BEHINDFASCISM | The University City, a State Art

The University City project was a symbol of fascism and the whole Rome. The complex, inaugurated on April 21, 1935, represented an important venture for the regime because Mussolini decided to concentrate the buildings in a single area, to examine and modify the different designs and to visit the site often. The complex became a work created for the people and was somehow sanctified by the people.

A collective design

Mussolini entrusted Marcello Piacentini, academic of Italy, with the task of creating this large complex of buildings that was to constitute not only the University of Rome but the largest study center in Italy and the Mediterranean. Together with Piacentini, many others were the architects called by the Duce to collaborate, so that it would be a collective design enterprise. In spite of the work of the various architects, a unity of style was created, since the classic type of basilica and common architectural elements were used, such as the use of the same windows and the same covering materials such as travertine and yellow or red plaster.

The architectural approach

The chosen plot of land, in a quadrangular shape, is located between Viale del Policlinico, Viale dell’Università and Viale Regina. The different institutes are grouped around a central empty space, the center of the project. An essential project, with monumental visions, avenues and gardens. The monumental entrance, formed by high and solemn propylaea, opens towards Viale del Policlinico, 60 m wide, bounded by the buildings of the different faculties. In front of the Avenue, on its axis and placed to close the long side of the Forum, stands the building of the Rectorate and the Library, which forms a unitary complex with the buildings of the Faculties of Humanities and Law. The tree-lined avenue flows into a large transversal space, a square measuring 68 x 240 m, similar in size to Piazza Navona. At both ends stand the Institutes of Mathematics by Giò Ponti and the Institute of Mineralogy, Geology and Paleontology by Giovanni Michelucci. In the rear part, near the Aula Magna, there was a large square used for meetings and various ceremonies. Many areas were used for parks and gardens, such as the quadriporticus built on the left side of the avenue. The pronaos, the travertine pillars, the large windows framed in red marble, the statue of Minerva placed in front of the atrium represent a harmony of form and values.

General plan
The great avenue seen from the Rectorate building
The entrance porch seen from the outside
Building technology

The construction of the buildings was caged in reinforced concrete with the foundations consisting of concrete poles. The external facades were covered with a curtain of lithoceramic and Roman travertine. There were many special applications, such as glass brick cladding, lightweight reinforced concrete floors or glass-cement canopies.

The Rectorate building with the statue of Minerva
Architecture as a style of the fascist era

The University City is a successful experiment of collaboration and coordination that will be re-proposed with the E42. The simple architecture does not renounce the modernity born in a classical and Mediterranean climate. A political and artistic compromise: the point of equilibrium will then be found according to the orientations and needs that the Regime required for the realization of modern architecture as a style of a fascist era, a State art.

Aerial view of the University City

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