Rome Travel Guide

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

RST Top 40. #34: a Fascist Era Post Office

Two of Rome's masterpieces of architectural geometry are located within a stone's throw, across the street from each other in via Marmorata, at the intersection of the Aventino and Testaccio districts. One is the ancient Piramide Cestia (the Cestia Piramid). The other is the neighborhood post office, a modernist gem designed by architects Adalberto Libera and Mario De Renzi and opened to acclaim in 1935, with Mussolini presiding (see photo above). Architectural scholars Mirella Duca and Filippo Muraia describe the building's elegant interior as "one of the most original spaces constructed in Rome in the 1930s." The via Marmorata post office is on Itinerary 4 in Rome the Second Time.

Libera was only 30 years old when he began working on the project, though he was already well known as a founder of the Movimento Italiano per L'Architettura Razionale (Italian Movement for Rationalist Architecture) and feted for his facade for the monumental Exhibition of the Fascist Revolution (photo at right), which opened in 1932 in the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, also a collaborative effort with De Renzi.

Though apparently not a zealous Fascist, Libera's close links with Fascist Party officials allowed him to compete for the regime's choice commissions, including the Palazzo dei Congressi, which he designed for the EUR complex. One of Libera's last works, accomplished with several other architects, was the Olympic Village (see photo at right), which housed athletes competing in the 1960 Rome games (including boxer Cassius Clay, who was seen taking photos of the complex). It is located in the Flaminio district, not far from Parco della Musica.

De Renzi's first commission, for the enormous 1931 Palazzo Federici apartment complex on via Aprile XXI, near Piazza Bologna, has also become one of his best known; it was the setting for Ettore Scola's 1977 film Una Giornata Particolare (A Special Day), starring Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren in a drama set in Fascist Rome in 1938. The building is on Itinerary 8 in Rome the Second Time.


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