Vittorio Gregotti, an Italian modernist architect, theorist and city planner whose monumental projects included opera houses, arenas — like Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium — and even an entire suburb, died on Sunday at a hospital in Milan. He was 92.
Mr. Gregotti had been infected by the coronavirus and died of pneumonia, according to Michele Reginaldi, a former partner at his firm. Mr. Gregotti’s wife, Marina Mazza, was hospitalized with Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, Italian news reports said.
As of Monday, Italy had recorded more than 24,700 confirmed cases of Covid-19 — the most outside of China — with more than 1,800 of them fatal.
Dario Franceschini, Italy’s minister of cultural heritage, described Mr. Gregotti in a statement as “a great Italian architect and urban planner who has given prestige to our country in the world.”
Mr. Gregotti’s buildings, and many of those designed by his firm, Gregotti Associatti International, combined a reverence for older architectural styles with an embrace of the new. His large-scale constructions, which often housed cultural and athletic organizations, typically conveyed a sense of grandeur but nevertheless complemented rather than eclipsed their often antique surroundings.
Perhaps the best example of Mr. Gregotti’s approach was his renovation of Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium, which was built for an exhibition in 1929 and fell into disrepair after hosting the Mediterranean Games in 1955. Mr. Gregotti chose to preserve the original walls and towers of the stadium — on Montjuïc, the hill overlooking Barcelona — while completely revamping the interior.
The architect Neil Wilson wrote in the British newspaper The Independent in 1989, before Mr. Gregotti had finished the stadium, that those who had been present there in 1929 would recognize “the same sweeping amphitheater reminiscent of a Roman circus, the neo-Classical appearance of arches and lofty towers in soft yellow stone.”
Mr. Gregotti’s cultural projects include, in France, a mountainous cafe au lait-colored structure surrounding a garnet bowl-shaped concert hall for the Grand Théâtre de Provence; and, in Italy, the Teatro degli Arcimboldi, a granite-and-plaster opera house and concert hall in Milan that seats more than 2,300. It became the city’s foremost opera house for a time when La Scala closed for renovations in 2002.
Mr. Gregotti and his firm were also city planners, helping to redesign a formerly industrial area in Milan’s Bicocca district and creating Pujiang New Town, a Shanghai suburb built around Italian architectural principles.
He collaborated with Manuel Salgado on the Belém Cultural Center in Lisbon, Portugal, a collection of buildings designed for meetings, exhibitions and performances]. The complex, sprawling over hundreds of thousands of square feet, was built mainly out of blocks of lightly-colored limestone, a material that allowed it to blend in with the older buildings around them.
Mr. Gregotti closed his firm in 2017, saying that he thought practical architecture was no longer valued and that he disagreed with the fanciful direction the field had taken. He told the Italian newspaper La Stampa in 2019 that “architects are only creating images, to amaze, rather than propose projects” and that contemporary architecture had lost touch with “the idea that this profession has at its base a collective product and must answer to specific social needs, tied to places and their history.”
Vittorio Gregotti was born on Aug. 10, 1927, in Novara, in Italy’s northwestern Piedmont region. He earned an architecture degree from the Polytechnic University of Milan in 1952.
Mr. Gregotti worked for B.P.P.R., an architecture and design studio in the city, where Ernesto Rogers became his mentor. He founded his own firm in 1974. He served as the editor in chief of the Italian architecture magazine Casabella during the 1950s and ’60s, wrote books about architecture theory, taught architecture at various universities and twice directed the visual arts section of the Venice Biennale during the 1970s.
Complete information on his survivors was not immediately available.
In 2002, the Teatro degli Arcimboldi closed briefly after a 440-pound light panel had fallen from the ceiling during a performance. Audience members had been evacuated after one of them noticed that the panel was cracking; no one was injured.
Mr. Gregotti acknowledged the seriousness of the situation and suggested that the panel might have fallen because a TV crew had interfered with it during a shoot.
When asked in an interview if he would change his design if he had to do it over again, he said, “Of course, or I wouldn’t have any fun.”
Elisabetta Povoledo and Daniel J. Wakin contributed reporting.
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