I have for a long time wanted to write a piece about St Peter’s Seminary – the remains of what was possibly a sublime piece of 60’s Brutalist architecture. It was abandoned in the 1980’s and has been vandalized ever since.Originally opened in 1966, it was never really used to its full potential due to the decline in applicants to the priesthood and a more community oriented direction to the Roman Catholic Church. It was apparently also beset with maintenance problems (which seems to be common with Brutalist architecture – although I’m not really sure why!) and had a lot of leaks which the architects blamed the builders and the builders blamed the architects. Although it is now a complete ruin it has been listed by Historic Scotland and is seen as a significant building of its era and one of the most significant post WW2 building in Scotland. It’s sorry remains, although out-of-bounds, can be found just outside Cardross in Scotland – there are plenty of good photographs and detailed histories here and photos and a video walk-through, here. There is a plan to use part of the building as an arts venue which could be an interesting use and there’s an article here about it.
This posting is not about that building. Partly because it’s quite a well-known ‘lost’ building and I am always drawn to the lesser know, but mainly because I came across another ruined masterpiece of concrete modernism which I had absolutely no knowledge of – Casa Sperimentale (Experimental House) by Giuseppe Perugini.
This extraordinary building (photographs at the bottom of the page) is situated in Fregene, a small coastal town outside Rome, Italy, and was built between 1969 and 1971. It is yet another neglected and vandalized ruin of Modernistist architecture but one which, even in it’s now chaotic state, has such a striking appearance that it seems to be expressing an ideology beyond it’s primary function. It is reminiscent of the ‘Rietveld Schröder House‘ in Utrecht (thankfully never ruinous and now fully restored) which follows De Stijl principles. The concrete construction (that favorite material of the modernist) of Casa Sperimentale appears to have an incredible lightness which is probably due to the surprising amount of windows incorporated into the design. They sweep through the building, dissecting walls in geometric lines which appear to force their way into rooms. This gives the illusion that the heavy grey structure of the building is suspended by the glass itself. It is particularly striking in the stunning spherical outhouse – with it’s huge glass door on one side and the angled ribbon window which completely encircles the room.
St. Peter’s Seminary was said to also have a feeling of less weight than the mass of concrete would imply and this was largely due a clever use of natural light.
I can find virtually nothing out about this unusual house – I do not even know if it was ever lived in. Who was Giuseppe Perugini? Did he design any other buildings, were they built – and if they were, do they still exist? If any do exist, are they as striking as this one – because if they are, he deserves to be far better known.
There is a website, here, which appears to have more information about the building, but it’s in Italian which I cannot read – maybe you’ll have some success in discovering more (and if you do, feel free to get in touch, I’d love to know more). But in the mean time I’ll leave you with some photographs of the building in its current state by Oliver Astrologo (unfortunately I cannot even find any photos of it as new!).