Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana in Rome
The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, also known as the Palazzo della Civiltà del Lavoro or simply the Colosseo Quadrato (Square Colosseum), is an icon of Fascist architecture. It lies in the district of Rome known as the Esposizione Universale Roma (also known as 'E.42' and 'EUR'). It is particularly symbolic of this district, exemplifying its monumentality.
The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana was constructed as part of the program of the Esposizione Universale Roma, a large business center and suburban complex, initiated in 1935 by Benito Mussolini for the planned 1942 world exhibition and as a symbol of fascism for the world. The Palazzo was designed by the architects Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Bruno La Padula and Mario Romano and constructed between 1938 and 1943. It was inaugurated on 30 November 1940 as the centerpiece of the Esposizione and continues to be its most iconic building. The structure is also considered one of the most representative examples of Fascist architecture at the EUR.
Since November 2003, the palace has been closed to the public for restoration.
The EUR provides a large-scale image of how urban Italy might have looked if the fascist regime had not fallen during the war—large, symmetrical streets and austere buildings of limestone, tuff and marble, in either stile Littorio, inspired by ancient Roman architecture, or Rationalism. Its architectural style is often called simplified neoclassicism. Marcello Piacentini, the coordinator of the commission for E42, based it on the Italian Rationalism of Pagano, Libera, and Michelucci.
The design of the "Square Colosseum" was inspired more to celebrate the Colosseum, and the structure was intended by Benito Mussolini as a celebration of the older Roman landmark. Similar to the Colosseum, the palace has a series of superimposed loggias, shown on the façade as six rows of nine arches each. These numbers are said to be an allusion to the name of the Fascist dictator: "Benito" having six letters and "Mussolini," nine.
The palace is entirely clad in travertine marble, as is characteristic of buildings in the EUR. It is a parallelepiped on a square base, with six levels rising above a podium. The scale is imposing: the base covers an area of 8,400 square meters, and the building has volume 205,000 cubic meters with a height 68 meters (50 meters from the base).
At the four corners of the podium are placed four equestrian sculptural groups by Publio Morbiducci and Alberto de Felci, representing the Dioscuri, the two mythical Greek heroes, sons of Zeus and Leda. About the base of the building are 28 additional statues of approximately 3.4 meters in height, each under an arch, illustrating various industries and trades. These statues were added in 1942, having been constructed by eight companies specialized in the working of Carrara marble in the provinces of Lucca and Massa-Carrara. Going about the building in a clockwise fashion from the entrance, the statues represent:
- Political Genius
- the Social Order
- Inventive Genius
- the Right
- the Supremacy of Navigation
- the Genius of the Theatre
- the Genius of Poetry
- and the Corps of Engineers.
At the top of each of the four façades there is an inscription in capital letters:
UN POPOLO DI POETI DI ARTISTI DI EROI
DI SANTI DI PENSATORI DI SCIENZIATI
DI NAVIGATORI DI TRASMIGRATORI
which translates as:
A nation of poets, of artists, of heroes,
Of saints, of thinkers, of scientists,
Of sailors, of transmigrants
In films and on television
Because of its bold appearance and iconic status, the palace has appeared in a number of films, including (in chronological order):
- Rome, Open City (1945)
- Boccaccio '70 (1962), in the episode Le tentazioni del dottor Antonio by Federico Fellini, with Peppino de Filippo and Anita Ekberg
- The Last Man on Earth (1964) by Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow, with Vincent Price
- The Belly of an Architect (1987) by Peter Greenaway
- Hudson Hawk (1991) by Michael Lehmann, with Bruce Willis
- Titus (1999) by Julie Taymor, with Anthony Hopkins
- Equilibrium (2001) by Kurt Wimmer, with Christian Bale
- Meno male che Silvio c'é (2010) propaganda clip of the PDL, party of Silvio Berlusconi