Vintage photographs, film clips and sketches reveal the architectural influences behind a little-known – but highly influential – period in Italian cinematic history.

Rationalism on Set explores how cinema can become a tool for the spread and promotion of ideas about design. On show are vintage photographs of Italian film sets in the 1930s which demonstrate aesthetic links to the architecture of the time – and are often difficult to decipher from images of real interiors in contemporary architectural journals.

In fact, the editors of leading Italian design magazines Casabella and Domus were vocal in their support for cinema as a way of informing the public about the latest developments in architecture.

The exhibition uses film clips, sketches and contemporary periodicals to demonstrate the reciprocal influences between the increasingly Modernist film sets in Italy – promoted by the production company Società Italiana Cines (or Cines) in an attempt to redress the falling standards in Italian cinema in the 1920s – and pan-European art, photography and architecture.

Comparative images of contemporary architecture from the RIBA Collections further reveal the international rather than local nature of the films’ aesthetic, and help to redress the long-overlooked reputation of Italy’s architecture and cinema.

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