Palazzo Della Civiltà Italiana: Melanconia between fashion, film, and fascism

Arian Korkuti


2_arian_korkuti_imageThe monumental Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana is situated at the Esposizione Universale di Roma (EUR ‘42). Since its construction in 1942, the building is constantly changing in kind. In the current transformation, from monument Palazzo della Civilta Italiana is taken over a corporate form. Its monumental appearance is finally detached from the building form, when famously used as a Felliniesque backdrop, far from the antagonist post war presence.   


Currently, the luxury fashion house Fendi leases the former monument for its corporate headquarters in the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana. The building appears in political campaigns (2008), Nike advertising campaigns (2007), and several films, including Titus (1999), a re-adaptation of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus.


In Antonioni’s film L’Eclisse (1962) lifeless streets and empty unfinished edifices, capture the surreal nature of what Fellini calls the sense of temporariness in the complex of EUR buildings. In Fellini’s Boccaccio 70 (1962) the actress Anita Ekberg overwhelmed the scale of the stage situated in front of the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana. Fellini has used the site for scenes in La Dolce Vita film (1960). In Fellini’s film the EUR seems to be transforming into a still life outside the chaos of Rome. We may consider it reification of De Chirico’s Melanconia.


Rossellini’s film Roma Aperta (1945) places the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana in the position of confronting the armed characters in the scene. The post war Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana stands up almost finished but not entirely. The building is empty – orphan, and has no chance of being claimed as its own. The Palazzo is projected as a monument to the Italian civilization, showing the achievements of all the Italian generations, culminating with the apogee of the Fascist movement and at its end the people name it the Colosseo Quadrato.



4_arian_korkuti_headshotArian Korkuti is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Architecture and Design Research from Virginia Tech, focusing in Architecture. He received his Master of Science in Architecture and Master of Architecture degrees from Virginia Tech. He completed his undergraduate studies with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design from Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond, VA. Arian’s research area is in the relationship of architecture and the city during the modern movements in Italy. Specific topics of this area address questions regarding the edifice type of Casa del Fascio and the architectural practice of Giuseppe Terragni.