Rome Travel Guide

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Renato Papagni and the Centro Olimpico Fijlkam (what?)

"Art" photo, with building framed by yellow fence in foreground. 
RST enjoys an occasional annual pilgrimage to the sea, even if neither of us goes swimming.  This past year we explored and survived the funky, off-the-books seaside hamlet of Idroscalo and ventured onto the "public" part of Ostia's "private" beaches using one of the new "varchi" (entrances).  Ostia is full of modern architectural treasures, many from the Fascist era, and though we've seen most of them, we made it a point to have another look at the Art Deco post office, a real gem.

View from the west, across the parking lot.
And then, scootering along the beach frontage road, we noticed this curious structure, all molded and floggy, if that's a word, looking something like a tilted green doughnut with white icing.  We parked the scooter and--standard operating procedure--began walking around the periphery, gated and locked, hoping for an open door--or something. That something arrived a few minutes later, in the form of a gatehouse and guard.  No, we couldn't go inside.  But yes, the guard was amicable and agreeable to explaining what he knew about the building.

Working entrance (looks fairly normal from this view).
We had found the Centro Olimpico Fijlkam, a training center for Italian athletes in specific sports. Fijlkam is an acronym (a curious one for Italians, we think).  The letters stand for La Federazione Judo Lotta Karate e Art Marziale (that is, Federation for Judo (duh!), Wrestling, Karate, and Martial Arts).  Not all of these, we're quite sure, are Olympic sports, but so be it.  The Federation is an old one, founded in 1902 in Milan; it now has some 3,000 affiliated societies.

Renato Papagni
The donut building is the handiwork of Renato Papagni (b. 1946).  An engineer, not an architect--he earned his degree in structural engineering at the University of Rome--Papagni apparently designed the building, probably his sole commission, and he also seems to have served as project manager for its construction.  All this began in 1986 and the "palazzetto" was opened in 1992.  We think it's a very interesting building in the "plastic" mode popularized by Frank Gehry, though on the clunkier side.  At least it's different.

Papagni (left) with former mayor Gianni Alemanno, with
one of Papagni's pools
Papagni moved on to swimming and pools, and was involved with the pools intended for the 2009 international swimming competition held in Rome (there was a lot of controversy about pools that
weren't built and others than weren't necessary).  These days he is President of the Assobalneari, Roma, an association of beach club owners. In that job, he had a hand in developing the varchi--the passageways--that in the summer of 2014 made possible public access to a portion (near the water) of Ostia's private beaches.

Centro Olimpico Fijlkam is at via dei Sandolini 79, Ostia.  You can take the train from Rome and get off at the white building, below, lower right.
From the air, it could be a sombrero.  Quite a complex.  It's a long way around.

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