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5.1 The announcement of competition
The announcement of the competition to assign the project of reconstructing a new theatre was promptly published on 3 February 1937. The judging commission of the competition declared the winners to be Aldo Morbelli and Robaldo Morozzo della Rocca.
Nevertheless, the project did not meet with great success: dragging on until the war broke out, subsequently resumed with considerable changes, it finally fell through definitively – in part because of the economic recession that imposed a drastic reduction in expenditures – even though the first stone had been laid on 25 September 1963.
5.2 The genius of Mollino
Only two years later, on 25 March 1965, the city administration promoted a new solution, entrusting the work to the engineer Marcello Zavelani Rossi and the architect Carlo Mollino, professor of architectural composition at the Politecnico of Torino and already the author of the Rai Auditorium and the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Crafts building. The work got underway at the beginning of September 1967.
«After having unanimously planned the general lines of the overall building, Studio Mollino dedicated itself to the sector intended for the public, or rather to the auditorium, the atrium, the foyers and the architecture in general, while Studio Zavelani produced the printouts concerning the scenotechnical sector in its fullest sense, namely the distributive, building, mechanical and functional components of all the relative services ».
This is how Carlo Mollino himself described the methods of planning and creating the work, which was designed with absolutely modern criteria, having prevailed, after long and heated debate, the current of thought that believed it necessary to face the problem of reconstruction not on the basis of earlier models but on new architectural and urban orientations.
Mollino had to face numerous problems, especially tied to the fact that the new Teatro not only had to be made part of a pre-existing urban context of considerable historical-architectural importance, but that it was necessary to integrate it with Alfieri’s surviving austere façade An artist like Mollino could not even think of working in an exclusively conservative sense or in any case be bound to strictly philological aesthetic and architectural canons. His extraordinary personality thus led him to give vent to his imagination by suggesting the old Baroque progenitor through a use of curved lines and sinuosity, an idea as original as it was inspired.
The stylistic constant that more than any other characterizes the external and internal feature of each part of the new Teatro Regio – of which Mollino designed every little detail, from the doorknobs to the lights, from the stairways to the structures in reinforced concrete – is precisely the curved line.
The exterior of the Teatro is characterised by the use of materials that integrate very well with the surrounding edifices. In addition to the brick, the rusticated concrete and the Luserna stone that also covers part of the fly tower, two large windows lighten the external “flanks”, making it possible from the foyers to enjoy the view of Juvarra’s elegant façade of the State Archive (situated in today’s Piazzetta Mollino) and creating a suggestive exchange of vistas between the interior and exterior. Carlo Mollino could not fully enjoy what can justifiably be considered the total synthesis of his experience: he died just a few months after seeing his artistic-professional testament become operational.
5.3 Architecture and technology
The roofing of the Teatro, in the form of a hyperbolic paraboloid shell, was created by engineer Felice Bertone. By now it is a part of the Turin skyline, like the Mole Antonelliana or the skyscraper in piazza Castello, inaugurated in 1936 and on whose building site the young Mollino did his apprenticeship.
The Teatro is arranged over 8 floors, 4 subterranean and 4 aboveground, from a depth of –12,50m to a maximum height of +32m. The offices are in the Alfieri wing towards piazza Castello, while the modern structure accommodates the foyers, the opera halls, the stalls and the stage, as well as all the technical services of the Teatro, including, among other things, two modern rehearsal halls for the chorus and orchestra, a large directing studio, the dance studio, the dressmaking workshop, the cafeteria and another theatre, the “Giacomo Puccini” Piccolo Regio, which has a capacity of 380 seats.
The technical workshops (scenery, woodworking, carpentry and props), once housed in the underground heart of the edifice, are now situated in decentralized locations.
The advanced technology of the structures, constantly modernized to meet increased production needs, place the Teatro Regio in the vanguard internationally: the stage, one of the largest and most mechanized in Europe, makes it possible to accommodate stage sets of considerable complexity, even more than one at the same time.
5.4 The rooms
Seen from above, the plan of the Teatro recalls the hips of a woman, while the stalls look like a partially opened shell. The theatre hall, on an ellipsoidal plan, contains 1398 seats in the stalls and is animated by a tier of 31 boxes that can accommodate up to 194 people. It is illuminated by a large chandelier composed of 1762 very fine aluminum tubes with bulbs and 1900 stems in reflecting Perspex, to create a suggestive “stalactite” effect. The unusual proscenium is obviously inspired by the shape of a television.
The foyers are covered in velvet and vermilion carpeting, adorned with mirrors and finished with quality materials including bronze and marble, and crowned by bare reinforced concrete that shows off the originality and modernity of the supporting structures.
Two symmetrical escalators, placed with great emphasis against the windows of the Tamagno Gallery, have an extraordinary scenographic efficacy. This luxury in the use of the materials and in the grandiosity of the foyers, refined and unequivocal, was justified by Mollino himself with the need to provide Torino with a meeting place of absolute prestige to celebrate with due prominence the great events of city life.