Adalberto Libera was one of the key figures in the Italian Rationalism. Considered a protagonist of Italian modern architecture, was the protagonist of several projects built under the Fascist regime.
Important Friendships: a Link with Fascism
Adalberto Libera was born in Villa Lagarina in Trentino, Italy. After graduating from Parma’s Institute of Art then from Rome’s Scuola Superiore di Architettura he came into contact with Futurism. He founded M.I.A.R. or “Italian Movement for Rational Architecture”, becoming its secretary. This group was a rival organization to Gruppo Sette. Moreover, during Fascism, Libera was politically astute: he established a close working relationship with the high-up officials of the regime, in order to control decisions about funding public construction programs and commissions. In fact, he had a prolific career and projected many notable buildings this period, some of which are masterpieces of the international Rationalist movement. Congress Arena in Rome is a perfect example of Libera’s great ability to design ambiguously in a spare, metaphysical language between Modernism and Neo-classicism. Other praised designs are Casa Malaparte and the Regional Government building for the Trentino Region, designed after the fall of the Fascist regime.
Between Futurism and Classicism
The Rationalism prospered in Italy under the Fascist regime, from the 1920s to the 1940s. Two opposed groups challenged each other in an architectural battle: the Gruppo 7 and the MIAR. This movement sought a middle ground between the glories of the Enlightenment, embodied by the Neo-classical style, and the violence of the Futurism, an avant-garde movement fascinated by the industrial architecture. The new focus was on control, logic and rationality.
Palazzo Gualino in Turin was one of the first rationalist building, designed by Gino Levi-Montalcini and Giuseppe Pagano. Other exemplary works include Casa del Fascio in Como, The Medaglia d’Oro room at the Italian Aeronautical Show in Milan and the Fascist Trades Union Building in Como. Moreover, the Rationalists enjoyed some official commissions from the government of Mussolini. Large projects arose in Rome, including the University of Rome and the Esposizione Universale Roma (EUR) district. The EUR features monumental buildings, evocative of ancient Roman architecture, but in an essential form, revealing strong geometric forms.
This institutional space was design by Alberto Libera to hosts the 1942 Universal Exposition in Rome. Construction was cancelled due to World War II, and finished about a decade later. Libera was inspired by the Pantheon, and designed the structure with a noble and elegant appearance, combining modern lines with the classical grandeur. Column and traditional elements are mixed with a modern, essential and geometrical taste, in order to underline the pure form of the structure silhouetted against the sky.