The Maggiolina area is famous for its Villaggio dei Giornalisti neighbourhood, but above all for what remains of a futuristic residential project developed after the Second World War: the “igloo houses”.
Heavily bombed by the Allies and in desperate need of new housing for the city’s displaced, Milan sought quick and functional solutions that also drew inspiration from the innovation happening overseas.
This was the background for the futuristic project by Mario Cavallé (1895–1982). The renowned engineer, architect and academic built several homes in the area with a rather bizarre, igloo-shaped design.
Although conceived as temporary accommodation, these homes ended up becoming not only permanent, but iconic, recognised amongst the most important architectural works of the whole city.
To this day, walking along via Lepanto, it is impossible not to be struck by these unusual buildings completed in 1946, built for those who found themselves homeless after bombing of the city.
Cavallé’s igloo houses, also known as “pumpkin homes”, had a 45 m2 footprint divided into a living space with corner kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom and another space in the basement (which could be used as a second bedroom).
Each igloo also had a small garden, providing a fully equipped single-family living solution.
The circular, cement structure of the igloo houses meant they were quick to build, making them ideal to cater for the large numbers of displaced people.
Of the twelve igloo houses built after the War, only eight remain, which are private residences to this day. Their unusual structure originates from experimental prototypes developed in the US. In fact, at the time, there was a widespread trend for small, circular, cement homes, inspired by designs by architect Wallace Neff, who built his “Igloo Village” in Falls Church, north Virginia, in 1941, as well as his “Bubble Houses” in Arizona, California and elsewhere.
In addition to the igloos houses, in the Maggiolina district, Mario Cavallé designed other unconventional homes, in the form of mushrooms, but these were demolished in the sixties. Their history is documented in archive photographs, along with three replicas (although these are not entirely accurate) just outside Milan, in Novate Milanese.