ANTOLINI, Giovanni Antonio
(b. 1756, Castel Bolognese, d. 1841, Bologna)

Biography

Italian architect and writer. When still quite young, he was taught geometry and hydraulics by the engineer Vincenzo Baruzzi. At the age of 20, he went to Rome. In 1776, he assisted with the drainage of the Pontine Marshes but, after catching malaria, soon returned to Rome. As a result, he decided to devote the rest of his career to architecture.

Antolini was attracted by the study of ancient monuments, publishing an illustration of the Temple of Hercules in Cori. In 1796, he designed a triumphal arch with Doric columns for the city of Faenza dedicated to the glory of the French nation. Inaugurated in 1799, it was decorated with bas-reliefs by the sculptor Villafranca but was quickly destroyed by the Austrians. After the French returned, it was rebuilt to celebrate the Battle of Marengo but was then again demolished.

In 1801, after the French had returned to Milan, Antolini was commissioned to draw up plans for redesigning the city around the Sforza Castle which Napoleon had begun to demolish. Antolini, however, in his Foro Bonaparte project which was inspired by the Forum of Ancient Rome and by the works of the French architect Claude Nicolas Ledoux, proposed keeping the core of the castle, adding a facing of Doric columns, and developing a vast circular plaza around, some 570 metres in diameter. Surrounded by a Doric colonnade, the plaza was to be bordered by administrative buildings, ministries, court houses, baths, theatres, universities and museums. Evaluated and modified several times by a special commission, the plans were finally shelved owing to the sheer grandeur of the project. Antolini's original plans were however considered to be one of the most important endeavours of Neoclassical architecture, so much so that the Foro Bonaparte was soon to inspire Naples' semicircular Piazza del Plebiscito with the church of San Francesco di Paola.

From 1803 to 1815, Antolini was professor of architecture at the University of Bologna and thereafter at Milan's Brera Academy. His written works include Idee elementari di architettura civile (Elementary concepts of civil architecture, 1813) and Osservazioni ed aggiunte ai Principii di architettura civile di Francesco Milizia (Observations and additions concerning the Principles of civil architecture by Francesco Milizia, 1817).