Crespi d’Adda: The Model Village

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Crespi d’Adda is a model company town in the province of Bergamo, Lombardy.

The village was built by Cristoforo Benigno Crespi in 1877 and finished by his son Silvio to meet the workers’ needs. Since 1995 it has been on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites for its exceptional architectural and historical value.

Related articles: Architecture under Fascism in Italy: E.U.R.

The village was built from 1876 to 1877 by Cristoforo Benigno Crespi who chose this area, close to the river Adda, to build a cotton mill. The whole architecture and town planning was submitted to the architect Ernesto Pirovano and the engineer Pietro Brunati.

Crespi’s ambitious plan was to build a village next to the factories, similar to what was already happening in England during the industrial revolution, to house factory workers and their families. The settlement was equipped with every essential facility: houses for the workers’ families (with garden and vegetable plot), villas for the managers, a church (a scaled-down copy of the Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Piazza in Busto Arsizio), school, cemetery, hospital, sports ground, theatre, fire station, and other community facilities.

View of the workers’ village of Crespi d’Adda: the two chimneys of the factory, no longer in operation, the workers’ houses, the school (the white building) and the church (Author: Dario Crespi)

Crespi d’Adda took on its final form around 1920. Its geometrically regular layout, crossed by the main road linking the village to Capriate San Gervasio, is still recognizable today.

The village remained in the ownership of a single company until the 1970s. Several residential buildings were sold to other private owners. The decline in industrial activity due to the depopulation of the working-class village dates back to this period.

Santissimo Nome di Maria, the church at Crespi d’Adda, Italy, seen from its southwest (Author: Daniel Case)

The church Santissimo Nome di Maria, dedicated to the Holy Name of Mary, was built between the spring of 1891 and 1893 under the direction of engineer Pietro Brunati. Cristoforo Benigno Crespi wanted the church to be an exact copy of the Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Piazza in Busto Arsizio, his hometown, a church in Bramante’s style already at the time declared national monument as a work of the early sixteenth century.

The reproduction of the building took place scrupulously both in size and in the most minute architectural and decorative details.

The manor house was the house that the Crespi family used during their stays in the village. It was built between 1893 and 1894 in late romantic style with shapes inspired by medieval buildings, so that the house is often known as Castle.

Crespi d’Adda cemetery (Author: Luca Casartelli)

The cemetery was built between 1905 and 1908 on a design by Gaetano Moretti. The cemetery has a square shape: the entrance is on the north side, while on the opposite side stands the mausoleum of the Crespi family. The burials of the workers and their families are characterized by simple stone crosses arranged in rows and once delimited by myrtle hedges.

Crespi d’Adda power plant, electrical machine room and control panel (Author: Dimifox)
The school (Author: Blackcat)
Crespi d’Adda power plant (author: Dimifox)
the tank of caustic soda used for the treatment of cotton fibers (author: Blackcat)
The factory (author: adirricor)
Workers houses (Author: Daniel Case)

Featured image: Ian Spackman

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