Colonia Elioterapica

Did you know Mussolini built 'Heliotherapy Colonies' for Italian children?

If I had been afforded more space in the book I would have included more discussion of the sun-responsive (or heliotherapeutic) architecture of the 1920s and 30s, especially in Europe.  I regard heliotherapeutic architecture, often directly responsive to tuberculosis, as categorically distinct from the solar-heated architecture that is the focus of The Solar House, although certainly there are parallels and affinities.  Here's another fascinating episode in the story of heliotherapeutic architecture.

In Italy, the colonia elioterapica (heliotherapy colony) gave fresh air and sunshine to children from industrial areas.  This type of facility, essentially a summer day camp, is unique to Mussolini’s Italy and provided fascist education along with medical care.  In general, the buildings would “act like great beach umbrellas, sheltering the children during sudden showers or at meals, and for controlling the hours of exposure to the sun.”

Colonia Elioterapica by BBPR (Legnano, Italy, 1937-39). From

Colonia Elioterapica by BBPR (Legnano, Italy, 1937-39). From

BBPR designed the finest colonia elioterapica, in Legnano (1937-39), which was widely published.  Architect Lodovico Belgioioso of BBPR later described the program: “There was a lot of gymnastics, then after lunch they would have a rest.  There was a wooden roof-terrace which we built for this purpose because it was more healthy, avoiding the damp from the ground.  Then there was singing and medical check-ups, which were seen as very important, to ensure that there were no infectious diseases amongst the children.”

Colonia Elioterapica "Roberto Farinacci" by Carlo Gaudenzi (Cremona, Italy, 1936) from

Colonia Elioterapica "Roberto Farinacci" by Carlo Gaudenzi (Cremona, Italy, 1936)

Several others (plural: colonie elioterapiche) were built, including one in Cremona pictured above.  Another, by Enrico Del Debbio, was constructed at the Foro Mussolini in Rome in 1933-35.  Others were built in Benevento, Boffalora-sull-Adda, Cantu, Palazzolo sull’Oglio, S. Lazzarro di Savena, Varese, and Vercelli.

Stefano de Martion and Alex Wall, eds., Cities of Childhood: Italian Colonie of the 1930s (1988).
Borden W. Painter, Mussolini’s Rome: Rebuilding the Eternal City (2005).
Dan Dubowitz, Patrick Duerden and Penny Lewis, Fascismo Abbandonato (2010). (link)

Historic film in Italian