restoration projects that were completed under his supervision and two unrealized projects for the Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts in Monastir and for a House of Culture for Kairouan in collaboration with Paolo Donati. The list of restoration projects of Punic, Roman and Islamic monuments, contained in a report of January 1970 detailing his work in Tunisia, is impressive: the restorations considered the most demanding “for the work’s technical-scientific relevance” were the those of the Great Mosque of Sidi-Uqba in Kairouan, of the Al-Zaytuna Mosque in Tunis, of the Triumphal Arch in Maktar and of the Amphitheatre in El Djem. Other projects, suspended at the survey or the preliminary research stages, related to the Mosque of the Barber, the Mausoleums of Sidi Abid el Ghariani and of Sidi Abdallah and the main public lighting system of the Medina in Kairouan; the harbour dating to the Punic war, the Theatre and the Baths of Antoninus Pius in Carthage; the fortresses of Djerba (Houmt-Souk), of Kelibia and of Mahdia; the Great Mosque in Le Kef. For the Amphitheatre of El Djem Gizdulich, he devised in June 1963 a working plan divided into six phases, first analysing the consolidation of the structures that “are in precarious condition regarding the static equilibrium and the solidity of the materials of which it is composed”, starting from the annular and radial vaults. In the following phase previous restorations were to be revised and lost parts restored such as the reconstruction of the stairs up to the third annular corridor where it was suggested that five spans be rebuilt. The report ended with the recommendation to the city planning staff that work be undertaken in such a way as to protect archaeological areas that had not yet been excavated, preserving them from building. On the occasion of the survey in Maktar in April 1966, Gizdulich wrote a report about the modus operandi to restore the Triumphal Arch, but at his departure from Tunisia in February 1968 the project was still in the preliminary survey phase and excavations in the archaeological area were being carried out. The main tasks during the architect’s Tunisian period were undoubtedly the restoration projects for the mosques of Tunis and Kairouan. In Al-Zaytuna Mosque the main problems that he had to face, explained in a report dated 20 November 1967, followed by a detailed budget, were the diagnosis of static instability leading to a consolidation project and, especially, the need to repair damage caused by a recent restoration that “altered and, in places, also destroyed entire parts of the monument”: “They thought to embellish, rectify and remove the signs of time. There were no limits to arbitrariness. In fact the entire mosque was exposed to a methodical and systematic destruction followed by rebuilding that appeared more ‘beautiful’”. This operation consisted of replacing columns and capitals and roughly reconstituting the mural decorations and the ceilings with layers of new colour. From documents in Gizdulich’s archives it is impossible to determinate whether the architect’s recommendations were put into practice, as had certainly been the case in Kairouan, the work that occupied him especially during his Tunisian period. The first phase of the preliminary research for the restoration project took place from December 1965 to April 1966 and it consisted in a series of field projects relating to the foundations and perimeter walls in order to locate the causes of the structural failures. Moreover this work made it possible to confirm the tradition according to which the minaret’s foundations were located inside an Arab well. The building site, managed by Gizdulich, was also a building site-school for the training of qualified staff of all levels, from supervisor’s assistants to construction workers. The works that were completed according to the project prepared in Florence from July 1967 consisted of rebuilding the prayer hall’s perimeter foundations, strengthening the compound’s perimeter walls and consolidating the inner walls, restoring the ceiling structures and finally “aesthetic” work on the minaret, architectural elements, plasterwork, polychrome ceilings and the doors of the prayer hall. Between 1967 and 1968 Gizdulich, supervised by the archaeologist Giacomo Caputo, participated in the restoration project of the Roman Theatre and the Severan Basilica in Leptis Magna, Libya, completing the reliefs, explaining the work that had to be carried out and preparing the budget. The restoration that was financed by funds supplied by petroleum companies and administered by the Museum of Pennsylvania University, Philadelphia, was never completed due to Gadhafi’s coup d’état in August 1969.

2The projects in Tunisia and Libya show the close relationships between the three main fields of Gidzulich’s work: architecture, restoration and photography. According to Gizdulich, the camera was an essential working tool, supporting drawings, in surveying the conditions of the monuments on which he had worked or in explorating the natural or anthropic environmental characters of the sites in which he planned new constructions. An example is the presentation of the projects for the Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts in Monastir and for the House of Culture for Kairouan in tables where new architectural drawings are compared to photographs of the local buildings that inspired them. Obviously photography was also a means for scrupulous documentation of the progress of work on restoration sites. It is significant that in a letter dated 9 August 1966, in which he asked the Italian Foreign Ministry to make a contribution in order to equip an office in Tunisia to prepare the restoration projects and train the Tunisian technical staff (two draftsmen, two copyists and three photographers), among the indispensable tools listed, in addition to drafting tables and drafting machines, he requested two Hasselblad cameras. While discussing the balance of six years of work in Tunis, he concludes his report by recalling the “ample photographic documentation” gathered, “a real ‘corpus’ of major documentary value, consisting of 5,000 negatives”. The number of cities, villages, landscapes, archaeological sites, Islamic monuments and 20th century buildings (for example Le Corbusier’s Baizeau villa in Carthage) that he visited, shows the exceptional documentary value of this photographic collection which represents landscapes, archaeological areas and buildings whose characteristics, in many cases, have been altered in the last forty years by the aggression of building speculation or by questionable restoration work.

Figure 1: Prayer hall of the Great Mosque of Sidi-Uqba in Kairouan under restoration, 1968.

Figure 1: Prayer hall of the Great Mosque of Sidi-Uqba in Kairouan under restoration, 1968.

Source: Florence (Italy), Archive Franco Gizdulich, photo by Riccardo Gizdulich.

Figure 2: The project for the Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts in Monastir compared to the photographs of the local buildings that inspired them, 1966-7.

Figure 2: The project for the Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts in Monastir compared to the photographs of the local buildings that inspired them, 1966-7.

Source: Florence (Italy), Archive Franco Gizdulich, photo by Riccardo Gizdulich.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Prayer hall of the Great Mosque of Sidi-Uqba in Kairouan under restoration, 1968.
Crédits Source: Florence (Italy), Archive Franco Gizdulich, photo by Riccardo Gizdulich.
Fichier image/, 68k
Titre Figure 2: The project for the Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts in Monastir compared to the photographs of the local buildings that inspired them, 1966-7.
Crédits Source: Florence (Italy), Archive Franco Gizdulich, photo by Riccardo Gizdulich.
Fichier image/, 23k
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Référence électronique

Ezio Godoli, « Roberto Masini, Riccardo Gizdulich. Le ragioni del luogo », ABE Journal [En ligne], 5 | 2014, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2014, consulté le 24 août 2019. URL :

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Ezio Godoli

Professor, Universty of Florence, Florence, Italy

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La revue ABE Journal est mise à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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