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By Act of 14th April 2004, Umberto Bertagna, eminent scholar of History of Art and Architecture, donated to the Province of Turin, now Metropolitan City, a copious series of study materials, including about 4000 volumes partly belonging to the maternal family Melis de Villa and partly collected by himself. The bibliographical collection was supplemented by a series of archival materials, formed by the joint archives of his grandfather architect Armando Melis de Villa and the archive of Umberto Bertagna. The bibliographical and archival collections were donated with the obligation to keep them united and not dispersed in other bibliographical and archival collections, and with the indication of the presence of the name of the donor in the header.
Armando Melis de Villa (1889-1961)
Born in Iglesias on 22nd May 1889 to a family of ancient Sardinian nobility, he was among the first in Italy to deal, in the 1920s and 1930s, with urban planning issues. He founded and directed the magazine "Urbanistica" (1932-45). He drew up the Verona Master Plan (1932) in collaboration with the architects Mario Dezzutti, Arturo Midana and Plinio Marconi, and that of Verbania. In 1936 he was eligible for the National Competition for the Chair of Architectural Composition at the Polytechnic University of Turin, free professor of Distributive Characters of buildings in 1937, then also eligible for the national competition for Characters of Buildings at the Faculty of Architecture in Rome in 1948. He was appointed extraordinary professor of Distributive Characters of Buildings at the Faculty of Architecture in Turin in 1954. In 1957 he became a full professor. In 1940 he drew up the detailed plan of the "Fury" area of Vercelli and the similar detailed plan for Alexandria. In Turin he worked on the redevelopment of the second section of via Roma (1933 ff.), with the architects Mario Dezzutti, Alessandro Molli-Boffa, Domenico Morelli, Maurizio De Rege and Felice Bardelli (second prize ex-aequo to the competition, the first was not awarded). In 1938 he won first prize for the Alexandria Zoning Plan. In the 40s and 50s he was active in the debates and operations that led to the formulation of the new Town Plan for Turin and for the province. In forty years of work he had a rich architectural production, not limited only to Turin and Piedmont, often relying on the engineer Bernocco for technical solutions.
Its most famous realization is the skyscraper in metal structure of Piazza Castello, with the building connected on Via Viotti (1933-1934); it is also his house Koelliker in Via Cavour corner Via Pomba (1928) and the children’s hospital Koelliker, the house Raveri in Via Exilles, the imposing building in via Corte d'Appello 11 for the Società Reale Mutua Assicurazioni (1933), the Ferrero Ventimiglia house. As for its architectural production in Piedmont should be mentioned at least the alpine hotel refuge Vittorio Emanuele II al Gran Paradiso. He died in Turin on 27th April 1961.
The part of the Fund dedicated to him includes photographs, notes on practical geometry and ballistics, notes for teaching activities and conferences, papers related to his public activities and extensive bibliographical materials on him. There is a copious collection of articles on art, architecture and urbanism.
Very interesting documentation related to the City Plan of Turin and the project of via Roma Nuova. There are also materials relating to the Turin Architecture Exhibition of 1928 with letters, photos, articles.
Umberto Bertagna (1936-2012)
Son of Emilio A. Bertagna, FIAT doctor who died on 25th April 1944 in an air-raid shelter hit by a bomb while providing first aid to people affected by the bombing panic, he found himself still a child, with his brother Armando and his mother Laura Melis, to live with his grandfather’s family, the architect Armando Melis de Villa (1889-1961), a great figure of urban planner, professor at the Polytechnic and designer of quality and commitment buildings.
He began his activity as a publicist in the magazine "Edilizia" (1965-1976), very intense in the 60s, sometimes shared with Anna Gilibert Volterrani, where he also saw printed some of his drawings. In 1970 he reported to the conference Bernardo Vittone and the dispute between classicism and baroque in the eighteenth century and began a collaboration with the magazine "Economic Chronicles" (1976-1977, 1982). In the same years he made a widespread exploration of the sources for the reconstruction of the building of the church of Corpus Christi in Turin, then published in the magazine "Palladio" (aa. XXIII-XXV, 1974-1976). Thanks to an invitation from Maurizio Cassetti, director of the State Archives of Vercelli, he contributed with extensive research to the exhibition and catalogue History and architecture of ancient convents, monasteries and abbeys of the city of Vercelli (1976), and took care of Filippo Juvarra (for the exhibition at the Biblioteca Nazionale, 1979) and the Teatro Regio in Turin, with a research that has been included in the volume by Luciano Tamburini in 1983.
In the meantime he formed a fruitful friendship with Nino Carboneri, who became a close collaboration at the Faculty of Architecture in Genoa, from 1974 to 1979, the year of the death of the Monregalese professor. For Carboneri, who became in his eyes a sort of father, Bertagna not only took care of the teaching activity, but also carried out researches that were brought together in works rightly celebrated for their precision and scientific completeness; In particular, I remember the volume La reale chiesa di Superga by Filippo Juvarra, published in 1979, entirely based on his extensive archival excavation.
In the same years he edited with Franco Rosso the chapter, as large as a volume in itself, Urbanistica e architettura sotto i regni di Vittorio Amedeo III e Carlo Emanuele I (1773-1798), for the exhibition Cultura figurativa e architettonica negli stati del re di Sardegna, and curated the section dedicated to the wedding of Vittorio Amedeo III and the one on thoughts of architecture for the exhibition on engraved branches of the Court Archive, 1981.
Bertagna was also a member of the board of Italia Nostra, where he took care of the exhibitions Piemonte da salvare and Castelli da salvare (1968-1970), and, from 1970 to 1972, he oversaw the Press sector of the Association. In December 1977 he was appointed a member of the Corpus Juvarrianum Commission, which promoted the publication of the complete work of the Sicilian architect. He was appointed by the Turin Civic Administration for a series of archival checks aimed at drafting the city’s urban development plan. The collaboration relations with the City continued over the years, until the preparatory research to the drafting of the Color Plan (from 1985).
He did not take off, however, the assignment of the study of the graphic corpus of the Museo Civico concerning the Piedmontese architecture of the '600 and '700.
His precious library and archive wanted to give them to the institution that had welcomed him with warmth and friendship, the Province of Turin, which for the occasion published a special issue of the magazine "Paths", retrieving some of the writings appeared on "Building". Recently it has been possible to put hands to his library, to order it, to understand it; it is made up of a substantial section of the libraries of his grandfather and grandmother, and his personal collection, balanced between the history of architecture, history of the Middle Ages, philosophy, theology. Among other things, a dense series of dedications stands out, in a family where, for generations, the dedication to the books was a kind of cult. The most heartfelt, heartfelt, restless, never banal, are those of Luciano Tamburini to Umberto: traces of a deep and shared friendship, strengthened by the events not always pleasant in the life of both.