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Varese Holiday Camp Just skeletons through which it is possible to look at the horizon

Varese Holiday Camp

Traversa XIX Pineta, Cervia (RA) Italy


  • SPACE TYPE: Holiday camp


Tags: healthcare, holiday camp, hospital, Italy, Totally Lost 2013, Totally Lost 2015, Totally Riviera

The holiday camp is dedicated to Costanzo Ciano, and was built between 1937 and 1939 on a project by the engineer Mario Loreti, for the “Federazione dei Fasci” of the Varese province.

This is a monumental building, characterized by volumes and smooth masses that, for its size and the number of people it hosted, encloses an idea of city and implies a reflection on the urbanistic level, imposing itself as the organizing element of a wide empty and unvaried area.

The structure of the building is, on one side, a rational answer to the functional needs imposed by the building type of the sun therapy holiday camp, while on the other it shows the symbolic and glorifying elements of the architecture of the Fascist era. This is noticeable, for example, in the monumental nature of the stairs and in the references to the aesthetics of the machine, typical of the artistic avant gardes, that can be seen in the shape of the map of the building, similar to a big seaplane.

The building develops symmetrically around a central axis that clearly divides the dormitories, the dining halls and the toilets for the boys from those for the girls. The building is distributed around a central yard with the shape of a trapeze, that is directly accessed from the main entrance. The yard is located at the center of a two-storey curvy building, that hosted offices and service rooms.

The monumental five-storey stairs, organizing the vertical connections of the complex, are the background stage for the courtyard and connect the boys and girls dormitories, inserted in two four-storey volumes that fan out towards the sea. The dining halls are located in a two-storey building facing the sea with a convex façade, marked by horizontal openings and protected by some brise soleil.

The holiday camp is presently disused, and despite being abandoned it has preserved its visual impact; the big ramps, whose reconstruction after the war started in the ’50s but was never completed, today are just skeletons through which it is possible to look at the horizon.

I have visited Colonia Varese  (Colonia Marina Costanzo Ciano) several time and it continues to fascinate me. I have seen ambitious plans for restoration but observing the state of decay I think that rescue is extremely unlikely. It was apparently only used as a colonia estiva for a single summer, becoming a hospital during WW2 and was then mined by the retreating German Army.

Concrete and iron reinforcements are crumbling and decaying more than I have seen elsewhere and I came across a suggestion that sea water was used in the concrete.

Text by Tim Brown

Ph. Davide Rabiti

CONTRIBUTOR: Stefano Bottari, Tim Brown, Alessandro Costa, Paolo Martini, Lorenzo Mini, Andrea Parisi, Alessandro Piredda, Davide Rabiti and Filippo Venturi