Raimondo D’Aronco and the beauty of Art Nouveau architecture


Another illustrious son of Gemona is  Raimondo Tommaso D’Aronco, considered one of Italy’s top Art Nouveau architects, who completed a highly successful career before his death in Liguria in 1932.

Born in the village of Godo in 1857, the first of the eight children of Girolamo and Santa Venturini, he was sent by his father, a contractor, to Graz, Styria, to attend a school for master builders.

He then studied at the Academia in Venice, graduating with a diploma in architecture, which allowed him to begin a teaching career (at the Academia in Carrara, then in Cuneo, Palermo and Messina University) and work as an architect.


Travels in Turkey: D’Aronco’s eclecticism at the Ottoman court


Turkey played a major role in D’Aronco’s life, attracted as he was by the master construction and architectural traditions of the East and the Ottoman Empire, which he himself influenced by introducing new elements of the  Jugendstil. He experimented with eclecticism, combining European stylistic elements with others typical of the Ottoman tradition and, later, of Modernist inspiration.

In 1893 he was appointed State architect, appointed to restore numerous historic buildings, including the Basilica of Santa Sofia in Constantinople and the Grand Bazar following the 1894 earthquake.

He spent many years working in Turkey, where he also built the summer residence of the Italian Ambassador (Villa Tarabya, 1906), in Istanbul, before finally returning to Italy in 1909.

D’Aronco: awards and acknowledgements

Progetto per il monumento al re Vittorio Emanuele II di Raimondo D'Aronco

The architect from Gemona won numerous prizes in the course of his career. These include a silver medal in the competition for the monument to King Victor Emanuel II in Rome in 1884. His plans for the monument are now kept in the Civic Museum in Palazzo Elti in Gemona.

The architect’s projects built in Italy following public competitions include the pavilions for the International Exposition of Modern Decorative Art in Turin (1902) and in Udine (1903).

The Turin pavilion in particular, one of the first public buildings to interpret the motifs of the Viennese Secession in Italian style, was of great importance for publicising Art Nouveau architecture in the country.

D’Aronco as promoter of Art Nouveau style in Italy and in Friuli

Art Nouveau was an artistic and philosophical movement which influenced the figurative arts, architecture and the applied arts of the late nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century. In Italy it was known as Liberty style (or floral style, or “arte nuova”), after the name of the Roman shop owned by Arthur Lasenby Liberty.

Following the success of the Liberty & Co. store which opened in London in 1875, Lasenby became convinced that it would be a good idea to open another store in Rome, a favourite destination for wealthy British and American visitors. What did the shops sell? Manufactures made with curved lines and precious materials, colourful, lightweight fabrics, oriental objects and items of oriental inspiration.

D’Aronco’s architectual heritage in Friuli

A number of the constructions built in Art Nouveau or Liberty style in Udine were temporary, intended for special events, such as the pavilions for the Udine National Exposition of 1903, while others are still visible today.

To explore the architect’s creativity in Friuli, visit the Udine Town Hall, known as “Palazzo D’Aronco”, and Palazzo Morpurgo, containing a collection of thousands of his drawings and plans.

D’Aronco’s principal and most challenging project in his homeland was the new  Town Hall of Udine, the result of a complex planning process which began in 1888 and was not completed until 1930. In this building, D’Aronco drew his inspiration from architectural canons that were more classical than Art Nouveau, as he wrote in the report on the project, where he writes of a building “inspired by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to the extent compatible with the requirements of today, of the building, and of the materials to be used”.

His work slowed down in his final years: D’Aronco continued to design buildings, but his Art Nouveau fantasies gave way to a few hints of Art Deco (as in Villino Tamburlini, Udine, 1924).

His most important work in his later years was as professor of architecture at the Fine Arts Institute of Naples, a position he held between 1917 and 1929. He then retired to Sanremo, where he spent his final years. He died in 1932. D’Aronco has been rediscovered, partly thanks to the work of Italian architect Manfredi Nicoletti, who wrote two complete monographs on his work, in 1955 and in 1982.

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