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Open Access Futures Made Present: Architecture, Monument, and the Battle for the ‘Third Way’ in Fascist Italy

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Futures Made Present: Architecture, Monument, and the Battle for the ‘Third Way’ in Fascist Italy

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During the late 1920s and 1930s, a group of Italian modernist architects, known as ‘rationalists’, launched an ambitious bid for convincing Mussolini that their brand of architectural modernism was best suited to become the official art of the Fascist state (arte di stato). They produced buildings of exceptional quality and now iconic status in the annals of international architecture, as well as an even more impressive register of ideas, designs, plans, and proposals that have been recognized as visionary works. Yet, by the end of the 1930s, it was the official monumental stile littorio – classical and monumental yet abstracted and stripped-down, infused with modern and traditional ideas, pluralist and ‘willing to seek a third way between opposite sides in disputes’, the style curated so masterfully by Marcello Piacentini – that set the tone of the Fascist state’s official architectural representation. These two contrasted architectural programmes, however, shared much more than what was claimed at the time and has been assumed since. They represented programmatically, ideologically, and aesthetically different expressions of the same profound desire to materialize in space and eternity the Fascist ‘Third Way’ future avant la lettre. In both cases, architecture (and urban planning as the scalable articulation of architecture on an urban, regional, and national territorial level) became the ‘total’ media used to signify and not just express, to shape and not just reproduce or simulate, to actively give before passively receiving meaning. Still, it was the more all-encompassing and legible coordinates of space and time in the ‘rooted’ modernism of the stile littorio that captured and expressed a third-way mediation between universality and singularity and between futural modernity and tradition better than the trenchant, inflexible anti-monumentalism of the rationalists.

Affiliations: 1: Keele University, a.kallis@keele.ac.uk

10.1163/22116257-00701004
/content/journals/10.1163/22116257-00701004
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During the late 1920s and 1930s, a group of Italian modernist architects, known as ‘rationalists’, launched an ambitious bid for convincing Mussolini that their brand of architectural modernism was best suited to become the official art of the Fascist state (arte di stato). They produced buildings of exceptional quality and now iconic status in the annals of international architecture, as well as an even more impressive register of ideas, designs, plans, and proposals that have been recognized as visionary works. Yet, by the end of the 1930s, it was the official monumental stile littorio – classical and monumental yet abstracted and stripped-down, infused with modern and traditional ideas, pluralist and ‘willing to seek a third way between opposite sides in disputes’, the style curated so masterfully by Marcello Piacentini – that set the tone of the Fascist state’s official architectural representation. These two contrasted architectural programmes, however, shared much more than what was claimed at the time and has been assumed since. They represented programmatically, ideologically, and aesthetically different expressions of the same profound desire to materialize in space and eternity the Fascist ‘Third Way’ future avant la lettre. In both cases, architecture (and urban planning as the scalable articulation of architecture on an urban, regional, and national territorial level) became the ‘total’ media used to signify and not just express, to shape and not just reproduce or simulate, to actively give before passively receiving meaning. Still, it was the more all-encompassing and legible coordinates of space and time in the ‘rooted’ modernism of the stile littorio that captured and expressed a third-way mediation between universality and singularity and between futural modernity and tradition better than the trenchant, inflexible anti-monumentalism of the rationalists.

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/content/journals/10.1163/22116257-00701004
2018-05-05
2018-08-20

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