Mario Ottieri, the man with "Hands on the city"

by Leonardo Quagliuolo

Mario Ottieri is one of the most ambiguous characters in post-World War II history: unscrupulous entrepreneur, leading member in the world of post-war construction, one of the main authors of the havoc against the Neapolitan panorama that took place in those discussed years.

prg 1939
General land use plan of 1939. Source: Municipality of Naples

In the early 1950s, a Naples with still evident wounds caused by the last one war and with a rapid and notable demographic growth it was easy prey for many unscrupulous entrepreneurs who, with the excuse of contributing to the reconstruction, have irreparably disfigured the face of the city. This often happened thanks to the alteration of the General master plan of 1939, existing in triplicate: one in Rome, two in Naples. The latter two, on several occasions, have undergone "tweaks" to change the fate of areas otherwise not buildable, with the condescension first of the extraordinary government commissioner Alfredo Correra and then of the mayor Achille Lauro.

Correra, placed as commissioner for Naples after having held the same role in Castellammare di Stabia, was still in service when it was discovered that the copies of the Plan had been tampered with. He decided to issue "variants" of the plan and to grant numerous licenses, with the aim of regularizing the new buildings. From 1951 to 1960, even after the commissioner, more than 11,500 licenses were issued. It will be necessary to wait for a ministerial provision of 1961 to prevent further changes to the master plan.

Ottieri had his own first political post in 1953: he became municipal councilor for public works in the Lauro junta. Over the next few years it moved between National Monarchist Party di Lauro and the Italian Democratic Party of Monarchic Unity until, between 1958 and 1959 he came to be elected deputy. He remained in office from 1958 to 1963.

Mario Ottieri
Mario Ottieri

Among his best known works, the Ottieri palace in Piazza Mercato, built in 1958, close to a square unchanged over time and certainly disproportionate to such a concrete colossus. Not least was the complex and huge series of buildings that today characterize via Kagoshima, via Ugo Ricci and part of via Aniello Falcone, at Vomero: the so-called "Chinese wall“, One of the main symbols of building speculation of the epoch. He is also among those responsible for the construction of the first skyscraper in Naples, which currently houses the Hotel Ambassador.

Via Ugo Ricci
View of via Ugo Ricci, from the inside

He is credited with the construction of two hundred thousand rooms in just two years and the use of about two hundred thousand quintals of reinforced concrete and fifty thousand tons of iron.

Mario Ottieri, l & #039; man with "Hands on the city"
Palazzo Ottieri, Piazza Mercato. Picture of Federico Quagliuolo

Just in 1963, at the end of his mandate in parliament, a film was released in theaters that constituted a strong criticism of his work and which indirectly saw him as the protagonist: Hands on the cities", of Francesco Rosi.

Hands on the city, Rod Steiger / Nottola
Rod Steiger plays Nottola in "Hands on the City".

In 1964, Ottieri attempted yet another scar on the city, in the name of money: he planned to acquire Palazzo Roccella, in via dei Mille, in order to tear it down. In one night, all the stuccos and decorations from the entrance portal were removed, but due to strong popular opposition, he was prevented from destroying the building. Today, that building houses the PAN museum.

In 1967, due to a fraudulent bankruptcy, was forced to leave his political posts in the parliamentary committees of "Labor and Social Security" and "Public Works" and was declared, by parliamentary vote, ineligible for new mandates. He died in 1974.

Naples will have to wait until 1972 to have a new master plan.

prg 1972
General land use plan of 1972. Source: Municipality of Naples

-Leonardo Quagliuolo


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