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James Clough: Italian Signs / 3

Lazy Dog is reposting the series of all the articles written by James Clough, about Italian signs, for Robinson – la Repubblica. These texts extend 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. However, we can be sure that no other style in the multi-millennial history of our alphabet has as many different letterforms as Art Nouveau. 

A peculiarity of the design of the letters here are the extremely angular curves. Another, more bizarre feature 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, closed more than 30 years ago, was built in 1931 when Art Nouveau was out and the geometrical deco forms were influencing both architecture and letter design.

Italian Sign: Centrale Generale Fiori
Sign: Centrale Generale Fiori

It is likely that the architect, as is frequently the case in similar situations with Italian signs, 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.

James Clough is a London-based calligrapher and typography scholar. Check his bio here.

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