Disegno No.8

The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana


26 October 2015

Last week, Italian fashion brand Fendi inaugurated its new headquarters in Rome, a building with a highly unusual past. Below, Disegno examines the history of the building that Fendi now operates from, The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana.

In the archives of MoMA in New York there are four sketches dated 1938 by Italian architects Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Bruno La Padula and Mario Romano. Each is of the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana in Rome, each showing a slightly different iteration of what is popularly known as the Square Colosseum.

Yet none of the sketches accurately re ect the proportions of the nished building, with its four identical facades of six-storey superimposed loggias, each storey made up of nine arches. It is said that the nal 6×9 construction hints at the six and nine-letter names of the building’s commissioner, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

The building was commissioned for the 1942 World Exposition in Rome, with the intention of promoting fascism and its architecture internationally. Although the Second World War prevented the exposition from taking place and Mussolini’s regime was toppled in 1943, the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana still stands.

Last week, Italian fashion house Fendi inaugurated the Palazzo as its headquarters. It seems an odd pairing considering the building’s tainted history, but for Fendi it is simply a way of putting its 400 employees under one roof while connecting with its native city’s history.

The building is also the inspiration for a window scheme that Milan-based design studio Analogia Project designed for Fendi stores worldwide. In the studio’s sketches, the loggias of the Palazzo hover like spectres behind mannequins and handbags. They would make a worthy addition to MoMA’s existing series of four sketches. They are a documentation of the reappropriation of the century.