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An Italy to be saved in the pages of Pirelli magazine

From the mid-1960s, the subject of environmental protection burst onto the pages of Pirelli magazine with considerations about the landscape and urban green spaces, politics, and ethics. The Italia Nostra association had been set up just a few years previously, in 1955, and one of its activists was the young archaeologist Antonio Cederna, whose first environmental battles aimed to save and protect the Via Appia Antica in Rome. The association was promoted by Renato Bazzoni, an architect with a passion for photograph.: In 1959, he had the idea to put on an exhibition to denounce the damage being done to the environment in Italy. It was to be called “Italy, What a Ruin”, with the Touring Club Italiano as a partner, together with his friend Arrigo Castellani, then director of Pirelli magazine, who always had a watchful eye on the great social issues of the day. The exhibition Italia da salvare – Italy to be Saved – opened in Milan only in April 1967. The designer Pino Tovaglia was immediately involved in the project and, working with Castellani, he created the poster-manifesto: the red wound on a black ground invented by the two “Pirelliani” was to make its mark on the history of advertising. Pirelli magazine anticipated the opening of the exhibition in its January 1966 issue, with “Let’s start from scratch”, an article-manifesto by Cederna.

There was a need to go “beyond the nineteenth-century idealism that viewed the landscape simply as a representation, and to free ourselves from the modernism that has us confuse the destruction of nature with civilisation, and territorial disruption with progress”. The systematic destruction of green spaces, in Cederna’s invective, was itself “contempt for man” and for public health. There were many ruined landscapes that would be hard to rectify without a new political, and primarily ethical, sensitivity: this was Italy to be saved. Together with Cederna’s plea came that of the urban planner Roberto Guiducci, who talked in the magazine of a world guided by the concept of “green for living”. Guiducci’s social and town-planning analysis is fascinating, pointing to the lack of green spaces in Italy compared with the rest of Europe: spaces viewed as “empty”, and to be filled, as an unproductive absence to be occupied, in the conviction that land was to be exploited in the service of profit. Guiducci raised the idea that green spaces, too, might be considered as players in the economy, that forests in cities might be an item on the global balance sheet of Italy Inc. Over forty years before the skyscrapers in Milan. The photographs that illustrate Guiducci’s article were by none other than Renato Bazzoni. An architect with a passion for photography, Bazzoni wrote an article called “The earth accuses us” in Pirelli magazine in 1970, denouncing the state of the planet – a matter that is as topical as ever today – and a manifesto for the subsequent creation of FAI, the National Trust for Italy. A century of exploitation of natural resources, with consequences that are still clear to see today.

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