WORLD DESIGN SPOTLIGHT: Rialto building, by Borso di Carminati
03 Oct 2022 /

WORLD DESIGN SPOTLIGHT: Rialto building, by Borso di Carminati

The early nineteen-thirties saw the configuration of what would, decades later, be the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, then called Emilio Castelar, the nerve centre of Valencia. The perimeter buildings of this new square were renewed, giving rise to the magnificent examples of architecture still conserved today. Among the buildings that line the square is the Rialto, on which work commenced in 1935 and which was completed in 1939.

It was the Serrano Llácer family that commissioned the Valencian architect, of Genoese ancestry, Cayetano Borso di Carminati González (Valencia, 1900-1972) to erect a building with a complex programme that included cinema theatres for 1400 people, a tearoom and restaurant.

With one eye on other similar contemporary cinemas, such as the Universum of Berlin, the Parisian Gaumont or the Barceló and Capitol in Madrid, the resulting building was defined by its creator as “markedly monumental” and was the first of this calibre in the city.

The indoor spaces of the original cinema reinterpreted the Art Deco style from a contemporary angle and were originally designed by interior designer Francisco Ferrer with an undeniable objective of modernity.

The architecture of the building places the emphasis on tiered masses and volumes. The building is inspired by models such as the Carrión building of Madrid or the Universum cinema of Berlin, and the finishing touch of the tower is reminiscent of the American skyscrapers.

This singular building consists of a basement, ground floor, six upper floors and a loft, raised on a very irregular plot, which gives onto the Plaza del Ayuntamiento and the streets of Barcelonina and Moratín.

The façades of the Rialto were designed and arranged according to the importance of the space over which they were to look. That which gives onto the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, which is the main façade, orders its two volumes vertically and asymmetrically, with large windows and a balcony.

The rear façade is designed with no ornamentation of any type, a complete absence of decoration which approaches European expressionism.

The rationalist stage of Borso di Carminati, in the thirties, includes his most striking and central works in the city: the Senabre building (1935), Vizcaíno (1936), Dasí (1935) and that which concerns us, the Rialto building (1935), all of them located in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento and in the adjacent streets.

During the Civil War, Borso di Carminati was imprisoned and, when the war ended, the architect returned to practice but with a changed language, closer to “neocasticism”, an inherently Spanish response to neoclassicism. He renewed his professional activity precisely with the project management of the Ateneo Mercantil de Valencia, the building next to the Rialto.

Today, and after the respectful restoration and refurbishment completed at the end of the eighties by architects (and brother and sister) Cristina and Camilo Grau, the Rialto building is the Theatrical Headquarters of the Valencian Government and the Institut Valencià de Cinematografia and it includes a theatre, cinema, music hall, cafeteria, dressing rooms and offices.

Photography: Eduardo Manzana.