8 December 2016

Marcello Piacentini – architect

Designer whose buildings symbolised Fascist ideals

Marcello Piacentini in the uniform of the Royal Academy of Italy
Marcello Piacentini in the uniform of the
Royal Academy of Italy
Urban theorist and architect Marcello Piacentini was born on this day in 1881 in Rome.

The son of architect Pio Piacentini, he studied arts and engineering in Rome before going on to become one of the main proponents of the stark, linear designs characteristic of the Fascist era.

When he was just 26, he was commissioned with redesigning the centre of the Lombardy city Bergamo’s lower town, the Città Bassa, where Piacentini's buildings remain notable landmarks today.  The project marked Piacentini as an architect of considerable vision and talent.

He then went on to work throughout Italy, and in particular in Rome, for the Fascist government.

He designed a new campus for the University of Rome, La Sapienza, the road approaching St Peter’s in Rome that was named Via della Conciliazione, and much of the EUR district of the capital, of which he was not only the architect but, by appointment to the Fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, the High Commissar.

Piacentini's majestic Via della Conciliazione in Rome, with the Basilica of St Peter in the background
Piacentini's majestic Via della Conciliazione in Rome, with
the Basilica of St Peter in the background
Characteristic of all these projects was Piacentini's simplified neoclassicism, which became the mainstay of Fascist architecture.

Both Mussolini and Adolf Hitler believed that a style of architecture identifiable as belonging to their culture was a way of unifying citizens and underlining the tenets of their ideology, namely strength and stability and the authority of the government.

Subsequently, Piacentini went on to become an important colonial architect, particularly in Eastern Libya, where the style of his buildings was characteristic of the Neo-Moorish period in Libya in the 1920s.

After the collapse of Fascism, Piacentini fell out of favour and did not work as an architect for several years.  He died in Rome in 1960.

Travel tip:

One of the most impressive buildings to be seen in Bergamo’s Città Bassa - the city's lower town - is the Banca d’Italia in Viale Roma. Built of brown stone, in keeping with the other public buildings erected at the beginning of the 20th century in the Città Bassa, the bank has a decorative façade. It was built in 1924 to a neo-Renaissance design and has since become a symbol of Bergamo’s strong commercial and banking tradition.

Hotels in Bergamo by Hotels.com

The Torre dei Caduti was part of  Piacentini's urban redevlopment of Bergamo
The Torre dei Caduti was part of  Piacentini's
urban redevelopment of Bergamo
Travel tip:

Another example of Piacentini’s work in Bergamo is the Torre dei Caduti in the centre of the Città Bassa. The early 20th century war memorial towers over Piazza Vittorio Veneto and Via Sentierone but was carefully positioned so that despite being 45 metres tall it does not spoil the skyline of the Città Alta, Bergamo's upper town. The Torre dei Caduti (tower of the fallen) was built to honour the citizens of Bergamo who were killed in the First World War and was part of Piacentini’s new layout for the centre of the Città Bassa in the 1920s, which recalled the buildings of the Città Alta, such as the Torre di Gombito, in the choice of design and materials.

More reading:

The ground-breaking brilliance of architect Pier Luigi Nervi

The Liberty and Art Deco lines of Milan's huge Stazione Centrale

Andrea Palladio - the world's favourite architect

Also on this day:

Feast of the Immaculate Conception marks start of Christmas


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