The Goddess of Wisdom goes to University

This is a sketch of the main facade of the “Politecnico di Milano”, the university where I studied and graduated in Architecture.

In fact, this is the current seat of the Faculty of Engineering. The building was built in 1927, when the University was still known as “Regio Politecnico di Milano” and it had just moved in Piazza Leonardo, from its previous headquarters in the Palazzo della Canonica in Piazza Cavour.

At that time, the University had signed an agreement with the State, the Municipality of Milan, the Chamber of Commerce and a bank to bring together in one complex all the technical colleges that were scattered around the city. This building was the nucleus of what is today called “Città Studi” (City of the Study), a district that hosts, in addition to the nine faculties of the Politecnico, the scientific technical faculties of the Università Statale and the Institute for the Cancer study and treatment.

You note how, in a city where, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, several important buildings were built in Art Nouveau style, it was chosen a look so stiff and formal (almost late-neoclassical) for the university (for example, in the same year was built, in the current Corso Matteotti, the Palazzo Crespi, a building designed by architect Piero Portaluppi, which has a very different elegance). But those were the years of the fascist regime, which soon opened in Milan that kind of eclectic oversized mausoleum, which is the Stazione Centrale.

Athena face in the lindelReturning to the facade that I’ve sketched, observing carefully the lintel above the windows, under the emblem of the City of Milan (flanked by two cornucopias! Are they the Symbol of a donation?), I noticed a head wearing a helmet. Who is she? The helmet is clearly in the greek style, even if the female face is a little masculine. Everything suggests that she is Athena, the Greek goddess of Wisdom and Arts (as well as of the  “noble ” aspects of War). The same word “Athenaeum” means “a place sacred to Athena” and it was used for the first time by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, to designate the institution for the teaching of humanities, which he founded in Rome.

The university students today do not know it, but the protective gaze of Athena, always watch over them.


About liviusnotes

Architect, Graphic Illustrator, Drawing Teacher, Gentleman.
This entry was posted in Architecture, Gallery, Sketches and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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