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Mussolini's Influence on Rome
By Maxwell Cohen

History:

Benito Mussolini and his fascist regime came to power in Italy in 1922. Rome became the symbol of Fascism, and Mussolini put significant energy into restoring it as the classical and powerful city it once was. In the twenty years that Mussolini was in power, he reorganized and redeveloped Rome by exposing ancient buildings and ruins, and adding significant new public buildings which supported his fascist ideology with a strong national identity. After his execution in 1945, there was an effort to purge Rome of fascism, but much of Mussolini's vision and impact remains today in the buildings left behind, Rome 's street layout, and particularly in the new district of EUR.

Monuments and Ruins:

The first phase in creating a new Rome was to purge the city of all the run down buildings that crowded the ancient wonders. A network of avenues was installed, including Via della Conciliazione, Via del Mar, and Via dell'impero to link these buildings and historic locations, as well as prominently including new fascist buildings. Mussolini also reformed public institutions, such as schools, post offices, trains, and sports. The cultural movement was intended to benefit the youth of Italy by transforming their surroundings and creating opportunities.

Mussolini worked in the center of Rome to frame important views, clean up the city, and strengthen connections between important monuments. (Painter,2005)

In general, the architecture of the Fascist period took a modernist and rationalist style. Architects and designers created many different concepts of what a fascist building looked like, and Mussolini encouraged this aesthetic diversity. Notable architects of the period include : Pagano, Piacentini, Moretti, and Foschini, who helped shape Rome through the design of buildings, roads, and bridges that strengthened the cities fascist identity.

Signifigant building renovation and restoration projects completed under Mussolini include Circus Maximus, Mausoleum of Augustus, Theater of Marcellus, and EUR.

The Circus Maximus , an ancient venue for chariot races and other sporting events, was a shantytown full of rubble until Mussolini initiated an archeological excavation to expose the historic site. A series of fascist exhibits were held at the site of the Circus, which promoted nationalism through fascist art.

Mussolini helped restore the glory of the Circus Maximus by clearing the rubble and turning it into a great public gathering space. (http://www.markville.ss.yrdsb.edu.on.ca/projects/classof2008/chong2/vlee/800px-Circus_Maximus_Rome.jpg)

  The Mausoleum of Augustus was restored by Antonio Munoz, Mussolini's primary consultant in historic restoration, which was an important step in restoring Rome as a whole. Mussolini is sometimes associated as a “new Augustus”, in that they both played an integral role shaping Rome .

The Mausoleum of Augustus is housed in the Ara Pacis Museum designed by Richard Meier, which uses a rationalist style and white architect typical of Meier.

Theater of Marcellus, a theater from the time of Caesar, was freed from the encroaching slums and buildings in 1926. In the actual demolition, Mussolini would always deliver the first blow with a pickaxe to make a public statement of liberation.

Mussolini would publicly deliver the first blow in demolition projects with his pickaxe. (http://pro.corbis.com/images/SB001668.jpg?size=67&uid={8860EA7F-35FE-444C-BBB7-37282E552F8B})

In 1936 architects Piacentini, Piccanato, Rossi, and Vietti fulfilled Mussolini's vision by bringing architectural form to fascism through their design of the EUR ( Esposizione Universale Roma ) , a city outside of Rome . The city plan employed a style called Italian Rationalism, which has a functional system of wide roads organized in an orderly symmetrical style. It uses a strong north-south central axis and east-west multiple cross axes, which divide the city into blocks. The architecture is derived from classic Rome , and uses a consistent form, rhythm, and proportion. The city has many outdoor sculptures, arches, colonnades, and an obelisk to recall the strong regional history and unite the people. The scale of the features is proportional in relation to the whole, but the white marble used gives it a sterile alien look, opposed to the godly look of the ancient roman structures.

The buildings in EUR use a white marble that gives them a sterile look slightly reminiscent of ancient Rome.

Avenues and Trains:

Termini Station serves as a hub for the train system in downtown Rome.

Avenue, train, and bridge projects taken on by Mussolini include the Via del Mar, Via dell'impero, Via della Conciliazione, Termi station, and the Ponte Ottobre. The goal of these projects was to make Rome into a completely modern efficient city with a strong cultural identity with clear visual links between historic landmarks.

Mussolini created a system of roads that created a loop around historic monuments in the heart of Rome. (Painter,2005)

The Via del Mar was a grand avenue that emphasized a view of Capitoline Hill and acted as a connector of several principal sites including the Piazza Bocca della Verita, Santa Marian, temple of Fortunal Virilis , and many more.

Capitoline Hill is one of the most important sites of Roman history, which Mussolini helped to preserve and glorify.

 

 

Via dell'impero was a road created to link the Circus Maximus to the Colosseum and create a scenic route through the center of Rome.

Via della Conciliazione was a wide straight street that framed a view of St. Peters Basilica. This project required demolishing several neighborhoods, but Mussolini felt that it made an important connection in the city. This strengthened his relationship with the church, which gained him support.

The Via Della Concilazione creates a strong connection from Rome to the heart of the Vatican.

A system of underground trains was also developed at this time, with the Termini Station as its center of operations. The trains were an action intended to make Rome into an efficient modern city. The trains also linked the main city to EUR to promote westward expansion.

The trains create an efficient public transportation system that runs from the downtown out to the suburbs and other towns of Italy.

 

  Mussolini's bold changes to Rome had a lot of merit in the way they opened up the city and linked significant historic elements. All of the historical elements were existing, so the roads seem chaotic in plan view, but they use landmarks to create stability and orientation. Mussolini's regime was short lived, but the contributions he made to Rome survive and benefit the cities inhabitants of the common day by creating a strong connection with its ancient past and glory and broad avenues that open up the city.

 

Works Cited:

Adamson, . "The Culture of Italian Fascism and the Fascist Crisis of Modernity: The Case of II Selvaggio." Journal of C ontemporary History 30.4 (1995): 555. .

"Esposizione Universale Roma." A View on Cities . 5 Mar. 2009 <http://www.aviewoncities.com/rome/eur.htm>.

Kirk, Terry. "Framing St. Peter's: Urban Planning in Fascist Rome ." The Art bulletin 88.4 (2006).

Painter, Borden. Mussolini's Rome . Borden Painter, 2005.

" Rome by Area." Italy Heaven . Accessed 5 Mar. 2009 <http://www.italyheaven.co.uk/rome/areas/eur.html>.

Viggiani, Claudia. "Exploring EUR." Cultural Itineraries . EUR SPA. 5 Mar. 2009 <http://www.romaturismo.it/v2/richiestamateriali/pdf/eur_en.pdf>.