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Monday, September 23, 2013

The Parking Garage beneath the Villa Borghese

It was a lovely afternoon on via Veneto, and so we naturally decided to explore--hope you're ready for this--an underground parking garage!  (Chorus of moans, sighs of despair from readers. Tearing of hair.)

In our defense, we think this is only the second parking garage we've featured.  The other is Riccardo Morandi's groovy (as in late 1950s) structure, linked to a large indoor market on via Magnagrecia.  Not everyone--not even some well known Rome architects--knows about that building. 

Adventure begins
The garage we explore in this post is located on (or under) viale del Galoppatoio, beneath the Villa Borghese.  It can be accessed off the fast-moving viale del Muro Torto.  Indeed, there's a YouTube video of a driver coming up the Muro Torto, turning onto the garage access ramp, going through the garage, and exiting--well, somewhere.  It's less than two minutes long:

We took the pedestrian escalator entrance at the high end of via
Veneto.  Once below ground level, to get to the garage proper one walks through a long tunnel that is sometimes peopleless. 

At the end of the tunnel there's a depressing commercial area (not fully occupied, not enough
Too much concrete.  But then it's a parking garage.
"traffic").  Beyond that there's some brutalist concrete work (right) and--the first sign, really, of the architectural genius we're looking for--a circular staircase that leads upward to the park (below). 

It's a bit worn now, but still impressive.  Maybe the architect knew of Morandi's circular design (of
You could date the structure within 10 years just from
this stairway
course he did).  It's not Borromini's staircase in the Palazzo Barberini.  It's not Albini and Helg's department store gem in Piazza Fiume.  But it is suggestive. 

Watergate apartments, Washington, D.C.

It ought to be.  For the architect who designed the stairway, and the famous garage beneath, is one of Rome's most famous and most talented.  Readers of Rome the Second Time will know him as the author of the recently restored ex-GIL in Trastevere, but he is also revered for the Casa della Cooperative Astra (1947-51) on via Jenner, and for a building known as La Girasole (1949-50), on via Bruno Buozzi, at no. 64.  He had a hand, too, in the 1960 Olympic Village in the Flaminio district.  Most Americans will be familiar with his Washington, D.C. creation: the Watergate complex. 

Under construction.  It's better without cars. 
The garage is by Luigi Moretti.  It houses 1800 spaces for automobiles, 210 for scooters and motorcycles.  It was completed between 1965 and 1972, which accounts for the hybrid look of late modernism and early brutalism (the concrete noted earlier). Whatever its appeal, it was sufficient to lure a major international modern art exhibit--known as Contemporanea--which inhabited the structure in 1973, a moment when such an idea could not only be imagined, but brought to fruition.  The garage's architectural reputation would seem to rest (like the garage itself) on its graceful, space-age columns, and on its concave roof treatments, with a nod to the occasional provision for natural light.  

Contemporanea, 1973, an area featuring Kounellis

Now, isn't that more fun that having a cocktail at the Grand Hotel Palace?


p.s. A controversial plan, involving some actual digging, to add some 700 area parking places in a nearby lot under the Pincio, the small hill above Piazza del Popolo--said to be necessary to convert the trident area off the piazza to pedestrian-only traffic--now seems dead. 

Light from above enters the space.  Even some foliage. 

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