One hundred years have passed since Antonio Sant’Elia and Mario Chiattone pioneered futurism in architecture. Marinetti exerted his trademark influence over the two, putting words to the towering industrial structures they envisioned. Though they bear the mark of their age, in many ways the vision they present is more futuristic than even the sleekest digital architecture of today. Sant’Elia’s manifesto of futurist architecture appears below, along with some drawings by him and Chiattone.
Because of the Italian futurists’ notorious association with fascist politics from the early 1920s on, it is important to point out that Sant’Elia died in combat well before he could have joined such a movement. Like the other futurists, Sant’Elia was drawn to the sublime spectacle of mechanized warfare. His voluntary, indeed enthusiastic, enlistment in the Italian army eventually resulted in his death. Yet it would be premature to assume that he would have been sympathetic to Mussolini. Not all of the futurists were, of course.
An earlier version of this manifesto was published in a catalogue which accompanied the exhibition of a Milanese group called Nuove Tendenze [New Tendencies], held in late May 1914. It was untitled, but has since become known as the “Messaggio” [“Message”]. Though its ideas were Sant’Elia’s, it was drafted by Ugo Nebbia and perhaps others. In July 1914 Sant’Elia, who had long been in contact with Boccioni, met with Marinetti and decided to adhere to Futurism. Marinetti transformed the “Messaggio” into the manifesto “Futurist Architecture,” issued as an independent leaflet in late July 1914. It was republished in Lacerba 2, № 15 (August 1, 1914).