(text by Anna De Salvador, translation by Anna Dal Pont)
It was 1954 when the architect Edoardo Gellner found in the southern side of Mount Antelao the perfect scenario for the construction of the holiday Village of the Eni group, whose head was, at the time, Enrico Mattei.
The Village’s conception is an operation that, in the eyes of the visionary entrepreneur has, above all, a social value. The establishment was to become a medium, a link, between the hydrocarbons-producing company and the rest of the world: a representative place which was going to express the ideas of progress and modernity that were Eni’s signature in the 50s. Mattei identifies in Gellner the most suitably personality to give voice to these planning requirements.
Edoardo Gellner, born in Abbazia in 1909, carried out his studies in Vienna and Venice, where he graduated in architecture in 1945. Among his mentors Josef Hoffmann, leading figure of the Vienna Secession, and Carlo Scarpa, Venetian architect and designer. The opportunities of the post WWII period took Gellner to Cortina, and there he became an expert in architecture on mountain sites, a role that was going to give him the chance to experience as an active participant the buzz linked with the 1956 Winter Olympics.
The trust that Mattei placed in Gellner allowed the architect to plan his project using an architectural register which didn’t formally evoke the rustic architecture of a mountain area: he expressed innovation instead, morphing the construction site into a downright technological lab. The result is an urban workshop, architectural and structural, which offers numerous solutions to different planning scopes.
After rejecting some sites chosen by Eni, Gellner suggested a seemingly inhospitable location for the settlement, barren and with little vegetation. The debris and gravel at the foot of the Antelao represented a disadvantage in the eyes of the client, but a challenge in those of the architect.
Gellner saw in this site an excellent exposure to the Sun, in addition to the logistic advantages tied with its proximity to other vacation spots.
With this intervention he was going to express all his contemporaneity, creating the landscape from scratch, without directly confronting himself with the past and instead focusing on the fundamental relationship between architecture and natural environment in an exchange in which the architecture was going to be the one glorifying the landscape, instead of the other way round.
Between 1958 and 1959 the schedule of the constructions to be made was completed. The entire 200-hectare large area was ready for the implementation of services and facilities for more than 6000 people.
The urban design included a Colonia (Eng.: summer camp building) for 400 children, down at a slightly lower altitude compared to the sport facilities, a community centre at south-east, while the Church is situated on a small rise. At the border of the property, there at the foot of the Antelao, the camping with permanent tents was conceived to lodge 200 boys and girls, and the remaining land was to be occupied by two hotels and by residential areas with 500 cottages for the Eni staff and their families’ stay.
The untimely passing of the client (Mattei) in 1962, as a result of a plane crash, didn’t allow the complete fulfilment of the project. The parts of the compound that were already under construction were completed, others remained only on paper. Notably, the Colonia (1955-1962), the Camping (1958-1961), the side facilities (1956-1957), the Church (1956-1961) were built, and the total number of cottages was halved. The hotels Corte and Boite were completed in 1962.
The winding road, full of sharp hairpin turns, is the element around which the different parts of the intervention are developed: from the main arterial road all the secondary ways that lead to the cottages, grouped in blocks of 60 to 80 units, branch off. Each group is provided with side facilities: a general store, a playground, a bar, etc.
A roofing similar to the Church’s can be found in the central pavilion of the Colonia. The ground’s configuration and the strong visual impact had excluded the possibility of building one single large edifice, instead favouring the realisation of 17 separate buildings, linked to one another by a system of connections made of sheltered ramps which revolve around the large central pavilion. The ramps are characterized by the use of lively colours and the presence of small square windows of various sizes which create striking and amusing plays of light-and-shade inside the building.
The external area was planned with a children’s size in mind: service areas, spaces for outdoor activities and a dense network of pedestrian pathways that link together the various wings of the compound. The reinforced concrete walls which circumscribe the area are perforated to allow the view of the surrounding landscape. The materials utilized and the building methods are the same as the rest of the Village; in this case, just like for the cottages, Gellner perfects the inner spaces, re-creating warm and familiar environments. A great example of that are the dormitories: with a capacity of 40 children each, they’ve been organized in smaller units counting 4 beds.
Progettoborca is a project of cultural enhancement and functional rethinking of the former Eni Village of Borca di Cadore, launched in July 2014 by Dolomiti Contemporanee.
Dolomiti Contemporanee (DC) is a project born in 2011 in the Dolomiti-UNESCO area.
DC, visual arts lab on location, is a contemporary art and cultural innovation “construction site” project.
DC works for the re-activation of abandoned sites, industrial archaeology compounds, factories that have been shut down, in the Dolomiti-UNESCO region. These underutilized resources, which politics, governments, and economy have been unable to rehabilitate in conventional ways for years, decades, become the construction sites of a regenerative, re-functionalizing project based on culture and art, strategies and networks.
The sites in which DC operates are selected on the basis of their quality, that is to say on the formal values of architecture, on their logistical, functional capabilities, and on the relationship with the environmental context: they’re all sites with exceptional qualities, charged with atmosphere and attraction: the one we intend to bring back to light.
Re-imagining them, however, isn’t enough to turn them back on; to obtain that result, DC continuously works on the enlargement of the strategic platforms of support to the project.
There are more than one hundred partners to date. They belong to various and different categories: institutional partners, public ones, private, productive, not to mention the cultural and artistic ones, several of them national and international in their reach.
Progettoborca stands to give new cultural value and offer a functional re-thinking of a site with an exceptional cultural and historical value: the Former Eni Village of Borca di Cadore, built in the tail end of the 50s by Enrico Mattei, as a vacation centre for Eni employees. A pioneering and unique business welfare experiment, in Italy, and absolutely innovative cultural workshop at the time.
It’s an exceptional and unique site, both from an architectural standpoint, in its relationship with the landscape, and in the vastness of the platform (big businesses, like Pirelli, Fantorni, Lanerossi, Krupp, Richard Ginori, work together to build it, realising parts for the site).
Since July 2014, DC has, indeed, started up an international artist residency inside the Village, with studios and ateliers, and the great, magnificent spaces by Gellner, drowned in the Dolomitic woods, have been transformed in a creative and artistic lab.
Together with the current owner of the site (Minoter-Cualbu Group), and a network of territorial subjects that gets bigger and bigger each day, a decisive action of enhancement and possible redefinition of this site and its connected parts (Colonia) today, was undertaken.
Progettoborca doesn’t intend to stand as the umpteenth evaluation (representation) of this site: we don’t want to go back to watch it but, finally, to begin an active process on it, working from the inside, culturally and strategically, imagining concrete and innovative reactivation models for it, a series of functions, a destiny that is, once more, active.
The regenerative construction site will continue throughout the next three years.
It integrates, as is the way in DC, the creative functions (art and culture) with the strategic ones, and with the ones linked to the handling and re-evaluation policy of the asset.
Periodically DC opens up the site with guided tours and open studios which enable visitors to get to know the Village and Progettoborca from the inside. These are the artists who, to this day, have worked in Progettoborca: Marco Andrighetto, Marta Allegri, Chiara Bergamo, Elisa Bertaglia, Gino Blanc, Stefano Cagol, Fabiano De Martin Topranin, Gianni De Val, Sandra Hauser, Jérémy Laffon, Stefano Moras, Luka Sirok.
Info on all the activities of Progettoborca can be found on the website www.progettoborca.net .