AND WAR MEMORIAL
Where once there was the “ronco dei Corti”, on the hill overlooking the Piano d’Erba and used for the large agricultural fruit and vegetable exhibition of 1904, today the Monument to the Fallen built by Podestà Airoldi and designed by the architect Terragni in 1932 stands imposing.
The twenties and thirties were, for Erba, particularly important for the revival of significant architectural realities such as the Licinium Theater and the Monument to the Fallen for the Fatherland. Just as the Licinium was being completed, in 1929, Giuseppe Terragni began to develop his new project for the monument that was to be built adjacent to the open-air theater.
Not infrequently, at that time, Terragni came to browse the shipyard, also dispensing advice and suggestions. Terragni considered the buildings in honor of the fallen a real urban element, whose monumentality was to be found in the collective memory and in the bond of the city. On the basis of this theory, Terragni decided to place his monument on the slope of the hill: an architectural choice that deliberately followed the ancient concepts of classical Greece.
Like the Licinium Theater, the War Memorial also fit perfectly into the surrounding landscape. Just as the Licinium Theater managed to enhance the natural setting thanks to the sober elegance of its structure, the War Memorial also found its grandeur in the appropriate choice of spaces. Particularly important and spectacular remains its insertion into the environment with the large stone staircase, surrounded by cypresses, which leads to the top of the hill. Initially, the War Memorial had included a high-relief by Lucio Fontana entitled “Vittoria”. The high relief was removed in 1936 and placed in the attic of the Municipality of Erba to be offered as bronze to the homeland and transformed into cannons. Terragni was particularly affected by this fact by openly expressing his disappointment to his friend Fontana. The enhancement of the masses translates into Terragni’s work in an intervention on a landscape scale that transforms the hill into an upward path with a strongly plastic accent.
The wide staircase, flanked by two rows of cypresses, leads to the circular shrine to end with the terrace bordered by a porticoed exedra in which arcades and architraved rooms alternate. The dialogue between concave and convex shapes such as the foot of the staircase, the geometry of the shrine and the upper architectural scenography betray Michelangelo’s suggestions collected during his trip to Rome in 1925 and expressed through his works. While the stone wall structure and the arched terminal solution give the project an undeniably twentieth-century flavor, the different solutions express a new trend of renewal.
Today, in the center of the monument, stands an old cannon, a warning and testimony of past wars and guarding the shrine for those who were, who are and who will be. Numerous people from Erba participated as laborers in the construction of the monument, recovering the construction material in the surroundings of Erba.
In particular, the square stones of the building were taken from the quarries of Albavilla while the pebbles from the treads of the steps were quarried from the bed of the Lambro river and the Bove stream. Particularly interesting is that a rationalist work was created in the territory of our city and also included in the architectural itinerary of the artist’s celebrated path, whose centenary of his birth is celebrated. Giuseppe Terragni, considered one of the main and most significant protagonists of modern Italian architecture, was born in Meda on April 18, 1904. In 1926 he graduated from the Higher School of Architecture of the Milan Polytechnic and, in the same year, founded with some friends the “Group 7” which gathered numerous exponents of rational Italian architecture.
He left numerous testimonies of modern architecture in Como, including the famous “Casa del Fascio” where he best expressed the modern originality of his projects, with new and futuristic architectural solutions. Recalled to arms in 1939, Terragni was sent to the Russian front from where he returned physically and mentally exhausted. He died suddenly, aged only 39, on July 19, 1943, and his body rests in the family tomb in the cemetery of Lentate sul Seveso.
The Monument to the Fallen of Erba, due to its volumetric appearance and the scenography of the forms, remains an important testimony of Terragni’s creativity and one of the most representative works created by the master of rationalist architecture.