Italian architects, decorators and contractors in French Tunisia; continuity and discontiunity in the building production of an integrated community

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ITALIAN ARCHITECTS, DECORATORS AND CONTRACTORS IN FRENCH TUNISIA: CONTINUITY AND DISCONTINUITY IN THE BUILDING PRODUCTION OF AN INTEGRATED COMMUNITYEttore SessaIn 1936 the construction of such a sophisticated, even if simple, detached family house as Villa Zirah built by architect Giovanni Ruota, is one of the revealing signs of the space in the new town of Tunis around the mid - thirties by the group of planners and building entrepreneurs belonging to the big Italian community.Villa Zirah, completed the following year, is one of the few mentionable works by Ruota, and it can be distinguished in the high-class neighbourhood context of Avenue de Paris extension - today called avenue de la Liberté: this mainly happens because of the expressive contrast of the harmonious modulation of the façade both with the continuous window sill, marked by saw-toothed pseudo-astragal, and with semicircular eccentric avant-corps - by the first dynamically ornamented - surmounted by a pergola with ray-shaped transoms; the pergola theme has become a distinctive note of many kinds of works built by planners of Italian community. Ruota, who is also the builder of the nearby Villa Disegni, had completed the year before the construction of a considerable rental building also connoted by a Déco arbritation facies at 22, rue d’Algérie -Maison Tabone, surmounted by a pergola too. Villa Zirah stands for another important milestone in the building production of Italian people living in Tunisia towards the gaining of that “modernity”, so wished for in the fortnightly propagandistic review «Italiani di Tunisia»..This massive immigration was applied as a fly-wheel for an economic impulse and it could be put at the core of a half-century tradition; Italian people living in Tunisia, who were 6,000 during the period of Risorgimento, became 30,000 in the eighties of XIX century. Between 1884 and 1901 the French authorities - even as a reply to the Triple Alliance - removed all privileges that, in line with the progressive turning point impressed to the Regency by Khair-ed-Din Pasha and later by Muhammad Bayram, had contributed to the rising of a real Italian community consisting of several social classes with the development, particularly in Tunis, of a middle-class of professions, trading and entrepreneurial activities. Once abolished the consular jurisdiction, the French administration extended the programme of limitation to other fields, such as the public contracts from which Italian enterprises were ruled-out, with few exceptions like Giuseppe Rey from Piedmont and Sicilian Giuseppe Di Vittorio. The considerable presence of architects, engineers and decorators coming from Italy and living in Tunis in the space of time between the institution of the French Protectorate and the outbreak of World War II, can therefore be considered a complicated event. The Italian community, particularly in Tunis and, to a lesser extent in the rest of the country, was already substantial even before the creation of the French Protectorate. A first nucleus of people from Livorno, mainly of Jewish religion, was dedicated to trade and productive activities – that will later become solid firms, as the typographical factory Finzi and the furniture-making factory Coen; there were also professionals - among them two surgeons Giuseppe Passeri and Giacomo Castelnuovo stand out. A heavily populated community of fishermen, farmers, craftsmen and small shipowners had settled in Tunis from Sicily - two areas, one in Tunis and the other in La Goulette, were officially called Petite Sicile.At the e
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteThe Presence of Italian Architects in Mediterranean Countries
Numero di pagine14
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2008

Serie di pubblicazioni

NomeArchives of Italian Architecture Overseas


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