We were in the second year of the second world war, the allied forces started to organize the reaction to the sudden and brutal aggression of the Hitler’s armies that were spreading across Europe. The massive night air raids were commencing over the main Italian cities.
In the early 42 I was attending the 8th level of my school where the foreign language in my class was unexpectedly English, since the classes where German was taught were complete, so for the third year I was learning the language of our enemies, though I liked it and I was studying it with passion as I had a feeling that it would have become the second language of my life and I started a sort of sympathy with English people and considering this war unjust and useless.
One spring time morning, after half the night spent under the bombs, still half asleep I stepped down of the tram and I started walking towards my school 200 meter far away, but the more I was approaching and
more rubble I was coming across on the road. When I reached my school, with great dismay I understood that only the outer walls of the building were still standing. Two months lost, then I completed my 8th level in another provisional building.
In July 1042 the fascist government falls with Mussolini in jail. On the 8th of Sept. the King and General Badoglio ask for a truce without organizing the Italian Army to face the prompt and tough reaction of the German Forces that in a few days took over the emergency, the Italian soldiers dropped their weapons and dispersed trying to reach home or hiding places in the mountains woods , the units which tried a counter attack were decimated or mass executed, that was the start of the partisans war and prisoners camps in Germany, where my brother was thronged end remained for two years without any news.
After a few months a Nazi command set Mussolini free and set up a puppet fascist government in Salo’ along the Garda Lake, they also organized some fascist battalions that jointly with the German forces started fighting the Partisans and any kind of opposition.
In this environment of terror and oppression, I commenced my Lyceum (9th level) where the German language obviously was taught. The teacher, German as well, quite often was emphasizing the Nazi regime and also ill speaking of Partisans among whose units I had many friends of mine fighting in hide.
In one of these circumstances, unable to refrain from unbearable feeling, I told her to shut up and stick to her didactic task, after few minutes the Dean, my homonymous Prof Negri, was compelled to expel me from all the schools of the Italian Fascist Republic.
I lost two years of schooling but I dare say that not always the evil comes harmful, I explain why:
Heavier and heavier bombardments compelled us to take shelter in the very near hilly Turin’s outskirt where, in the same place, I met an old and pleasant couple that for many years have been owning an hotel in the British Island of White, their English was very good, and with them almost daily I had the fantastic chance to practice and improve, for the very first time, the language I loved.
1945 Ap 25th, the day of the Liberation in northern Italy from the Nazi Fascist sway, astonished for such a huge military power, I was in the main avenue of Turin when the 44tharmoured (Red Bull) Division of the5th American Army passed through, roaring for one hour and half, the Partisans left the hide in the mountains and entered the cities. Those were days of street fights, summary executions, corpses scattered everywhere. It happened that the German teacher stepped on the same my trolley-car , when she met my hateful glance she turned pale fearing for the worst, but I did not react, it prevailed the compassion for an old lady. After a few days I knew that her son in law, who was a ferocious lieutenant in the fascist militias, has been executed. In the month of August, one morning, luckily and unexpectedly, my brother returned home with a great joy of my parents and I.
Seventeen they have been the friends of mine I lost in Russia, Albania, North Africa, Partisans fighting the Nazi Fascists or captured and executed.
The allied soldiers stationed in Turin for nearly twenty months, almost every day I had the lucky chance to chat with them and improve my English. In the meantime, I was trying privately to make up for the lost schooling time and in the year 1948, after passing the final Liceum(13th level) exams, I was able to begin the Faculty of Architecture in Turin’s University, after refusing, with some regret, two attractive employment offers, as from Esso Standard Oil for Middle East and from San Paolo Bank in Turin.
My first year went on alternating my study with some occasional jobs mostly English/Italian translations trying to put together the money for the registration to the second year.
In the meantime another highly remunerative offer comes from the Turin Branch of the Cook Travel Agency
in occasion of the Holy Year (Jubilee 1950). My task should have been to keep close contact with the Head Office in London where Pilgrims from all over were landing and by train were arriving in Turin. This time I could not refuse because I understood it would have been a very good opportunity to further improve my English. So quite often, as overtime in the middle of the night, I was at the central station with tens of coaches to receive 500 people and take them to the hotels where previously I made proper bookings.
The year 1950 comes to the end with some more money, a better knowledge of the English language, but two years of schooling lost.
Now it was imperative to get another job and I found it initially practicing in an Architects’ Office then, much more interesting, by a well known Contracting Company where I was doing bills of quantities, quotations and shop drawings of which often I was checking the execution on site. This was the hardest time of my life since study and work were taking to me 12 to 14 hours almost every day. Often due to urgency I had to do overtime work from 8 to 12 pm and sometimes, missing the last trolley car run, I had to walk five Km to get finally my bed room’s rest. To easy my shuttling among home, university and office, I bought a scooter (Lambretta) as soon I succeeded to put together enough money.
Obviously I was gaining a good experience, in fact I even had sufficient skill to make a complete design for a luxurious condominium one year before my degree, but this prolonged effort took me to a serious exhaustion, headache and a nervous breakdown. It was Sept 1958 when, with only three exams left, I had to follow the MUST from my doctor who told me to stop all my activities and relax. Overcome by the terror and despair of an unattainable end of my university studies, I retired for three months in the Summer sea side house where a cousin of mine kindly hosted me. Luckily, after a few weeks, my headache vanished returning to me hope and optimism and a few days before Xmas I was back home ready for the very final effort to grab at laaaaast in the 1959 my, very long sighed for, degree in Architecture. The experience I acquired in the Contracting Company helped me very much for obtaining, after one year only, the Professional State Qualification.
The nightmare of the real unreachable target was over, not the unreal, since now sometimes I happen across obsessive dreams as still I had to face some complicated exams.
Here I should repeat that not always the evil comes harmful, in fact in the spring of 61 I had to be hospitalized for a sudden appendicitis attack, the night before the operation I receive the visit from some friends of mine that with them took a young lady who was very familiar with the health environment since she was the Director’s secretary of the important Fiat Health Department. That young lady after two years became my wife and the main protagonist of my future life.
My previous experiences made the beginning and the continuation of my professional career very easy with continuous commitments for architectural and structural design for villas, residential and industrial buildings for all the sixties.
We were through the years of a strong booming of the Italian economy, but also a two digits percentage inflation, it was the right time to jump on the building trade so with my wife, beside our own activities, we started buying small flats in touristic places, some times during my design phase, and selling them completely furnished. In 1973, ten years after our wedding, our real estate properties, including our comfortable apartment and my office in Turin, reached a substantial amount and their administration was completely run by my wife.
In the middle seventies the real estate business started to slow down, the competition for wellbeing and quick richness was increasing corruption and immoral behavior mostly in the political environment, it was imperative to accept rake off from executives of the municipalities or political parties to remove the snags themselves were creating to speed up the procedure of the building permits. I was not feeling at easy in this quagmire of dirty games, so I started looking abroad for a cleaner environment. I tried in Spain where for seven years, almost every month, I was travelling to Torrevieja and Mazzaron and, with the
cooperation of several local architects, I designed a 14 story apartments tower and many compounds of small villas to be sold mostly to British or North Europeans clients. This experience was also useful to me to understand that almost everywhere , on the contrary of the Italian old system, the first responsible for buildings design is not the engineer, but the architect, he is the one who makes the first design then he commits the engineer for the structural and services design and coordinates the whole project. Secondly it was as well a useful occasion to add to my English also the knowledge of the Spanish language.
As I previously mentioned, my wife was the main secretary of the Fiat Co. Health Dep. where many directors, had contacts now and then. It happened that with them she hinted how annoyed I was of the said Italian difficulties and how longing I was for escaping from this unbearable situation, so in the Spring of the 19 77, I have been summoned by the Director of Fiat TTG who, back from the Sates where he worked for many years, interviewed me in English. Usually they were applying to their sister company Fiat Engineering, but in this very moment they preferred a smaller professional structure more flexible and prompt in tacking action.
Happy of the interview, in the following days, I received the commitment for the design of the civil works
of the Black Start Power Station to be built in Ras Abu Fontas, Doha, Qatar. Soon after I have been appointed for several smaller jobs in North Africa and UK where, in Brighton, there was the Main Office of the Ewbank and Partners, big International Consultants for Power Stations, and in London The Charles Haswell for their Civil Works.
