Thursday 1 May 2014

Secret Rome: Atmospheric Quartiere Coppedè

Photojournalist Christian Evren Gimotea Lozañes captures the looming Gothic apparition of the Quartiere Coppedè. Jeanne-Marie Cilento reports from Rome

EVEN on a sunny day with the Eternal City’s sapphire blue skies gleaming above, the quarter’s darker and more obscure corners have an ominous air. Dripping with stony ornament, towered buildings flank a long, low archway lit by an enormous wrought-iron chandelier that leads to the main square, Piazza Mincio. 

The extraordinary mix of Art Nouveau, Ancient Roman, Egyptian, Medieval and Renaissance motifs is the product of one prolific mind, the Florentine architect Gino Coppedè. In 1916, he was given an architect’s ideal project ~ the opportunity to design an entirely new residential quarter of Rome in Parioli. Given creative carte blanche by the clients, the architect allowed his imagination to run amok and designed an enclave more baroque in sensibility than even Bernini could dream up for 16th Century Rome.

Gino Coppedè was born in Florence in 1866 and began his career as a boy sculpting decorative pieces for furniture. Later he attended the Professional School of Industrial and Decorative Arts, graduating when he was twenty-four and becoming a member of the city's Academy of Fine Arts. The architect continued to work in Rome creating extraordinary buildings in the Quartiere Coppedè until 1927.

The original designs were not created for an eccentric millionaire but for a Ligurian building association to house the city’s growing professional class and civil servants. The stone carved winged serpents, monolithic eastern heads and putti that decorate the buildings all come from Gino Coppedè's youth when he worked in the wood carving studio of his father. 

Walking around the Quartiere Coppedè feels like being in a bizarre fairytale with it’s combination of Florentine towers and Venetian palaces decorated with mosaics and frescoes, Baroque Roman palazzi with real and imitation papal stemmata, sundials and even a building with ironwork and carvings in the form of musical notation. 

Today, forty-five different buildings from three to six stories high make up the Quartiere Coppedè. The mosaic-tiled archways, intricate brickwork, turrets, towers and loggias all create a unique architectural borgo amid one of Rome's most sober and wealthy residential suburbs. 
The Quartiere Coppede's central Piazza Mincio with it's massive Art Nouveau  fountain.

Completed in 1924, the Fontana delle Rane's dynamic figures and water creatures dominate Piazza Mincio. 
Full of movement and fantasy, the fountain's sculptures depict giant shells and water nymphs. 
Spouting head of the Fontana della Rane at the heart of the Coppede Quarter in Parioli

Facade showing architect Gino Coppede's extraordinary mix of architectural and historical motifs from the Roman Corinthian columns and Renaissance loggia to the Art Nouveau curling cast iron balcony and tiles.

Detail of the building's entrance with it's graphic black and yellow tiles, iron and glass lamp and panelled wooden doors.

The fantastical Villino delle Fate with it's mix of terracotta, cast iron and mosaic-tiled decoration. 

Detail of the facade of the Villino delle Fate designed by Florentine architect Gino Coppede and depicting Renaissance Florence including Brunelleschi's Duomo and the Palazzo delle Signoria.

The apartment buildings are decorated with Romanesque loggias, Liberty style ceramic tiles and Roman lion's heads and classical heads.

Looking up to the facade of the entrance building flanking the archway, it is covered in a riot of High Mannerist classical figures and heads carved in Travertine marble.

The street leading into the enclave of the Quartiere Coppede.

The enormous wrought-iron chandelier hanging below the archway at the entrance to the Quartiere Coppede.

Palazzo del Ragno built from Travertine marble, Roman bricks and wood and showing Coppede's combination of historical influences.
Garden terraces and apartments form part of the quarter's entrance archway and look out across Piazza Mincio

Palazzo Del Ragno designed and built between 1916-1924 and showing architect Gino Coppede's capacity to combine different materials such as brick, marble, stone and wood and historical motifs.
The great Travertine marble head above the doors leading into the Palazzo del Ragno

Travertine marble decorations carved to represent a winged griffin and stylised lion's head.

Detail of an elaborate corner balcony, the Grotesques carved in Travertine marble.  

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