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Crespi d’Adda (World Heritage)

The model settlement from the second half of the 19th century is a district of Capriate San Gervasio and is considered an exceptional example of a workers’ settlement with a modern infrastructure for the time, consisting of a school, hospital, church, single and multi-family houses, etc. The settlement was created on the initiative the entrepreneurial family Crespi for the workers of their own cotton mill.

Crespi d’Adda: facts

Official title: Model settlement of Crespi d’Adda
Cultural monument: typical residential and commercial estate developed on the initiative of an enlightened industrialist
Continent: Europe
Country: Italy, Lombardy
Location: Crespi d’Adda, south of Capriate, near Bergamo
Appointment: 1995
Meaning: exceptional example of an industrial city from the late 19th and early 20th centuries

Crespi d’Adda: history

1875 Construction of the industrial estate designed in historicism
1878 Moving into the settlement
1889 The company is taken over by Silvio Benigno Crespi, son of the company’s founder, Cristoforo Benigno Crespi
1924 Construction of the administrative center based on a design by Ernesto Pirovano

Architecture to reconcile capital and labor

“Are the cotton manufacturers,” a just 26-year-old asked the industrial barons present at a Milan congress in 1894, “aware of their responsibility and duty?” His aim was “to reconcile the needs of industry with the needs of human nature «. According to ehistorylib, Silvio Benigno Crespi was concerned about the “human factor” in the expansion and productivity increase in the northern Italian textile industry. He also thought of a long labor peace and its beneficial effects.

The stone evidence of his ideas can be admired in the village, which is named after the family that founded it. Crespi d’Adda, between Bergamo and Milan, has seen a lot in its 120 years. The “industrial archaeological” evidence of the heyday and the long farewell to splendor are easy to decipher. Crespi d’Adda is a testament to industrial history, but not a museum village.

Silvio B. Crespi, who had a great career ahead of him as an entrepreneur, liberal politician and banker, experienced not only the rise but also the steep decline of his textile dynasty in the economic crisis of 1929. What he tried to achieve as a manufacturer was called generations later »humanization of the world of work«. With this noble goal, his father Cristoforo Benigno Crespi had left the family seat in the province of Varese to buy a piece of land for a new factory in the corner between the two rivers Adda and Brembo. Cristoforo had the ideas of the English entrepreneur and social reformer Robert Owen in mind and in mind and wanted to create an exemplary factory and residential complex in his spirit.

The work came to those who needed it. People who could no longer live on their land should be able to walk to work. The design of an ideal, as it were autonomous village, in which livelihoods, family and community life, recreation and cultural stimulation existed close together, succeeded in reality. As old photos testify, there was a full life between the rivers for five decades: proudly like Oskar, a bridegroom with his bride and many guests poses on the wide church stairs; a large, barefoot group of children has not only come together for the photographer. Pictures of ice cream sellers with carts, of starts to bicycle races or exercises by the fire brigade, of the Crespi family in four-horse carriage or of performances in the village theater awaken buried memories.

Today architecture students invade the »workers’ village« from near and far and plunder the village kiosk until there are no local guides left. Life in Crespi d’Adda has become a lot quieter and is still protected by the two rivers. Anyone who reaches the small town from the urbanized surrounding area with its mixed village and industrial structures can still perceive Crespi d’Adda as a beneficial alternative, a different world with the neo-Gothic predilection of the Wilhelminian era. The fact that some buildings may need a new coat of paint or new shutters fits in well with the changing times.

The village is strictly planned and structured: to the right of the dead straight axis the factory, in which around 3,600 employees worked in 1928 and now a few hundred textile workers are still producing jeans, to the left of the long axis – which ends in a monumental cemetery – the residential streets that run parallel to the Factory have grown. There should be enough space for everyone to live, but they had also thought of the “social green”, of ornamental and kitchen gardens. The worker who works monotonously on machines should not lose touch with nature. Today, individuality has spread in the well-tended gardens. The uniform architecture of the one-, two- and multi-family houses has been freely supplemented by prefabricated arbors, play equipment, vehicle parking spaces and garden gnome decorations. The rustic wooden canopy of the village bar actually suggests something completely different from this stylish, fine dining room. Fortunately, it will not be easy to forget how Cristoforo and Silvio Crespi imagined the symbiosis of capital and labor.

Crespi d'Adda