Since the early decades of the twentieth century, there has been a steady interest in studies about Turin, the capital of the Savoyard state, which has generated a rich historiographic Italian and international record. Key foreign scholars and contributions in this field include A.E. Brinckmann (“History of Architecture” proceedings, 1957), R. Wittkower (“Art and Architecture in Italy 1600-1750”, 1958), R. Pommer (“Eighteenth-Century Architecture in Piedmont”, 1967), and H. Millon (“Filippo Juvarra”, 1984). Very often, the emphasis in these studies has been on what one might term ‘exceptional’ building sites and projects, in particular those by Guarino Guarini. Nevertheless, more recent studies have shown that by looking at different contexts, one can detect an ongoing and long-term refinement of construction techniques and of local traditions, which interacted with the knowledge and skills of the great protagonists of Savoyard architecture.


For this reason, our research at the Polytechnic of Turin has recently embarked on a comparative investigation of various Savoy court residences, covering chronologically the mid-17th to the end of the 18th centuries. The goal is to draw together various strands of research carried out over the last few decades in relation to these buildings. There is rich, and often still unpublished data that emerged from restoration activity at such sites, which awaits studying and is tapped into during this project. These insights are complemented by a broad-ranging analysis which will look at how construction traditions (and innovations) interacted with developments in science, bureaucracy and the administration of the state, while also bearing in mind that many of the early Savoyard architects came from non-local contexts. The framework and operation of great public construction sites were already highly centralized by the late Middle Ages, and they became more refined as time progressed. There was a well-defined ‘chain of command’ involving public officials; the role of early architects was that of designing and creating structures, but also to ensure adequate technical implementation of a project and the supervision of the financial side of things.


This research project aims to look at a number of specific construction sites, analyse relevant archival sources (contracts, ‘instructions’, the iconography of the project and the building site, and the reports of the controllers of the works), and compare these with the actual built product.

Major construction sites such as Rivoli, Venaria Reale, Castello del Valentino, Palazzo Ducale, Villa della Regina, to name but a few, would have brought together vast numbers of workers with varied skills. These would have included, among others, maestri da bosco (carpenters), minusieri, maestri da muro (craftsmen specialized in brick works), gilders and plasterers. They were often teams drawn from families from across Piedmont, but also from the lake areas of Switzerland and the state of Milan. These families of craftsmen held within them the permanence of traditional methods, but they were also able to interact with, and adopt innovation.


Mauro Volpiano, Associate Professor in Architectural History, Politecnico di Torino

Contact: mauro.volpiano@polito.it

Valentina Burgassi, post-doctoral research fellow, Politecnico di Torino

Contact: valentina.burgassi@polito.it

Marina Buffa, Francesca Garibotto are contributing to the research with their final dissertations for the Master of Architecture degree, Politecnico di Torino.

Short Bibliography

Volpiano, V. Burgassi, ‘Traditions and Innovations: the construction of the court palaces and the role of professionalfigures in Eighteenth-century Piedmont’, pp. 275-286, in J.W.P. Campbell (Eds) Iron, Steel and Buildings. Studies in the History of Construction. Proceedings of the Seventh Conference of the Construction History Society, Cambridge: The Construction History Society, 2020.

Volpiano (et al.), ‘La struttura di monitoraggio scientifico dei cantieri della Venaria Reale. Un approccio multidisciplinare alla comprensione dell’architettura storica’, pp.320-329 in Gruppo Italiano IGIIC, (Ed.), Proceedings of the 2nd International Congress IGIIC International Institute for Conservation, Genova 2004. Genova: IGIIC, 2012.

Volpiano, Il cantiere storico. Organizzazione, mestieri, tecniche costruttive, Savigliano: L’Artistica Editrice, 2012.

Volpiano, ‘Precisazioni sull’attività di Michelangelo Garove alla Venaria Reale attraverso le indagini di cantiere’, pp. 295-303, in P. Cornaglia (Ed), Michelangelo Garove. 1648-1713, un architetto per Vittorio Amedeo II, Roma: Campisano, 2010.

M.V. Cattaneo, N. Ostorero, ‘L’Archivio della Compagnia di Sant’Anna dei Luganesi in Torino’, Quaderni della Fondazione per l’Arte della Compagnia di San Paolo, Torino: Stargrafica, 2006.

Volpiano, ‘Indagini storico-critiche, documentazione e monitoraggio scientifico in progress nei cantieri di restauro della Reggia di Venaria Reale’, pp.61-74 in M. Volpiano, (Ed.), Le residenze sabaude come cantieri di conoscenza. Ricerca storica, materiali e tecniche costruttive, vol. 1, Torino: Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Torino, 2005.

