SOMMARUGA, Giuseppe
(b. 1869, Milano, d. 1917, Milano)

Biography

Italian architect. He graduated in architectural design from the Accademia di Brera in Milan, attended courses for builders and then worked in the office of Luigi Broggi (1851-1926) before practising independently. Although some early works are typical of late 19th-century neo-Baroque, with heavily bracketed projections and overhanging cornices, Sommaruga is best known as an exponent of Stile Liberty (Italian: Art Nouveau). His style incorporated flowing bands of colour by using sculptural decoration (sometimes asymmetrical to windows) and high- and low-relief figural and floral bands, panels and friezes, executed in contrasting materials, often garnishing comparatively plain brick or stone surfaces.

Sommaruga's Palazzo Castiglioni (1904) is a Gesamtkunstwerk, with decorative wrought iron by Alessandro Mazzucotelli (1865-1938), carved woodwork by Eugenio Quarti and sculptured low-relief panels by Ernesto Bazzaro (1859-1937), which were later transferred to the Villa Romeo (1912-14), Milan. The rich and sensuous personal style characterizes a series of villas and mausolea built for the early Milanese industrial bourgeoisie, such as the Palazzo Viviani-Ghiberti (1906-07), Trieste, its lowest storey awash with figural and organic high reliefs; and the villa for Gustavo Faccanoni with a family mausoleum (1907-08), both at Sarnico, Bergamo. The last is one of Sommaruga's best-known works, in which massive buttress-like staircase spandrels rise to a tetrastyle sculptural centrepiece.

Other funerary monuments followed, including the Moretti aedicula (1913-14) in Milan and the Salmoiraghi mausoleum (1915-16) at Lanzo d'Intelvi, Como. Sommaruga's major mature work was the eight-storey Grand Hotel Tre Croci and the attached funicular station (1908-12) at Campo de Fiori. They are at the top of the Sacre Monte di Varese, where the rubble stonework of the lower storeys merges into the hillside, and incredible wrought-iron sculptures crown the pylons of the funicular entrances.