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103. A masterpiece of 1920s Italian Architecture: The Square Colosseum!

Updated: Mar 22, 2020

By Giulio D'Ercole -

Everybody in the world knows about the Colosseum, with its characteristic round shape, but very few people know tat Rome also has a Square Colosseum! It is the masterpiece of Fascist Architecture, a terrific, evocative and iconic fusion of ancient forms and twentieth century's rationalist shapes. I am talking about the building known as Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana (Palace of the Italian Civilization), also known as the Palazzo della Civiltà del Lavoro (Palace of the Civilization of Labour).

Four Italian architects, Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Bruno La Padula and Mario Romano worked together in 1937 to design it. The goal was to build a symbolic and rational building to host the Mostra della Civiltà Romana during the 1942 World Fair, that would have taken place in the district of Rome known as the Esposizione Universale Roma, today known as EUR

The exhibition was then cancelled on June 3, 1941, the construction stopped and the building remained unused and abandoned for over a decade, to be finished and opened to the public for the first time only in 1953 to host the Agricultural Exhibition.

It has to be noted that behind the deep symbolic, ideological and political concept of the "Square Colosseum" design, there was Benito Mussolini's idea to celebrate both the ancient greatness of the Colosseum and the birth of what was intended to become the new Roman Empire: the modern Colosseum was in fact meant to become an architectural landmark of Fascist Rome Caput Mundi.

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