Forgotten Architecture – three pictures from the book; left: the playground in Copenhagen; Centre: la Scarzuola; right: Aquila gas station.
Some of the photos from the book Forgotten Architecture. Photo: Courtesy of Forgotten Architecture

Forgotten Architecture: The Weirdest Designs of the 20th Century

What began as a Facebook group for architecture nerds is now a book featuring radical – and downright strange – buildings by forgotten designers.
Daniele Ferriero
Milan, IT

This article originally appeared on VICE Italy.

The 20th century brought to us some of the most interesting and innovative architectural minds of all time, people like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright. But not all projects designed in the last century were lauded, and not all of their designers became stars. Many of the sometimes strange, sinisterly angular, or oddly curved structures - and the avant-garde ideas behind them - never really took off and were largely left out of today’s textbooks. But that doesn’t mean they were totally forgotten. 


Architect, author and researcher at the Catholic University of Louvain Bianca Felicori began noticing these blindspots in contemporary architectural studies after discovering the work of Italian architect Marcello D’Olivo. Felicori was struck by D’Olivo’s “organic and sinus-shaped” vision, as she put it. That made her wonder how much she still didn't know about 20th-century architecture and how many pieces were missing from her education.

That’s Forgotten Architecture, a Facebook group and Instagram page, was born in 2019. Felicori wanted to create a space where people could share and talk about the most imaginative deviations from mainstream architecture of the past century they had come across. 

The project is now a book of the same name with images and essays from Forgotten Architecture members all over the world. It also includes materials from archives, studies and professional photographers. Some pictures are new, others were dug up by the spaces’ current owners and other people who’ve had them in their hearts for a while.

Forgotten Architecture, book – photo of the cover of a black book with a picture of a building with a giant concrete statue of a female body without a head.

The book, published by NERO and Prima O Mai.

"I realised that many people shared my desire to go beyond the limits of the history of architecture taught in universities," Felicori said. Before long, the group became a success. “What was interesting to me was that it wasn’t just professionals who got involved; many people were from the general public," she continued.


This made Felicori re-evaluate the role of architecture in society. Far from the elitist discipline it can be presented as in academic circles, architecture can actually bring people of different backgrounds together. “I have learned that sharing your knowledge can be a powerful tool for creative collective projects," Felicori added. 

In fact, many of the people she collaborated with for the book were total strangers she met through social media. The essays accompanying the pictures were written by some of the group’s most active users. The chapters are also organised based on the categories hotly discussed in the Facebook group, including ephemeral architecture, petrol stations, discos and resorts, houses and playgrounds.

Through this project, Felicori became close with a number of people, including Giulia, the owner of the house designed by Italian architect Ettore Sottsass for Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro. (Giulia referred not to share her last name to protect her identity.) “When she can, she opens her house to the public and shares it with members of the Forgotten group,” Felicori said. But that’s just one of the many friendships born inside the community “between architects and relatives of deceased designers, photographers, owners of incredible homes and many other people.”

And this is only the beginning. “We have so much material, we could make a box set,” Felicori said. “There are still so many topics to be covered: from summer camps to hotels, from bars and restaurants to town halls.”


The book is available (in Italian) for pre-order until the 7th of June. Scroll down to see more photos:

Forgotten Architectures, Aquila gas station,  Aldo Favini – black and white photo of a gas station with a roof supported by beams with a curved pattern with round cutouts. On top of it, there's a sign reading "eagle"

Aquila gas station in Sesto San Giovanni by Aldo Favini. 1949. Photo: Archivio Favini

Forgotten Architecture, Tivolaj Art Playground, Torsten Johansson – black and white picture of a man standing in front of a large statue made up of different angular shapes.

Tivolaj Art Playground in Copenhagen, by Torsten Johansson. 1958. Photo courtesy of Jesper Johansson.

Forgotten architecture, HOFLAB, Pila cemetery – photo of a space with terracotta coloured walls, lots of curved areas and a small statue of the same colour on a pedistal.

Extension of the cemetery of Pila Italy by the HOFLAB architecture studio. 2000. Photo courtesy of HOFLAB.

Forgotten architecture, Ken Isaacs, Beach Matrix – Photo of a structure placed on a beach made out of scaffolding and cubic shapes in bright colours.

Beach Matrix in Westport, Connecticut by Ken Isaacs. 1967. Photo courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research. Photo by Kenneth Dale Isaacs Papers.

Forgotten architecture, Ettore Sottsass, Arnaldo Pomodoro's house – Photo of a large piece of furniture with many different shelves nestled in each other.

Arnaldo Pomodoro's home by Ettore Sottsass. Milan, 1966-1968. Photo courtesy of Nicola Nunziata and Fabrizio Vatieri.

Forgotten architecture, La Scarzuola, Tomas Buzzi – photo of a large statue of a female body without a head made out of concrete.

La Scarzuola by Tomas Buzzi, an architectural complex in the central Italian region of Umbria, built around an abandoned monastery. Photo courtesy of Bianca Felicori.

Forgotten architecture, Mario Bacciocchi, Saint Barbara church – Photo of the front of a church featuring repetitive geometrical shapes painted in pastel pink and green with white and gold accents.

Saint Barbara church in San Donato Milanese by Mario Bacciocchi. 1954. Photo courtesy of Stefano Perego photography.

Forgotten architecture, Dante Bini, Villa Antonioni Vitti – photo of a dome-shaped house with earth couloured walls.

Villa Antonioni Vitti by Dante Bini on the Paradiso Coast in Sardinia. 1968. Photo courtesy of Giulia Ricci.

Forgotten architecture, Vittorio Giorgini, Casa Saldarini – house built in the woods with earth coloured walls made out of organic, curved shapes.

Casa Saldarini in Piombino by Vittorio Giorgini.1961-62. Photo courtesy of Archivio Vittorio Giorgini.