PIETRO PORCINAI (1910-1986)
Pietro Porcinai was born in 1910 in Villa Gamberaia in Settignano, on the Florentine hills, where his father Martino worked as head gardener for the Princess Catherine Jeanne Keshko Ghika, and had built that famous ‘parterre d’eau’ largely mentioned in the magazines of the time. The same garden had been seen as a model by many landscape architects working in those days, amongst them Cecil Pinsent. Porcinai therefore forms himself as a professional within a peculiar context, having been educated to a refined taste in sophisticated intellectual circles and favored in the fortunate customary of exclusive cosmopolitan associations.
Powerful in himself for a unique cultural density together with the historical thickness of his places of origin, and equipped with a personal sensitivity to the landscaping dimension strictly related to that garden formal lexicon for centuries harmoniously modelled in Tuscany by the anthropic activity combined with the natural beauty, Porcinai graduating from high school following in his father’s footsteps, at the prestigious Istituto Tecnico Agrario delle Cascine in Florence. He subsequently grows the preconditions of a bright professional activity outside the restricted Italian boundaries, by improving his knowledge on plantation and gardens art in Belgium and Germany. In these countries in fact both the profession and the ‘garden architect’ activity – these specializations being not yet ripe in Italy - were already supported by a centenary consolidated institutional dimension, having also in those years absorbed a strong innovative boost.
Once back in his Country, since the ‘30s, Porcinai is actively engaged with the important productive plantation activity in Pistoia, striking a fruitful partnership with Martino Bianchi. This association will bring Porcinai to measure himself with his first private commissions, later flanked by public procurements, together in Tuscany and in other Italian regions, and to display at the same time an intense intellectual commitment, also continued in the subsequent years both on specialized and more popular magazines. His declared aspiration, both personal and national, was achieving a new cultural and formal dimension for the contemporary Italian garden, looking for a worthy representative expression for a nation once mastering the art of the gardens. All this went with the attentiveness for the ‘Italic Landscape’ safeguarding, for which Porcinai will continually make complaints and request for protection.
Equally intense was his professional engagement in partnership with other professionals: Nello Baroni and Maurizio Tempestini, with whom, between the end of the ‘30s and the mid ‘50s Porcinai shared the studio in Lungardno Corsini in Florence, as well as significant figures in the XXth Century architecture as the BBPR Studio, Luigi Cosenza, Franco Albini, Marco Zanuso and Oscar Niemeyer. Such exchanges will be crucial to face an original working method that Porcinai will succeed to promote also at an international level in the context of the International Federation of Landscape Architects and in relations with the major landscape architects of the time, from Geoffrey A. Jellicoe to Sylvia Crowe and Maria Teresa Parpagliolo, from René Péchère to Carl Theodor Sørensen.
From the ‘50s on the work of Porcinai consolidates in an inedited professional structure in the Italian professional scene. Such structure had been already experimented by Porcinai from the ‘40s also in a business declension. He created in fact three societies all connected to the landscaping profession: ‘Il Giardino’, for the realization of parks and gardens, ‘Arno’, for the production of pottery and china/ceramics, ‘Fito’ for fertilisers and soils. All these societies were based in Florence, where also the OP (Organizzazione Professionisti – Professional Organization) was founded to optimize the professional contribution to the best both aesthetical, functional and economical result. This unprecedented professional structure had an application area from the private garden, declined in both smaller and larger sizes, and both urban and suburban villas gardens and parks. It also extended to numerous fields: from highways to archeological complexes, from ecology to environmental recovery to industrial, sportive, military sites quality, from family chapels and tombs to commemorative monuments, from urban parks to squares and historical gardens interventions and on new housing developments. Some of these issues hadn’t yet been explored in Italy. In particular, distinguishing features of a passionate activity on the path of an extraordinarily long career, Porcinai constantly displayed a keen interest on all aspects associated to living and inhabiting. As well as theorizing the need for domestic greenery and designing gardens and landscapes strictly related to buildings and settlements, Porcinai designed and realized terraces, hanging and winter gardens, furniture for gardens and interiors, exhibition fittings, parties apparatus.
His own work, extended in the time frame of nearly 60 years of prompt activity, appears connoted by a working method, still today a valuable uniform framework for action, and oriented both to the critical naturalistic and environmental peculiarities comprehension and to the historical premises stratifications. This in deep comprehension has been repeatedly attached to the project intervention in several visual and evocative references, aware of the preciousness of the historical and cultural memories and of the coeval impetuous political, economic, social evolution forms that comply with the XXth Century European landscape.