It is with great shock and sadness that we receive the unexpected news of the passing of Giovanni (Gianni) Carbonara at the age of 80 on 1 February 2023.
He was a dear friend and colleague, a master of many students and Professor Emeritus of Restoration. His life was dedicated to his family, to his students and to the discipline of Restoration, of which he was one of the most significant exponents not only in Italy but also around the world. Professor of Architectural Restoration at the University of Rome "La Sapienza", he directed the School of Specialization in Architectural and Landscape Heritage, and coordinated the doctoral students in the Conservation of the Built Heritage. A high-profile figure in the field of restoration and academic dissemination, he was also the recipient of the ICCROM Award in 2017.
He graduated in architecture in 1967 and worked as a conservation architect for the Ministry of Culture. He then enrolled in the School of Specialization for the study and restoration of monuments, obtaining his diploma in 1971. From 1969 to 1980, he worked as an assistant professor of History of Architecture with Professor Renato Bonelli at the University of Rome "La Sapienza". Since 1975 he was a professor of the History of Architecture and later of Architectural Conservation, and from 1980 full professor of Restoration at the University of Rome. Giovanni Carbonara has been engaged with ICCROM for more than 50 years, from his involvement as a participant in the International Architectural Conservation Course (ARC) in 1968. He has collaborated within ICCROM’s teaching and training programs in the form of organizational activities and collaboration on the restoration courses at ICCROM, related to topics integrated into the curriculum of the Post Graduate School for the Study and Restoration of Monuments of the University of Rome. In 2021, he signed a donation agreement of his vast and important personal library with ICCROM so that researchers worldwide could benefit from the knowledge he had collected throughout his career. Since then, he personally coordinated periodic transfers of part of his collection to the ICCROM Library, which will be featured in a special section, to support research in the field.
Whilst it would be difficult to list exhaustively the many prestigious assignments entrusted to him, it seems important to mention his work as Commissioner for the construction and restoration of Italian embassies abroad, a role conferred by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and as an advisor to the National Committee of ICOMOS. As a member of various scientific and consultancy committees, he was involved in restoration activities of many prestigious buildings, such as the Cathedral of Spoleto, St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, and Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. As a point of reference for the Ministry of Culture, he has chaired the Technical and Scientific Committee for Architectural and Landscape Heritage, as well as being a member of the Higher Council. On behalf of the City of Rome, he was a member of the Municipal Committee for History and Art, and in 2008 he was conferred by the President of the Republique of Italy the Gold Medal for Services to Culture and the Arts.
Prof. Carbonara dedicated much of his work as an essayist to historical research and especially to the theory of restoration. He conceived and directed, among countless publications, the Trattato di restauro architettonico, the Restauro architettonico e impianti and the Atlante del restauro; works that, together with his intense and profound essay activity, have represented a reference and cornerstone for the theory of the operation of contemporary restoration.
He was of primary importance in the debate on the theory of restoration and he gave a significant contribution to the evolution of the Roman school of conservation towards critical-conservative positions in the protection of historic resources. For him, Restoration meant “any intervention aimed at preserving, transmitting to the future, and facilitating understanding works of historical, artistic and environmental interest without erasing the traces of the passage of time. Restoration is based on respect for the ancient substance and the authentic documentation constituted by these works, proposing, moreover, as an act of non-verbal critical interpretation but expressed in the concrete work. More specifically, as a critical hypothesis and proposition that can always be modified, without irreversibly altering the original." (Giovanni Carbonara, Che cos'è il restauro? Nove studiosi a confronto, (Edit. B. Paolo Torsello), Venezia, Marsilio, 2005).
The Director-General and staff of ICCROM express their condolences to Prof. Carbonara’s family, and join the Italian and international conservation communities in mourning the loss of this important figure in the field of heritage conservation.
Mehr Azar Soheil, Jukka Jokilehto, Joseph King