Rome Travel Guide

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Monday, July 13, 2015

The Butterfly Roof: from Marconi to Palm Springs, California

This forlorn building, partly boarded up and for rent, is located just south of via Grimaldi, in the Marconi district.  It was once a theater.  We took the photo because we're interested in Rome's modern architectural forms, and the roof line--an element of what is known in the states as "googie" architecture--is an unusual one for the city.

We were reminded of the photo a few days ago, when we read in the New York Times of the death of architect Donald Wexler at the age of 89.  Wexler lived and worked most of his life in Palm Springs, California, a hotbed of mid-century modernism (now all the rage among the millenial generation).

He is best known for the Palm Springs International Airport, for a set of 7 prefabricated "steel" houses, and for El Rancho Vista Estates, 75 homes built in 1960.  One of Wexler's signature architectural features, found on many of the houses he designed, is the folded or "butterfly" roof--see below--very much like the one on the Marconi district theater.

Wexler didn't design the theater, or the butterfly roof at its front, but his story offers a window into mid-century modernism, and it helps to fix the date of the Rome building.  It was very likely constructed in the 1960s, probably early in the decade.


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