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James Clough: Signs / 3

We are reposting all the articles written by James Clough for la Repubblica / Robinson, extending his 20-year research published in the volume Signs of Italy.

Centrale Generale Fiori

Discovering examples of Art Nouveau letters such as these on the former Fiori hydroelectric power station in Sarzana is a pleasure, given the relative rarity of original signs of this type. These discoveries are made even more interesting by the shapes of the Art Nouveau letters, which are always original and surprising. It is certain, however, that no other style in the multi-millennial history of our alphabet has as many different letterforms as Liberty. One key feature of the design of the ones that make up this sign is the extreme reduction of curves; another, more bizarre, is the slanting of the vertical bars in ‘C’, ‘A’, ‘G’ and ‘O’, which produces extraordinary but rather ungainly letters. The small hydroelectric power station, abandoned for more than 20 years, dates back to 1931 when the Art Nouveau wave had worn off and the less supple art deco forms were influencing both architecture and letter design.

Sign: Ceentrale Generale Fiori

It is likely that the architect, as is frequently the case in similar situations, designed not just the building but also the letters of this inscription. Based on the design, wooden moulds were made, which were filled with cement or stucco to create the three-dimensional letters to be painted dark red and walled on top of the facade.

Location: Sarzana
Address: Via Agostino Paci
Technique: letters in stucco or cement
Writing: late Liberty
Year: 1931

Originally published by Robinson («la Repubblica») on Jan 7, 2018.
Courtesy of James Clough.

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