The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana (also known as the ‘Square Colosseum’) is perhaps the most emblematic architectural edifice built during Benito Mussolini’s Fascist dictatorship, which governed Italy between 1922 and 1943. Now, after over sixty years having never been used, Italian fashion house Fendi have—amid controversy—renovated and moved into the historically charged building, using it as their new headquarters.
The building, an architectural statement as part of Mussolini’s deluded fantasy to transform Rome into the capital of a ‘new Roman Empire’, was the centrepiece of the ‘EUR’ (the Esposizione Universale Roma) — a new urban complex designed for the 1942 world exhibition but, due to the events of the Second World War, wasn’t occupied until much later.
As reported in The Guardian, in response to criticism that the company are ignoring the building’s historical significance, Fendi’s Chief Executive Pietro Beccari has said: “For me it is a non-issue. For the Romans it is a non-issue. For Italians it is a non-issue. […] This building is beyond a discussion of politics. It is aesthetics. It is a masterpiece of architecture. To rebuild it today would cost more than €500m.” He continued: “For Italians and for Romans, it is completely deloaded, empty of any significance of that period […] there was no political activity that took place here. We never saw it through the lens of Fascism.”
Listen to ArchDaily Editor James Taylor-Foster discuss the impact of Fendi’s move on Monocle 24 (33:20):