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« Fact for the Day | Main | Procedural Note »

October 16, 2007

Fascist Buildings

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I'm not writing about buildings that seem fascistic in their relationship to occupants, though Lord knows there's plenty of grist for that mill.

No, this is simply a quick post showing a few buildings I encountered in Italy that were built in the days of the Mussolini regime.

I'm not sure I'd even give the matter of Fascist-era architecture much of a thought except for the fact that popular travel writer Rick Steves takes the trouble to mention in his Italy guidebook that this or that building dated to Mussolini. So if Über-Liberal Steves seems a bit obsessed by Fascist-era buildings and not, say, those from the reign of King Vittorio Emanuele, then attention obviously must be paid.

I haven't researched this subject, but from casual observation I found nothing particularly evil or even unusual about the Fascist-era buildings that I came across. Mussolini's agenda included making Italy a modern, efficient country, so advanced (for the times) artistic and architectural concepts were favored by the State. In practice, this meant Art Deco-inspired styles in the late 20s and nearly ornament-free buildings in the later 30s. Similar architecture can be found all over the USA in the form of government buildings funded by Franklin Roosevelt's Depression-fighting agencies.

For what it's worth, here's what I photographed:


Milan's Stazione Centrale
The present Milan Central Station was designed years before Mussolini took power, but not dedicated until 1931. According to this report, modifications were made to the design during the long construction process. Although Steves notes an association with Mussolini, that's not really apparent from the architecture. The station is undergoing renovation and was a mess when we were there which made it hard to evaluate.

Florence's Stazione Centrale Santa Maria Novella
Opened in 1935, Florence's central station is clearly Modernist in spirit. (For a Wikipedia link, click here, though I must caution you that it's in Italian.) Perhaps the architecture seemed shockingly modern when the station opened; certainly it wasn't in the spirit of the rest of central Florence. But the station is on the edge of central Florence, which lessens the visual damage. From a 2007 perspective, the building strikes me as nondescript.

Government building, Rome
I think I snapped this while strolling a ways northwest of the Vittorio Emanuele monument, but didn't write down details. Anyhow, it's Fascist-era.

Mediterraneo Hotel, Rome
This is where our tour group stayed. Very convenient for travelers arriving on the train from Fiumicino Airport: it's only a block from the plaza in front of Rome's Stazione Centrale. According to its web site, the hotel was opened in 1938. So far as I know, it was a private project, yet it is in the spirit of government buildings of the time.



posted by Michael at October 16, 2007


Don't know if you'd call it Fascist, but one pomposity I loathe is that portico attached to S. Maria in Trastevere, which is otherwise such a cute old basilica. The damage was done in 1702, and, as if the portico wasn't a big enough lump of Papal pretension, there are some overdressed saints triumphing atop it. And they call us Irish catholics vulgar!

Posted by: Robert Townshend on October 16, 2007 9:49 PM

Great topic, nice snaps, tks. That Florence central station sure radiates "class" and "beauty" doesn't it? I've seen handsomer loading docks...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 17, 2007 3:58 PM

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