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Casa Del Fascio

12/03/2012

Architect Giuseppe Terragni (1904-1943) was a key figure in the development of the Italian Rationalist movement, and worked primarily in the Lombardia region of Northern Italy during the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini. Terragni was able to translate into architecture the key ideologies, symbols and metaphors of Mussolini's fascism described as thus:

 

"Fascism, a house of glass into which everyone can see, giving rise to this wholly faithful interpretation: no encumbrance, no barrier, no obstacle between the political leaders and their people."

 

In Terragni's most famous work, the Casa del Fascio (1932-1936) in Como, the translation of these ideas into architecture are not immediately apparent. The building, which was designed as a fascist headquarters and now houses the Guardia di Finanza, appears box-like and solid at first glance. Upon further investigation, however, one realises that it is quite the opposite. The facade of the Casa del Fascio is fenestrated and stripped bare, displaying the skeleton-like structural framework of the building. Internal and external walls of glass, shiny stone and transparent tiles, a central atrium (reminiscent of a Roman villa), and layers of open framework create a sense of openness and translucency inside and outside of what is essentially a bureaucratic rabbit warren of office-spaces.

 

The cross-axis layout of the structure is based upon Palazzo Farnese, a high renaissance palace in Rome, but all other aspects of Classical Revivalism are ignored, replaced by the Italian Rationalist ideals of simplified and functional form, rejection of ornament, and the use of glass, steel and concrete as preferred building materials. The building's entrance opens it's eighteen glass doors onto the Piazza del Popolo in which masses could gather during rallies and speeches. The flat windowless panel at the front right of the building was originally intended to be emblazoned with giant photographs of the leaders of the Italian fascist movement, while the interior contained chairs designed by Terragni and paintings by abstract artist Mario Radice.

 

Como's Casa del Fascio looks out across the Piazza del Popolo towards the town's Rococo cathedral. It and is a stark reminder of Italy's fascist history, as well as a stunning example of early modernist architecture.

 

Source - Annalisa Sonzogni, Passeggeri, 2010

Susan Strongman

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