With great enthusiasm I began this new and very engaging experience and the following year, with the cooperation of the Engineer Sergio Gario and after the approval of the above mentioned consultants, punctually I delivered the complete design. The works were started by the big International Contracting Co. Saudi/German Zublin Nasali., with a pending clause to be free of leaving the site, should they lose the tender of a further huge Power Station to be built on the same site. And that really happened with a sound hitch for the client and for the supervisors, but for me again I can repeat that not always the evil is harmful.
In fact the works have been taken over by a local Contracting named Trags, whose manager was Mr.Munir
Issa, Lebanese, who after a few week, during my usual supervision, told me that one of the Trags Partner wished to meet me.
As I entered his office I realized I was facing an imposing person, very busy with frequent phone calls and surrounding cooperators. That gentleman was Mr. Hussain Al Fardan. He wished a proposal for his family villa. Luckily he knew quite well what he wanted, so that among his continuous phone calls, I managed to obtain all the requirement that enabled me to prepare a preliminary design on the site plan he gave me.
After a few weeks I was back to Doha with a preliminary proposed design, with plans, sections and elevations, that he chose among other proposals submitted by some other architects. Honestly I pointed out that the land was too small for such a large villa. Though I understood that he liked the place because, at that time, it was in a prestigious residential area and, for my next trip, I prepared a model with the building and the boundary wall. When he saw it, he realized immediately the validity of my previous negative comment, and told me “you are right”, let’s keep the project on hold, I will look for a larger land. In the meantime I completed the supervision of the Power Station end some other commitments in Oman, Bahrain and Al khobar (Saudi Arabia).
In the year 1983 he found in Al Saad Street an appropriate land of more than 16.000 sq. m., he passed to me the relevant site plan and, after reviewing and updating together the detailed requirements, I started the architectural design. From that moment I entered another professional world, I had to design a single family villa with an approximate built up area of 3000 sq.m.! Quite unusual in Europe, indoor swimming pool, three spacious sitting rooms for guests plus, at the upper floor, the family living close to eight bedroom suites. A nice landscaped park with fountains, a stream flowing into a pond, where refined receptions were frequently organized with distinguished foreign and local guests to which, with my wife, I was some time invited and meeting renown people of the international world. The separate servants quarters and main kitchen was hosting 18 people, the garage for 12 cars, in brief everything with another conceptual dimension.
Still now with, Munir Issa and his family, we have a close relationship.
Meeting Mr. Al Fardan it was for me a sort of divine blessing, beside his precious sponsorship, I always received from him wise advices, thrust, useful suggestions and support in any difficult situations, something I will never forget with endless gratefulness.
I had commitments in Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, but I felt that Qatar was much more familiar to become my second fatherland and, with the useful and close help of Mr. Al Fardan, as my second family as well. In Qatar, with my wife, that there was spending Fall, Winter and Springtime, we lived very comfortably
until April 2008, enjoying great professional and social satisfactions, new experiences, pleasant friendships,
joyful gatherings and mostly far away from the rotten Italian political environment.
Mr. Hussain Al Fardan deserves a special introduction and presentation. He is endowed with great intelligence and charisma, he started in the mid forties trading the precious pearls of the Gulf with his father, that died ultra centenarian and I had the pleasure to meet. After the second WW he extended his business to jewels, exchange and finance, banks, contracting companies, real estates, show rooms for the most renowned car brands as Maserati, Ferrari, BMW, now his Family Group of Companies is a solid economical empire.
The continuous working meetings and reciprocal trust turned our initial work relation into close friendship of which I feel honored and proud as well. To him I owe more than half of my professional activity during which with him I always discussed my opinions before accepting any commitment, benefiting from his wise advices. Now in the year 2015 luckily he is still in his full efficient activity, not my case that I retired seven years ago when I was eighty, but still we are in close and constant touch because we are linked by common episodes sometimes with problems, satisfactions, merry moments, reciprocal trust, respect, and above all a great friendship.
I count 40 projects in Qatar, including a single family palace of 7500 sq. m. plus a Majlis of 3500 that I designed for a High Royal Member. It is the biggest single family residence I designed in my professional career.
With Mr. Hussain I have to remember the Italian renowned interiors design company, Design 2000 international from Rome, that has often enriched these palaces with precious furnishings and decorations, with them, beside the useful cooperation, I quote the unforgettable and pleasant time spent in the same premises, the friends as the late managing director Sandro Corvi and the President Edoardo Lardera.
