Theses Doctoral

Rationalism and Ruins in Roma Mussoliniana: The 1934 Palazzo del Littorio Competition

Manson, Andrew John

This dissertation examines the intersection of architecture, urban planning and archaeology in Mussolini’s Rome; in particular, it focuses on the first competition to build the Palazzo del Littorio (1934), the Fascist Party headquarters, on the Via dell’Impero. The competition is singularly important as a barometer and benchmark of Italian interwar architectural practice in the period when the country was at the apogee of its self-confidence and international regard. Yet it was also a moment of aesthetic crisis, when the two stylistic poles of modernism and traditionalism oscillated between acceptance and censure in a struggle to be the dominant style of the professional establishment. At issue in the Palazzo Littorio competition was the prized objective of giving monumental definition to Fascist identity that would resound across the ages. This study traces the attempt of modernist critics and architects, such as Pietro Maria Bardi and Giuseppe Pagano, to make avant-garde architecture the de facto architecture of the state. The Palazzo Littorio competition tested Italian modernism’s capacity to create a suitable representative structure and confront the problem of monumentality. The competition was also inextricably linked to the transformation of the central archaeological area through excavations and road building. The palazzo’s site in the ancient center of Rome made it the primary example of the regime’s attempt to associate contemporary buildings with Roman ruins and thereby root itself in imperial Rome. This study describes the vast program of excavations in the city center and the creation of the Via dell’Impero, a road framed by ruins transformed into a scenographic backdrop to urban spectacle. The objective is not only to illuminate the contours of the competition and the intersection of architecture and archaeology, but also to elucidate the means by which architects answered the dual demands of rhetoric and ruins in the heart of the Eternal City.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Thesis Advisors
McLeod, Mary Caroline
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 16, 2015