Like King Solomon, you split the name in two. Belgiojoso, the second B in BBPR, was “Lodo” for close friends. And you were “Vico.” Even il Vico, with the definitive article that makes everyone unique in this city. To be honest, you didn’t frequent Belgiojoso, who was from another generation, but you knew his partner in that acronym, Ernesto Nathan Rogers. More than an acquaintance: a revered friend, a mentor. He was your teacher at Lausanne – when you tried to earn a degree during the war, a refugee from the air raids – and he was even the best man at your wedding, when Milan was a poor city, but one full of the desire to rebuild. Do you remember? Everyone ran. You raced around, on foot or on a bicycle, since there were very few cars at the time. Do you remember your little dog, Vico, which spent entire afternoons lying belly up in the sun, in the street in front of your studio, right in the heart of the city?
Families have a destiny in Milan, like places. You had an architect ancestor, Gaetano Besia, who had built the austere bulk of Palazzo Archinto in the Santa Maria della Passione district. Your father, on the other hand, made the building at the corner of Via Conservatorio and Via Bellini, right in front of the church of Santa Maria della Passione. Years later, you had the chance to design the building next door. A trilateration of styles and eras. Almost family portraits hung on the walls of urban corridors, one beside the next, in the span of but a few footsteps.
You never sensed the burden of responsibility, never felt anxious to prove achievement, to compete with others. You were an architect, as it was obvious you would be. You understood it immediately, when you were still a student and your father Pier Giulio advised you to make some changes to an exercise you had done for class. It was too bare, with those exposed steel beams, too modern. He was linked to the Novecento style, the eminent forms of Portaluppi, with whom he had worked on the design of the Arengario on Piazza del Duomo. He certainly couldn’t understand your design. He drew it again. He made it more ornamental, not highhandedly, but like a father helping a son who’s having trouble with something. You were wise enough to simply thank him. But you brought your own design to the review. Family and tradition are well and good, but the path to take was yours, without reverential hesitation.
Pier Giulio died young, Vico, he never had a chance to see you graduate. For you it was obvious to take his place in the studio where you visited him in your childhood, going down from the apartment on the next floor. You worked there all your life. Just three rooms, practically the custodian’s lodge of the building. You didn’t need much more. You were not a manager, you said, not a designer. You were an architect. You had to have ideas, and your father’s studio was enough in order to have them. Maybe by leaning out the window, towards the dome of the Passione, a mannerist masterpiece, to listen to the students at the conservatory rehearsing a quartet.