Rome Travel Guide

Rome Architecture, History, Art, Museums, Galleries, Fashion, Music, Photos, Walking and Hiking Itineraries, Neighborhoods, News and Social Commentary, Politics, Things to Do in Rome and Environs. Over 900 posts

Friday, March 1, 2024

The Hunt for Paolo Portoghese's 1960 Modernist Capolavoro: Now the Jordanian Embassy in Rome (and going to the dogs)


This gorgeous and unusual building is one of the capolavori (masterworks) of renowned Italian starchitect Paolo Portoghese.

We went in search of it last year after Bill had read an article in La Repubblica in which Portoghese had, as the paper put it, given his "J'accuse" to the degradation of modern architecture, an architecture of which he was a leading proponent. As the famed architect put it, "L'architettura moderna lasciata in balia di vandali e degrado" - "Modern architecture has been left to the mercy of vandals and decay." His prime example was his own work, now the Jordanian Embassy in Rome.

The article ran on April 26 and Bill had us out 4 days later in the Piazza Bologna/Nomentana area searching for the building, about which we knew little, not even the address nor what it looked like. After a few false starts (taking photos of buildings with barely a modern touch, thinking they might be the one), we discovered this magnificent structure tucked into an ordinary neighborhood, not too far from one of Rome the Second Time's 15 itineraries in our 2009 book. (Too bad we missed it then!)

Tucked into a street of ordinary palazzi

We also missed Portoghese's passing only one month later, on May 30, 2023, at age 91. So consider this post an homage to him, whose buildings we've admired, among them the famous Rome mosque, which we wrote about 15 years ago, in the first year of this blog.

For security purposes, understandably, 
the embassy doesn't let one get close to
the building.
This gives you some sense of the difficulty
in seeing the whole building.

The palazzo - we now know - was built for a contractor's grandson in 1960, named Casa Papanice, and eventually passed into the hands of the Jordanian Embassy in Rome (whose shields you can see on the building exterior), which has kept it closed to the public, even walled off to the public, and, as Portoghese lamented, in a state of disrepair.

Another glimpse - but you have to
know to look.

Rusting walls

The use of rounded, cantilevered, balconies against vertical striped and molded walls is highly distinctive, and the colored tiles playful. 

Speaking of playful, we also didn't realize the palazzo (before the Jordanians) was featured in several films, including the unfortunately named 1970 "Pizza Triangle" (better in Italian - Dramma della gelosia or the alternative title, Jealousy, Italian Style) by Ettore Scola and starring Monica Vitti, Marcello Mastroianni, and Giancarlo Giannini. A still from the film accompanied the 2023 La Repubblica article.

And, as usual, we found a spot for coffee nearby - at the very friendly "Chill Out Cafe" on viale XXI Aprile, Just steps from via Nomentana.

As long as you are on viale XXI Aprile, walk a few steps and across the street to the immense Fascist-era housing block Palazzo Federici (by Mario De Renzi, 1931-37), where director Scola filmed one of his own masterworks, 1977's Una giornata particolare,with Mastroianni and Sophia Loren, set completely in that apartment block on the day in 1938 when Hitler visited Rome. (Film still below.)


No comments: