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When I was doing my translation homework, I met a sentence as below:

European architecture in the years immediately before World War I is in some ways more notable for abortive projects and visionary designs than for actual buildings, most startling so in the unrealized projects of Antonio, who was killed in the war.

Why does here use the 'so' and the 'of'? Is there some special use? Any suggestion shall be appreciated!

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    'So' is doubtless the 'in this respect' synonym here, but I've only ever seen it after 'more' or 'more adverb so'. I'm not sure of the grammaticalitry here. // The 'of' is the usual sense. The plays of Shakespeare. Apr 8 '20 at 14:09
  • Let's start with projects of Antonio, simpler. Those projects belonged to him, perhaps he was a builder or architect. So takes the place of all this: abortive projects and visionary designs. No wonder the writer wrote so. Apr 8 '20 at 14:13
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    Are you sure it isn't most startlingly so? The unrealized projects of Antonio are the most startling example of [what the first part of the sentence says]. In the context of architecture, unrealized projects would be unfinished buildings designed by Antonio. Apr 8 '20 at 14:30
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First, let's simplify your sentence (just for purposes of illustration):

European architecture is more notable for visionary designs than for actual buildings—most startlingly* so in the unrealized projects of Antonio.

Now we can more easily see how so is functioning here. Some dictionaries call it a pronoun in this sense—because it is a substitute for an antecedent (never mind that the antecedent is not a noun). The OED calls it adverb.

so pronoun
1 : such as has been specified or suggested : the same
     // if you have to file a claim, do so as soon as possible

Source: Merriam-Webster

In the above example, so stands for file a claim:

     // If you have to file a claim, [do] file a claim as soon as possible.

In your sentence, so stands in for the entire previous phrase more notable for visionary designs than for actual building. Like this:

European architecture is more notable for visionary designs than for actual buildings—most startlingly more notable for visionary designs than for actual buildings in the unrealized projects of Antonio.

By now you can see that the unrealized projects of Antonio simply means Antonio's unrealized projects.


* You need an adverb form here—startingly, not startling.

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