giuseppe pagano (august 1896 – april , 1945) was an italian architect, notable for his involvement in the movement of rationalist architecture in italy up to the end of the second world war. he designed exhibitions, furniture and interiors and was an amateur photographer. he was also a long-time editor of the journal ‘casabella’.
giuseppe pogatschnig was born in parenzo (poreč, then in the austro-hungarian empire, now part of croatia). after attending the italian language lyceum in trieste, he fled to join the italian army at the onset of the first world war and adopted the italian name, pagano. he was twice wounded and twice captured but managed to escape. in the years immediately following the war, pagano was associated with nationalist and pre-fascist politics, and would be among the founders of the first fascist party of his hometown of parenzo. in 1924, pagano graduated from the politecnico of turin, with a degree in architecture. in the late 1920s, he started work designing bridges, buildings, including the gualino office building in turin (1928) with gino levi-montalcini, and working on a number of pavilions exhibitions for the turin exposition of 1929. in 1931, he moved to milan to work for the home and decoration magazine la casa bella, founded by guido marangoni in 1928.
from the late 1920s, pagano had adopted a rationalist position, influenced by futurism and the european avant-gardes – he became an architect caught between the theory and practice of fascist italy whose approach advocated for a triad of unity, abstraction and coherence. he had a significant career as a writer and defender of rationalist architecture in the press, especially casabella, whose name he soon changed from la casa bella when he became director of the magazine in 1933 along with neapolitan art critic edoardo persico. pagano and persico revolutionized the graphic format and used their editorial position both to call to arms like-minded colleagues who believed in the power of architecture to transform modern like and to violently criticize those who reduced it to an ‘aping of styles’. he was involved in the v triennale of milan in 1933, where he collaborated in the design of one of the pavilions of the housing exhibition – the steel structure house – and designed the n=breda etr300 train carriage along with giò ponti. he was also responsible for the 1934 aeronautics show where he designed three of the main spaces including the hall of honour and the vi triennale of 1936, which he directed together with the painter mario sironi. all three expositions were held in architect giovanni muzio’s palazzo dell’arte in the parco sempione, which had been built for the v triennale, the first held in milan.
he was also an amateur photographer, an activity sparked by his desire to document italy’s vernacular tradition in architecture. he traveled italy ‘hunting’for images and creating careful compositions that expressed material qualities, gave snapshots of daily life and celebrated what he saw as a ‘real’italy – not that of the tourist brochures and the propaganda machine. from then on he often published his own photographs in casabella using them to strengthen his critiques of the architecture of the time.