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Terragni: Casa del Fascio

Posted by Ciro Ianniello on November 2, 2016
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Piazza del Popolo, 4

Inserted into a rectangular lot, the building occupies only a part, freeing up the front portion, the Piazza del Popolo, in fact the slab on which it emerges.

Cornerstone of modern architecture, represents the synthesis of cultural matrices seemingly irreconcilable: the traditional type of urban palace beside the explicit display of the building system grid reinforced concrete.

The final design takes shape around a compact body on four floors, from the square, with a large central hall with double height, lit from above by a flat roof tile of glass blocks. A perimeter, are all areas of study and meeting, facing facades on isolate.

The prism is covered with white marble; the four sides, with no contributions decorative, are treated independently of each other, with different openings and scores that leave ample room for the exhibition of the structural grid of columns and beams.

The square outside is the outdoor space that permeates the building, it becomes a natural extension of the central courtyard through the stairway to the lobby, at least ideally seamless. The large glass surfaces, in this sense, support the continued perception of space, without limitation between inside and outside.

In the perimetric system fit, the right of the entrance, the main staircase, the center of the distribution system in the gallery that takes place around the central courtyard, and the shrine on the left.

The first floor is distinguished by the gallery hallway that connects the offices of the Political Secretariat, the hall of the Executive Board, the office of the political secretary. At the second level, other offices, the administration, the library. On the floor of the attic, reached by a staircase secondary, are distributed through loggias, block intended for university groups, the archive and the caretaker’s.

The statements comply, to the hierarchy between the main front and side views, the relationship with the surroundings. On the square the facade is characterized by a large porch, emptying out the ascending lines of pillars and the transverse beams.

The construction, which began in July, 1933, was defined during the work with some substantial changes of the external surfaces; in particular, the covering in marble slabs and large areas settled in glass blocks along the perimeter and towards the central courtyard.

With the revision of prospects, were also changed the windows, originally planned all iron, then complemented by wooden shutters.

Historical Information

We are in the period between the twenties and thirties of this century, the season in which the Mussolini dictatorship collected the highest approval and increasingly sought to spread its control over the territory. Thus promoted the creation of the “Casa del Fascio”, which were to supplant the speakeasies where the members of the party initially came together, becoming the party headquarters, after work, youth education and also a means of propaganda. In the same years, we are however also in the heart of the debate for the development of modern architecture in Italy, of which Giuseppe Terragni (1904-43) is one of the protagonists. Graduated in October 1926 at the Polytechnic of Milan, was one of the promoters of the Group 7 (with L. Frette, S. Larco, G. Pollini, E. Rava and U. Castagnoli, later replaced by A. Free), participating the drafting of the manifesto of Italian rationalism. Terragni declares himself loyal to fascism, because idealistically believed in the words of the leader; also in his regime, in his own interest, must advocate the modern and not fall into a totalitarian rhetoric. Is configured so the paradox of an architecture heretical, essentially fascist, commissioned by fascism itself. In fact, as early as 1928-29 the residential block of “Novacomum” (the Ocean liner, as it is called today in Como) had raised a revolt had been built illegally, in derogation of the project approved by the municipal authorities; and the large cylindrical digging in the corners, repeating a form of Soviet Constructivism, obviously abhorred by hierarchs.

In his Casa del Fascio, despite the celebratory theme programmatically, there is no shadow of totalitarian rhetoric: no reference to the “Roman Empire”, no Fascist tower, no arengario (speech balcony) for speeches of the leader. His style is that of European rationalism, Le Corbusier, Gropius, Mies van der Rohe. Great suffering endured during the war campaign in Russia and a consequent depression and mental confusion incurable determined the end, in forty years, the best Italian contemporary artist. On him and all the modern movement in general, the Party will fall indiscriminate censorship.

In 1928 the first project of the Casa del Fascio of Como, scheduled on a different area to the one on which it will be realized. Contemporary to Novocomun, it takes substantially the same characters marked by modernity.

Between 1928 and 1932, the preliminary design which followed the realization, were elaborate different solutions, plant much more traditional, mainly motivated by the need to get – how to Novocomun – the building permit from the municipality . Among the different solutions of prospects, are kept in Terragni designs traceable to a comprehensive study with plants at all levels.

After the attempt put in place in October and November 1930, did not go through, to buy the seat of the Italian Credit order to set up the house of the Casa del Fascio of the table, in 1932 the federal secretary Egidio Proserpio to renew the appointment of Giuseppe Terragni design of the building, within a national program of construction of venues for local party organizations.

Parallel in the country, the issue of the type of Casa del Fascio became central in the ongoing debate on modern architecture.

The lot was made available by the city of Como in 1933. The area of 870 square meters, proved insufficient and was extended until reaching the square of just over 33 meters, then fully occupied building. They were then to materialize the conditions for the construction of a building that was to establish a dialogue with the surrounding urban fabric. Free fronts in an area characterized by the imposing backdrop of mountains, lush vegetation and quilted buildings up to the top of Brunate, and the large square on which stands isolated architecture of the Cathedral; a new space, the square of the Empire, which was to become the political heart of the city.

The master plan was accepted by the local federation, with Terragni ever vigilant lest his solutions were not dated in years subsequent, in deference to the opposition gained around the excessive modernity of his conception of architecture.

Difficult to reconstruct the design process from the initial solutions to the project realized; many designs unearthed and published represent only the evolution of prospects.

In the summer of 1935, skipped two dates (October 28, 1934 and May 24, 1935) fixed for the inauguration, the federal secretary Ernesto Carugati, called by the secretary Roman justify delays and cost increases, indicated the responsibility of the designer for ” slowness of the work due to continuous technical difficulties resulting from the nature of the project. ”

In November, the Secretary informed that Rome, to work a long way from completion, was busy with some local federation, even before the City Council grant the habitability.

Special Thanks

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