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Vittorio Gregotti, the Italian architect who designed Palermo’s ZEN neighbourhood and the Barcelona Olympic Stadium, has passed away at the age of 92. The architect, who founded his practice Gregotti Associati International in 1974, designed buildings including the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Stadium, Grand Théâtre de Provence in Aix-en-Provence, the Arcimboldi Opera Theatre in Milan, Lisbon’s Belém Cultural Centre and the Università Bicocca in Milan.
In 1975 Gregotti curated an exhibition on architecture for La Biennale di Venezia, laying the foundations for the establishment of the Venice Architecture Biennale in 1980. That year he produced an exhibition on the abandoned grain mills on the island of Giudecca in Venice. The next year Vittorio Gregotti was made director of the biennale’s visual arts section. He used the role to expand the festival’s focus on architecture further by putting on more venues with more architecture and design exhibitions.
In 1978, as director of the Venice Biennale, he chose the theme Utopia and the Crisis of Anti-Nature: Architectural Intentions in Italy.
One of his most controversial urban plans was the Zona Espansione Nord, or ZEN, in Palermo. Built in 1969, Vittorio Gregotti‘s multi-storey housing for 10,000 people in an economically deprived area has become run down and is now synonymous with poverty and crime – so much so that director Marco Risi used it as the setting for his 1990 film Ragazzi Fuori, or Boys on the Outside.
More successful was Gregotti Associati International‘s renovation of a stadium for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys. Gregotti gutted the structure, which had been originally built by architect Pere Domènech i Roura for the 1929 Expo. The facade was retained and new grandstands added to give it a capacity of 67,007 seats. It has remained in use ever since.
In 1998 he built the Università Bicocca in Milan in an industrial area that was originally the Pirelli industrial complex. The critical reception of the campus was mixed, with some critics complaining that it failed to make the area a cultural centre.
Vittorio Gregotti‘s studio has a strong focus on urban planning, designing an entire town in China – Pujiang New Town in Shanghai, which includes piazzas, a bell tower and Venice-style canals.
A principal figure in the Italian neo-avant-garde movement, Vittorio Gregotti was also a respected architectural theorist. He focused on examining the modernist and postmodernist movements of the 20th century.