With pleasure I list some of the international consulting companies as White Young, Rice Perry Ellis, Asco, Qatar Consortium with the late Indian friend Architect Nadkarni, Dar Al Handasah, with which for years and years I had long meetings, with lively discussions, to coordinate their structural and services design with my architectural concept.
And the contractors as Al Ahead, QDC run by the friend Khali Sholy, Darwish Engineering managed by the Lebanese friend Nicola Ghanem,and many others whose names are now out of my memory.
Back to the consultants I wish to emphasize the Arab Engineering Bureau for the continous cooperations during the last ten years of my professional activity. The General manager and Partner is the unforgettable friend Architect Ibrahim Jaidah, close to the Al Fardan Family, whom I know since he was a young student in a US University. Now the AEB, beside Doha Head Office, has opened branches in Muscat ,Abu Dhabi, Manila, and Kuala Lumpur employing nearly 650 people.
With a bit of pride, I hint at some of my outstanding professional satisfactions:
1984 – Winner of the design competition for the new Head Quarters of the Red Crescent Society, completed in the 87, its opening ceremony also attended by the renowned Anna Maria Fanfani, at that time President of the Italian Red Cross.
1991 - Winner of the design competition in Bahrain for the Crown Prince Dewan, with the cooperation of Dar Al Handasah and the Design 2000 International.
1992 - Design for the extension to the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs ( Asco for structures, Design 2000 for Interiors )
1993 - Commitment, from His Highness the Emir of Qatar Himself, for the design concept of the huge residential village West Bay Lagoon with the cooperation of Dar Al Handasah,. There I made as well the complete design for some villas.
For some particular circumstance I acted as a consultant for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, from which in the year 2000 I have been asked to organize the International Competition for the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, that I made with the precious help of the Prof. Suha Ozkhan, Architect and Secretary General of the Aga Khan Office in Geneva. The final design assignment, at the end, it was handed to the renowned Architect Io Ming Pei. With him and his close cooperators, Architects Perry Chin and Hiroshi, I had many meetings in New York, in Europe and Doha, during the long design phase and for the reviewing of all the architectural drawings. That was my last very interesting experience. The prestigious and beautiful building was completed in the year 2009, when I had already left the Country.
Among the many Ambassadors appointed in Qatar, our constant memory is for the dearest Giuseppe Buccino Grimaldi, now dangerously engaged in Tripoli, and to his countless receptions in his residence or in
large ceremonial halls of Sheraton, where I had the honor to be introduced to the President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napoletano, after a few months I received the honor of the “Order of the Stella of Solidarity” (Order of the Star of Solidarity) for my long and correct activity in the country and for the support given to my compatriots.
In 2012, jointly with Mr. Edoardo Lardera and his daughter Camilla, my wife and I have been invited to Quirinale(Residence of the President of the Italian Republic) to the Gala’ for Sk Hamad, the Emir of Qatar and his wife Sheika Moza.
One day I thought to count the friends of ours we were usually meeting in Doha, approximately like that :
Italians 30, local citizens also 30, other nationalities 100, unfortunately some of them past away as Mario Mondin(Director of Doha Palace), Tim Newman (General Manager of Qatar Commercial Bank), the dearest Giorgio Ferreri and Engineer Franco Lelli ( Head of the Consortium of the Italian Contractors that built the biggest port of the world for gas tankers with 12 Km of piers, Dragomar,Condotte D’Acqua and Grandi Lavori Fincosit).
The small photographic collection, exhibited in my office, has been set up with the precious cooperation of the renowned international photographer Fiorenzo Calosso, who in Doha took most of the pictures during several apposite visits.
This in brief the story of my life in which, after my wedding, a great role was played by my wife Ortensia, with whom, as it is mentioned in these pages, together with joint efforts and will, we carried it on.
Now we live our old age with inevitable health problems, leafing the book of our memories, but luckily surrounded by many friends in Italy, Europe and Qatar, that cheer up our days when we are together or simply we chat with on the phone.
We cannot omit the comfortable help and warm assistance that, with great affection, we daily receive from the Community of Lay Nuns ( Opera of Our Universal Lady) with whom, since her maiden time, Ortensia was in a very close touch. They are eleven, most of them Teachers and, with high devoted professionalism, they run schools from nursery to the 13th level, a total of nearly 450 pupils or students. They assist poor people as well, here and abroad. Unluckily we have no children, but we receive a close love as we had eleven affectionate daughters.