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Italians protest at invasion of foreign 'starchitects'

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A group of Italy's most prominent architects have criticised the 'foreign invasion' of 'international archistars' in a damning letter to the Italian government, published in the national newspaper, Corriere Della Sera.

The revolt by 35 architects including Ettore Sottsass, Guido Canella and Vittorio Gregotti comes in the wake of a new wave of landmark museums, galleries and other public building projects which have been awarded to 'international superstars'.

In an appeal to prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, the group defends the status of Italian architects as a vital 'cultural resource that cannot be renounced or ignored'.

The appeal criticises the government for its rejection of home-grown talent. Instead, contracts have gone to Zaha Hadid, who is constructing a museum of art in Rome, I M Pei for a government building in Milan and Foster and Partners for its 'ideal city' housing development in Santa Giulia, Milan.

But Dante O Benini, mastermind of the Tower of Pisa restoration, rejects the idea that resident architects are being shunted aside in favour of big foreign names.

'For the new millennium church, five Jews made the shortlist,' he said. 'So what? Should they have been Catholic? I'm working in Istanbul and I'm not exactly Muslim.'

by Cristina Esposito

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