BEHIND THE FASCISM | Stone Fascism, Mussolini’s Forum

Mussolini had used the myth of Rome to provide historical legitimacy for fascism. The reference to the past was found in the looting carried out by the Duce to bring to light the glories of ancient Rome. One of the most important places of the fascist regime was Mussolini’s Forum. Designed by Enrico Del Debbio, it was one of the places created to last over time. It kept its original and symbolic function intact due to the architectural quality and the name itself, “Foro Italico”, with which it had been called starting from August 1943.

The location of the building

The place chosen for the construction of Mussolini’s Forum is the Farnesina plain, between Ponte Milvio and the districts of Piazza D’Armi, which are crowned by the hills of Monte Mario and Macchia. A place where the greenery and the silence of the woods helped to create a sort of classic utopia in which stadiums and theatres were usually located. A place not chosen by chance: in fact, the Via Flaminia connects the Forum with the city centre via the Duca d’Aosta bridge, which acts as a direction. However, a run down place as well, up to the time of the construction of the Forum, due to the stagnation of the water and the difficulty of drains towards the Tiber. For this reason, the whole area was raised by 5 metres.

The reference to the ancient

For the construction of the Forum the concept of the ancient Gymnasium was taken up, enlarged and modernized. Del Debbio does not create a kind of Forum in the classical way, with colonnades, arches and scenographic walls, but buildings corresponding to the modern conception of their function. For example the central buildings of the Opera Nazionale Balilla, where Italian teenagers had everything they needed for training and physical education. The Duce, like the great Roman emperors, had his own Forum built recalling the myth of the “new Caesar”. Mussolini’s Forum was, therefore, a group of listed buildings linked to the most solemn monuments of Roman antiquity for the richness of marble, works of art and grandeur of lines. We wanted to celebrate beauty through it, creating an immortal work, thanks to the use of pure white Carrara marble, which perfectly suited the green of the slopes of Monte Mario.

The architectural layout of the Forum
The Fascist Academy of Physical Education

Mussolini’s Forum had a pedagogical, sporting, political, monumental and symbolic function. It consisted of a central core, the Fascist Academy of Physical Education, made up of two symmetrical blocks, joined together by a diagonal and central block. The building was plastered in Pompeian red, with windows framed by thin columns, topped with broken gables of white marble.

The Stadio dei Marmi (Marble Stadium)

Through a passage, one entered the Stadio dei Marmi, consisting of 10 tiers of steps, obtained thanks to the difference in height derived from the backfill of the area. The stadium’s capacity was around 200,000 people. The foundations of the building were in reinforced concrete, while the supporting framework of the steps was in tuff and brick masonry. The steps were made of blocks of white Carrara marble and housed 60 statues, 4 m high, placed as a crown, on bases 1.20 m high and 2 m in diameter. The statues represented athletes, intent on various game actions, and were donated by the Italian Provinces. To complete the sculptural part, in correspondence with the heads of the entrances, there were two niches in which two bronze statues were placed, while on the sides of the tribune of honor stood two groups of bronze wrestlers.

Mussolini’s monolith

The entrance to the Forum was characterized by the presence of a large obelisk in Carrara marble, erected in 1932. Made from the drawings of Costantino Costantini, it is the largest block of marble ever extracted from the Apuan Alps. The entire project describes a solemn space, the heart of the entire complex of the Forum, a further demonstration of how Mussolini took inspiration from the majestic architecture of imperial Rome to manifest fascist power. Initially placed in the centre of the Forum, it was then moved to the entrance.

The Avenue of Foro Italico

Located between the monolith and the Fountain of the Sphere is the Avenue of Foro Italico. Made in 1937, it is decorated with black and white mosaics which, together with the symbols and slogans of the regime, illustrate the historical phases of the conquest of power, the Balilla, the subjugation of Ethiopia, the arts, the activities sports and the achievements of the regime. The dowels used are the same used in ancient Rome, about one centimeter in size.

The Fountain of the Sphere

At the western end of the square stands the Fountain of the Sphere. It consists of a large circular basin of 3 metres in diameter and a large sphere, made from a single block of marble from the Carrara quarries. The ring-shaped basin of the fountain is decorated with a mosaic of black and white marble tiles with marine subjects.

The Stadium of the Cypresses

Behind the Academy is the Stadium of the Cypresses, formed by terraces cut into the side of the hill, with a capacity of one hundred thousand spectators. During the war the construction site was abandoned and used as a car park by the allied troops until 1949. Then, CONI, its owner, entrusted the completion project to Annibale Vitellozzi, who completed it in 1953. After reopening it was known as “Stadio dei Centomila”, given its capacity, but was renamed “Olympic Stadium” when, in 1960, the 17th games were assigned to Rome.

The southern part of the Forum

In a symmetrical position with respect to the Fascist Academy is the building intended for the Baths and the Academy of Music, built in 1937. Then there are the sports facilities dedicated to tennis, which consisted of the monumental Olympic Stadium, a stadium containing six training fields and a building used as the service areas of the two fields. The southern side of the Forum ended with the Casa delle Armi, assigned to the discipline of fencing, and the guesthouses used to host the athletes.

Mussolini’s Forum is one of the major urban interventions carried out during the regime and all of its works must be evaluated from an architectural point of view. Originally created as a Sports Forum, it became one of the places of mass mobilization, taking on great political and symbolic value. Sport is also used as a propaganda tool, capable of appealing to people. Courage, sacrifice, will, strength, which are the typical aspects of sport, became the identifying features of the Italian race and the constituent elements of the new Mussolini man.

Tradotto da: https://archeome.it/dietro-al-fascismo-il-fascismo-di-pietra-il-foro-mussolini/