Volpiano, U. Zich, ‘Scientific monitoring and documentation of the Venaria Reale restoration sites’, pp. 982-985, International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences, vol. 1, 2005.

Volpiano (et al)., ‘La struttura di monitoraggio scientifico dei cantieri della Venaria Reale. Un approccio multidisciplinare alla comprensione critica dell’architettura storica’, pp. 320-329, in IGIIC Gruppo Italiano (Eds), Proceedings of the National Congress Lo stato dell’arte. Conservazione e restauro confronto di esperienze, Padova 2004. Firenze: Nardini Editrice, 2004.

Roggero Bardelli, ‘Juvarra Primo Architetto Regio: Le Istruzioni di cantiere’, pp. 215-225, in V. Comoli Mandracci, (Eds), Filippo Juvarra. Architetto delle capitali da Torino a Madrid 1714-1736, Milano: Fabbri Editori, 1995.

Cornaglia, ‘Giardini di marmo ritrovati. La geografia del gusto in un secolo di cantiere a Venaria Reale (1699-1798)’, Torino: Lindau, 1994.

G. Vinardi, ‘Architetti, cantieri, cultura architettonica’, pp. 87-117, in C. Roggero, (Eds), ‘Ville Sabaude’, Milano: Rusconi, 1990.

Carbone, ‘Il cantiere settecentesco: ruoli, burocrazia ed organizzazione del lavoro’, Studi Piemontesi, vol. XV, no.2, 1986, pp. 335-358.

Brayda, L. Coli, D. Sesia, ‘Specializzazioni e vita professionale nel sei e settecento in Piemonte’, pp.73-82, Atti e Rassegna Tecnica della Società Ingegneri e Architetti in Torino, vol. XVII, no.3, 1963.

Post-doctoral research project

Post-doc: Valentina Burgassi
Tutor: Mauro Volpiano
Title: Constructive culture, craftsmen and techniques in Modern Age construction sites in Piedmont
Status: in progress


The research aims to investigate the architectural construction site in Piedmont during the Modern Age with a particular focus on the period from1650-1750. Although this topic has received full attention by the historiography it is still an open issue that requires further critical overall interpretation. The research will analyse previous and current contributions in a systematic way and will go deeply into unpublished case studies with the aim of examining: organisation of the construction site and workers; accounting and financial management; role of  architects, craftsmen and other professional figures; the evolution of construction techniques paying attention to the international scenario (in particular the French model that was of foremost influence among the public construction site from the second half of the 17th century onwards). Particular consideration will be given to court residences and to the most important buildings constructed for religious and public purpose which could represent a significant place of experimentation or continuity with local and international traditions. The emergence and the transformation of the architectural construction site in Piedmont will be analysed not only as building phenomena but contextualised in a territorial and landscape dimension. The role of construction site as the economic core of the territory will be mainly take into consideration. Localization processes and the provenance of materials and workers will be examined with the aim of concisely mapping the local resources directly involved in the construction process. State politics on this matter will be compared with those of other territorial actors, in particular those ones of religious-military orders that are still understudied.

Master of Science thesis

Student: Marina Buffa
Tutors: Mauro Volpiano, Valentina Burgassi
Title: Il cantiere architettonico nelle residenze di corte sabaude: organizzazione, professionalità e tecniche costruttive
Status: in progress

Student: Francesca Garibotto
Tutors: Mauro Volpiano, Valentina Burgassi
Title: Il cantiere di architettura nel Piemonte sabaudo: storiografia, indagini, casi studio (1660-1798)
Status: in progress

Student: Chiara Galetto
Tutors: Mauro Volpiano, Ursula Zich
Title: Minusieri e maestri da bosco nel cantiere sabaudo: il caso della reggia di Venaria Reale
Status: defended in 2010

Student: Isabella Vittoria Poggio
Tutors: Vera Comoli Mandracci, Mauro Volpiano
Title: Conoscenza e valorizzazione di un giardino storico. I giardini della Venaria Reale
Status: defended in 2006
Link: here


The intervention of restoration proposed for Venaria Reale (Turin) is one of the most significant and challenging both at the local level of interventions for the cultural heritage in Piedmont and at European level from the standpoint of intellectual resources and financial investment. The research also aims to investigate in the long run impact and future developments of the project on the surrounding landscape and to propose a project of finalization and valorisation. This proposal will look at the Corona delle Delizie (itinerary of the royal residences) and in connection with the projects of Piedmont Region and other local stakeholders. While on the one hand this complexity produces a certain fragmentation of the landscape, on the other hand can be considered a core of ideas and research inputs for reconstructing the identity of a place and, at the end, creating new landscapes. This investigation emphasizes the importance of landscape both as a whole and as a complex of individual places. From the standpoint of methodology, the principles included in the “Carta di Firenze” (1981), the European Landscape Convention (2000) and the Code of Cultural Heritage and Landscape (2004), amended in 2006), are essential to strongly support the concept of landscape and suggest the correct approach to for projects.

