By Barbara Hahijary
Throughout his career as Prime Minister of Italy, Benito Mussolini initiated several developments in the country, including a white building named Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana aka Colosseo Quadrato (Square Colosseum). Having heard that Rome was going to house the World Exhibition in 1942, the politician, who was also a well-known dictator, commissioned the business centre and complex to be built in 1935. At that moment, Mussolini was one of the powerful minds of Fascism and he wanted this building to be in line with his political views. Up until now, the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana design is still one of the most iconic works of Fascist architecture.
When Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana was still under construction, the exhibition was cancelled. Consequently, the project was abandoned for more than 10 years. It wasn’t until the Roma Agricultural Exhibition in 1953 that the building was opened to the public.
The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana design was the work of Ernesto Bruno La Padula, Giovanni Guerrini and Mario Romano. It’s a six-storey cube-shaped edifice whose façade bears 54 arched windows on each side. People believed that the 6x9 composition (six rows of nine arches) stands for number of letters in Benito Mussolini’s name. The simple shape and clean-cut surface impose a sense of modernity, whilst the arches and realist statues at ground level give a Roman nuance.
As of last year, the sophisticated building is the headquarter of fashion house Fendi. The revamping of the 190,00-sqm site was led by Architect Marco Constanzi, who is also in charge of the upcoming Fendi Private Suites. The ground floor was turned into a gallery to showcase Fendi’s best works while the higher levels are reserved for the offices and design studio.
There is an ongoing exhibition about the history of Esposizione Universale Roma (EUR), the residential and business district where Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana is located in. “Una Nuova Roma” will run until 7 March 2016.
Photo by Eurspa, Fendi, Giuseppe Spitilli, Marco Constanzi Architects Doc.