1966 Aldo Rossi book, The Architecture of The City, established him within the Postmodernist community, as the leading innovator of the Neorationalist movement also known as Tendenza.

courtesy of architecture and urbanism blogspot

courtesy of architecture and urbanism blogspot

A teacher and theorist his first building came to him thru winning a contest with colleague Gianni Braghieri which was to be located in Modena Italy. He gained international fame having designed a floating theater in Venice Biennale. Rossi’s theory and analogical approach was summed up by him as “inventory and memory”. He was italian born, educated, and settled in the city of Milan. As a native he was a witness to the evolution of the cities he considered ” artifacts” of everyday living. He further believed that what developed should not be disturbed and if something new were to be added it should mimic what already exist.

In the case of Rossi, establishing his historical style reference is easy and doesn’t require to many sources to obtain. Many of the references state plainly that he is the father of Neorationalism. However, Rossi is clumped in with Postmodernist, often within the same text. Very Confusing. When this occurs during the research process what Neorationalism isn’t lends clarity. Scholars and Architects all agree that the Neo’s and Post are not Modernist. Modernist architecture, like Neo and Post, busies itself with breaking rules and embracing the idea that less is more. Philip Johnson, pioneer of International Style pushed the American Modernist and created structures like the insert picture below.

Philip Johnson Glass House courtesy theglasshouse.org

Philip Johnson Glass House courtesy theglasshouse.org

Where they differ is the Neorationlist embraces the past creating a synergy with its surrounding architecture through a similar visual esthetic though the function is not what it appears. Cemetery of San Cataldo located in Modena Italy is one of Rossi’s most famous examples of this, featured below.

© guiba6 via Flickr

© guiba6 via Flickr

It resembles the factories in the surrounding area but behind the facade are crypts for the deceased. Teatro Del Mondo built in 1979 spoke to the floating theaters from Venice past pictured here.

courtesy of archiveofaffinities.tumblr

courtesy of archive of affinities.tumbler

Neorationlist are a sub-genre of postmodernist and are a fairly small group of architects. One article may concentrate on a particular contributor but will readily list the others in explanation of the movement. Learning the names is the first step to finding the bios, then to examples of work. One of these contributors is Giorgio Grassi. He furthered the Neo rationalist movement and like Rossi concerned himself with simplicity and urban areas.

ABB Roland Ernst headquarters, Berlin - Germany 1993-97 courtesy of Tallinn University of Technology

Giorgio Grassi, ABB Roland Ernst headquarters, Berlin – Germany 1993-97 courtesy of
Tallinn University of Technology

Like wise Carlo Aymonino most famous for his Gallaretese housing complex in Milan planned urban development. He and Rossi collaborated on the Monte Amiata Housing within the Gallaretese. 

Monte Amita Housing courtesy of housing protoypes.org

Monte Amita Housing courtesy of housing protoypes.org

Though not a part of the neorationalist but under the umbrella of the postmodernist is Robert Venturi. He was not as concerned with urban vernacular but his interest in the symbolic facades that compliment its existing surroundings with contradictory interiors.

© Maria Buszek courtesy of acrhdaily.com

© Maria Buszek courtesy of archdaily.com

The four Architects listed all are students of the Vernacular Style. Rossi, Aymonino, and Grassi all favor urban historical development and help the cities maintain a truth about themselves. Their structures allow the city to keep developing and telling its story rather than have a building that doesn’t resemble the rest which invades the space making one individual statement. I added Venturi to the mix to show another way these principles can be applied in a  rural setting.

Aldo Rossi was and is often referred to as a theorist and not so much as an Architect due to his lack of actual buildings. Many scholars and fellow architects regard his work as haunting and a backdrop for horror. However, the minimalism and lack of ornament is more telling to the nature of the barren aspect of city.


Zukowsky, John. “Aldo Rossi,” Encyclopedia Britannica Online,  Last Update May 30,2013.

Accessed February 15,2014, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/510204/Aldo-Rossi

Curl, James Steven. “A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture: Neo-Rationalism (2 ed.).” Published online 2006, Accessed February 15,2014, http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100228473

Curl, James Steven. “A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture: Modern Movement (2 ed.).” Published online 2006, Accessed February 15,2014, http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20111215141148287

Bose, Sudip. “What is Modernism?,” Published online May/June 2008. Accessed February 16, 2014,


Frampton, Kenneth. Modern Architecture: A Critical History(3rd ed).(London: Thames and Hudson, 2004), 294-297.

Jencks, Charles. The Story of Post-Modernism. United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 2011

Canniffe, Eamonn, June 17, 2012( 00:57), “ Aldo Rossi: Architecture of the City (1966),”  Architecture + Urbanism Blog, Accessed February 18, 2014,


Tozzi, L. (2007), An Interview with Giorgio Grassi. Archit Design, 77: 26–29. doi: 10.1002/ad.511

“Gallaratese,” Last Modified November 27,2002, Accessed February 18,2014


Perez, Adelyn, “AD Classics: Vanna Venturi House/ Robert Venturi, “ June 2, 2010, Accesssed February 18,2014,