The Leumann Village in Collegno: art nouveau and hard work
The Leumann Village, in Collegno, Turin, stemmed from the type of 19th-century, illuminated, paternalist entrepreneurship that left its mark in many structures in Italy, and especially in Piedmont and Lombardy (such as the Crespi d’Adda workers’ village we have already written about, near Bergamo).
Napoleone Leumann was a Calvinist industrialist of Swiss origin, who at the end of the 19th century asked engineer Pietro Fenoglio to design a workers’ village in Collegno, including an elementary school and parish church.
Art historian Annamaria Conforti Calcagni has explained how, at the time, it was important to build “new villages for the workers” employed in factories very close to the “warehouses and smokestacks that increasingly imposed their presence”. The villages were meant to have laborers live close to their workplace, yet “many of them were not only endowed with a good quality configuration, but also with a generous ‘dowry’ of gardens and parks […] which had an impact on the increasingly industrialized landscapes. An absolutely positive impact, of course.”
Obviously, one of those villages was “the great Leumann complex, created by the cotton-industry entrepreneur of the same name, on the western border of Turin. Thanks to the work by architect Pietro Fenoglio (Turin, 1865-Corio, 1927) in the early decades of the century, it achieved perfect harmony – in the most refined Liberty style – by creating deep connections between production, housing, social institutions, and free time. Here, each one of the numerous small houses had a private garden-yard, and to this day (especially compared to the confusion of modern, nondescript outskirts) seems pleasant and inspired” (A. Conforti Calcagni, “Una grande casa, cui sia di tetto il cielo: il giardino nell’Italia del Novecento”, Il Saggiatore, Milan 2011).