Marcello Piacentini was the major interpreter of the monumentalism of the Fascist regime, designing several important projects commissioned by Mussolini. His own style is a combination of Rationalism and Novecento Italiano.
Marcello Piacentini, son of architect Pio Piacentini, was born in Rome in 1881. He studied arts and engineering and became one of the main proponents of the stark, linear designs characteristic of the Fascist era. At the age of just 26, Piacentini was commissioned with redesigning the center of Bergamo, the Città Bassa, as is commonly known. This work marked Piacentini as an architect of considerable talent, so he started a collaboration with the Fascist government. His major buildings in Rome are the new campus for the University of Rome, Sapienza University of Rome, Via della Conciliazione, the road approaching St Peter’s. Later, thanks to his talent, he was appointed by Mussolini himself for the design of the EUR district.
The Sum of Novecento Italiano and Rationalism
Marcello Piacentini developed a new style, a “simplified Neoclassicism” at the middle ground between the Rationalism of the Gruppo 7 of Giuseppe Terragni and Adalberto Libera and the Neo-classicism of the Novecento Italiano group, composed by Gio Ponti and other important architects. This style was an emblem of Fascist architecture in Rome and gave birth to renowned buildings, such as the new university campus and the EUR district, of which he was High Commissar. He was also important as a colonial architect, especially in Cyrenaica. He adopted and evolved the Neo-Moorish style in vogue in the 1920s. Albergo Italia and the Berenice Theatre in Benghazi were designed in accordance with this colonial style.
The New Face of Rome
Fascism wanted to leave a mark on the capital, so during the regime Mussolini commissioned several praised architects to design monumental buildings. Piacentini was one of the protagonists of this historical moment and his contribution to the Fascist Rome was fundamental. He was the chief architect for the construction of the new campus Sapienza University of Rome. Piacentini’s masterplan wanted to pay homage to “very Roman” buildings made of bricks and travertine, and his simple, neoclassical style is evident. The Roman architect designed the astonishing Rectorate. In the original version, the Rectorate was intended to reach 52 meters in height but was shortened during the construction.
Moreover, Piacentini was responsible for the planning of the EUR district and collaborated with the most important Italian architects to realize this project. The area was conceived to hold the Esposizione Universale, an event to celebrate two decades of Fascism. Anyway, the construction was interrupted by World War II. The EUR district was inspired, according to the fascist ideology, by Roman Imperial town planning and by Italian Rationalism. The result was the typical Piacentini’s simplified neoclassicism. The project develops over orthogonal axes and large and stately buildings, built mainly of limestone, tuff and marble, traditional materials associated with Roman Empire architecture. Inspired to the Metaphysical art, Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana is a symbol of the architectural style of the regime.