Monday 15 July 2013

Photo Essay: Rome and the Colosseo Quadrato

A great marble horse rear up in front of the EUR's Palazzo della Civilta designed by Giovanni Guerrini, Mario Romano and Ernesto Lapadula
For Romans the EUR district represents the world of business and its wide, modern spaces are ringed by monumental buildings from the Fascist era and Italy's post-war boom, write Andreas Romagnoli and Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photography by Andreas Romagnoli

THE broad, axial streets and austere neo-classical architecture of the EUR were originally inspired by Roman Imperial town planning and Italian Rationalist design but using traditional materials such as limestone and marble. The most iconic building is the Palazzo della Civiltà also known as the Colosseo Quadrato. Often neglected by Romans since it is linked with Fascist architecture, the building has engendered new interest from designers and architects all over the world. 

The 'Square Colosseum' has a purity of style from every angle and was designed by Italian architects Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Lapadula and Mario Romano and built between 1938-1943. Inspired by the Colosseum, the building has a series of arcaded loggias of nine arches in six rows. The building is entirely clad in travertine marble ~ a characteristic of buildings in the EUR ~ and rises up to six levels above a podium. At the four corners of the podium are four equestrian sculptural representing the Dioscuri, the two mythical Greek heroes. At the base of the building are 28 statues each illustrating industries and trades.

Today, the building sits at the heart of this residential and business district in Rome located south of the city centre. The letters EUR stand for Esposizione Universale Roma and the site was first chosen for the 1942 World Fair. Benito Mussolini planned the exhibition to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the March on Rome and the beginning of the Fascist regime. The urban plan also directed expansion of the city towards the sea and was to be a new city centre for Rome

The area of the Tre Fontane was chosen and made official on December 15, 1936. The grandeur and architecture of the buildings were planned to hark back to the glories of the ancient Roman Empire. By January 1936, work on the 400 hectare zone was entrusted to five Italian architects including designing pavilions and permanent buildings.

But the World Fair did not take place due to the Second World War and the original project was left incomplete when the works had to stop in 1942. After the war, the EUR was planned as a business district out of the city centre. The idea was avant-guarde for its time as other major developments such as London’s Docklands and La Défense in Paris were not planned until decades later. 

During the 1950s and 1960s the unfinished Fascist-era buildings were completed and others were built in contemporary styles as offices and government buildings set in extensive gardens and parks. The EUR's initial urban plan was completed in time for Rome’s 1960 Olympics including the Palazzo dello Sport designed by Nervi and Piacentini. 

The latest iconic and controversial piece of architecture to be constructed in the EUR is the new congress centre designed by Roman architect Massimiliano Fuksas. Nicknamed the 'Cloud' because of the amorphous shape inside, the building was begun in 1998 and is planned to be completed later this year. Thirty metres high, the building's exterior is translucent and has simple, linear lines that pay tribute to the 1930s rationalist architecture that characterize the EUR. 

Inside the 'cloud' is supported by a thick network of steel cables and suspended between the floor and the ceiling of the main conference hall. When the cloud is lit up the building seems to vibrate. Officially called the Nuovo Centro Congressi, it will contain an auditorium, conference and congress halls,  restaurants and a five-star hotel. The whole complex is designed with energy-saving materials and using renewable sources for heating and air conditioning.

However, the congress centre was planned at the height of the economic boom to provide Rome with its first large, high-quality congress and conference centre to attract business, some of it away from Milan. This year, the new complex will be launched into a completely different economic climate when other business exhibition centres are having difficulty filling their calendars.

The 'Cloud' designed by Massimiliano Fuksas as an auditorium and new congress centre in the EUR that is due to be completed this year.

One of the four marble sculptural groups that stand on the four corners of the building's podium

The striking building has been used in many Italian and international films and recently was the setting for Girogio Armani's Rome fashion show.

Looking up to the Colosseo Quadrato built from travertine marble between 1938-1943.

The play of light under the loggia of the Palazzo della Civilta in Rome.

The elegant Modernism of  Palazzo ENI or Palazzo del Vetro designed and built in 1962 in the EUR 

The dome of the basilica of St Peter and St Paul in the EUR.
Gleaming lights reflected on the lake at the centre of the EUR district
A contemporary glass tower that continues the EUR's expansion as a business and commercial hub in Rome.
Palazzo dei Congressi designed by Adalberto Libera in the Rationalist style in 1938 but not completed until 1954 after the war.
Looking towards the monumental square form of the Palazzo della Civilta from Via Cristoforo Colombo
Soaring columns of the Museo della Civilta Roman that are like a Roman modernist temple 
The crisp lines and austere symmetry of the EUR's urban plan.

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