A visitor to Torviscosa is left in no doubt as to the town’s industrial role: the large square at the entrance to the community, designed by Giuseppe De Min in 1937, is half-dominated by the buildings linked to industrial activity and the official reception building of the CID (Centro Informazione Documentazione), built by the SNIA in the early ‘70s as a visiting card for the industrial town and a place to welcome foreign delegations. Next to the CID is a panoramic tower, topped with a quadrangular room that acts as a belvedere, once the meeting place for the top managers of the SNIA who welcomed their guests here and offered them a privileged viewpoint of the town and the outlying area. The other half of the square, to the west, is a social space, with a theatre and a social club-restaurant. The square, which is today dedicated to Franco Marinotti, the town’s founder and at the time managing director and later president of the SNIA, was originally named “piazza dell’Autarchia”, to underline that the whole industrial and urban community was designed according to the Fascist economic model.
As well as the plant, architects and engineers designed and supervised the building of the new town, envisaged to expand and house up to 20,000 people, and organised it into functional areas. The original town plan is still substantially unchanged, because later development luckily only involved the area to the west of the original centre. The various functional areas that made up the planned community are therefore still recognisable:
- The work spaces: the factory, the white collar workers’ canteen and the blue collar workers’ canteen
- The civic public buildings: the square with the town hall and the tower, with the schools opposite
- Recreational spaces: for sport (swimming pools, gyms and tennis courts) and entertainment (the theatre and the pedestrian avenue)
- Green areas, both inside the city and in the immediate surroundings
- Blue collar workers’ homes
- White collar workers’ homes
- Managers’ homes
- Buildings that were meant to ‘celebrate’ the factory: the T-shaped panoramic tower (the initial of the town’s name) and, above all, the Documentary Information Centre – CID
In the functional organization of this planned community the fulcrum of public life was the “piazza Impero” (today named piazza del Popolo). Designed by architect Giuseppe De Min in 1940 according to the architectural taste of the time, inspired by Giorgio De Chirico’s metaphysical squares, the original, stone-covered square was to have four classical-style statues, which were, however, never placed there. One side is occupied by the town hall, with its arengario tower and balcony. On the opposite side is the Rationalist-style school, with touches of Fascist architecture like the emphatic colonnaded portal of the main entrance. It was one of the first civic buildings to be completed and was inaugurated by Mussolini during his visit to Torviscosa on 21st September 1938.
Not far away, the workers’ village was made up of two groups of different style houses. The first group belonged to the homes known as ‘colombaie’ (literally ‘pigeon coops’), on which building began in 1943 but which were only completed in the ‘70s. This group was made up of ten blocks of terraced houses on an east-west axis. Each block had five homes. The main facades had arches that marked the entrance to each home, while the southern-facing facades had large dual height arches, a kind of sun break for the side that was most exposed to the sun. The second group, known as ‘case gialle’ (lit. ‘yellow houses’), was built between 1941 and 1944. This was made up of 12 blocks of buildings in a line, organised into four parallel rows along a north-south axis. The facades were marked by the modularity of the windows and on the whole seemed more modest than the “colombaie”.