• Does a Comfortable Home Make Society More Stable? Domestic Culture and Women's Roles in Italy, 1898–1912
    Francesca Benedetta Filippi

How to sit in a chair

In 1906, the author of L'arte di arredare la casa, likely a man hidden behind the female pseudonym of Donna Clara, theorized about how to outfit a comfortable home as a means of maintaining social stability. From 1898–1912, while feminists were pursuing emancipation, middle-class women used books and magazines to teach other women how to plan a home in order to keep their families and themselves integrated in society. The notions of domesticity assembled for the female reading public were the result of a filtering process from the architectural culture, which at that time considered "bad and poor housing" responsible for the spread of an immoral social behavior. The defense of tradition proceeded along with the promotion of some selected principles of modernity considered useful for strengthening social rules. This casts new light on the permanence of the distinguishing distributive characteristics of the Italian middle class house.

Francesca B. Filippi completed her BArch cum laude in architecture in 2000. In 1999, she was welcomed as a visiting scholar to the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she completed her final thesis on Louis H. Sullivan under the supervision of Martha Pollak. In 2004, she obtained a PhD in the history of architecture, a dissertation on Turin architect Annibale Rigotti, whose biography stimulated further investigations into the relationship between a local-based architectural education and an international career. Also in 2004, she obtained a two-year research fellowship from Turin's Studies Centre, and in 2006, she was awarded a three-year fellowship from the Politecnico di Torino, where she currently works as fellowship researcher and teaches a course in the history of architecture of Turin. Among her publications are essays on Louis H. Sullivan's residential architecture and a book on Turin professionals working abroad (Da Torino a Bangkok, Marsilio, 2008).