Student: Patrizia di Blasi, Elisa Polla
Tutors: Mauro Volpiano, Ursula Zich
Title: Il monitoraggio e la documentazione scientifica nei cantieri di Venaria Reale: strumenti e metodi per la conoscenza integrata
Status: defended in 2005

Student: Carlo Balma Mion
Tutors: Vera Comoli Mandracci, Mauro Volpiano
Title: Lodovico Bò (1721-1800). Misuratore, soprastante, architetto
Status: defended in 2004
Link: here

Abstract: (from webthesis)

The purpose of my thesis was to throw light on the architect Lodovico Bo, born in San Maurizio Canavese (a little town near Turin). Till now he was studied only with reference to few spheres of activity (concerning some buildings in Stupinigi Palazzina and San Maurizio Canavese and Valperga bell towers. The most important Lodovico Bo’s carrying out in Stupinigi, Turin and provinces Starting from well-known documents I sought in all the most important Turin archives (Archivio Storico dell’Ordine Mauriziano, Archivio di Stato, Archivio della Città di Torino, Archivio Storico dell’Università) and in some private archives to find out all the writings concerning both the architect’s professional and private life. So my thesis was structured on two volumes, the first analizing the most important projects (realized or not by the architect), the second reproducing some letters taken from the very rich Stupinigi building yard epistolary, some unpublished writings and finally the filing of all the drawings.

Student: Paola Galliano
Tutors: Vera Comoli Mandracci, Mauro Volpiano, Ursula Zich
Title: Gli apparati decorativi a stucco nella Reggia di Venaria Reale. Decorazione plastica, modelli e tecniche di cantiere negli anni di Amedeo di Castellamonte
Status: defended
Link: here

Student: Giulia Mezzalama
Tutors: Mauro Volpiano, Tiziana Malandrino
Title: Michelangelo Garove a Venaria Reale: il cantiere e i progetti (1699-1713) / Michelangelo Garove at the Venaria Reale: the building site and the projects (1699-1713)
Status: defended in 2002
Link: here

Abstract: (from webthesis)

The idea of this dissertation took shape in the ambit of a renewed interest for the Sabaude Residences and in particular for the restoration works that are taking place nowadays at Venaria Reale. The aim is to clarify the most controversial period of the history of Venaria Reale: the fourteen years in which Michelangelo Garove has worked in Venaria’s yard. The most important sources are preserved at the Paris National Library, at the fund Robert de Cotte, and at the Turin Record Office, but there aren’t complete publications about Garove’s work at Venaria Reale. The aim of this dissertation has been illustrating the 14 year’s period of Garovian work at Venaria. A deep study on the administration of the yard, on the workers and on the peculiar terminology adopted during the beginning of the XVIII century, contributed to widening the approach to the sources. Therefore, the subject of this writing is composed by different stages of research: the study of the social, cultural and political environment; the analysis of the effective fulfilment of the project in all its stages; a deep study of the yard and of the documents referring to it from a wide archive research and the digital reproduction of the principal sources.

Student: Samantha Pani
Tutors: Vera Comoli Mandracci, Mauro Volpiano
Title: Michelangelo Garove a Venaria Reale: il cantiere e i progetti (1699-1713)
Status: defended in 2001
Link: here

Abstract: (from webthesis)

A rich bibliography and several documents kept alive the history of the Venaria Reale since its realisation. Therefore, it was chosen to examine through the study of various sources, how the view of it has changed through the centuries. The researching work led to consulting more than two hundred volumes among 17th century, modern and contemporary books. Castellamonte’s volume, the “manifesto” books of Savoy house’s power, Audiberti’s Theatrum Sabaudiae and Regiae Villae were examined. The bibliography of the Venaria Reale, which will extend through nearly three centuries, has its start just five years after the beginning of its building: yet in 1663, in fact, Valeriano Castiglione describes it in his volume on Savoy house’s wedding celebrations. In the second half of the 16th century, the period of maximum splendor for the Royal Palace, important publications about it are printed: in 1674 the Earl of Castellamonte, Amedeo, publishes his famous volume Venaria Reale Palazzo di Piacere e di Caccia, still today a very important document, being the only original source reporting the whole project of the Venaria Reale. Another significant 17th-century book is Theatrum Sabaudiae, published in 1682, in which a wide description is made of this Royal Residence.