Mussolini’s Roman palazzo is Fendi's new HQ
Mussolini's Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana is now home to the fashion house - more reason to wear black if visiting
Appalling Fascist dictator he may have been but nevertheless Benito Mussolini did commission a number of historically significant buildings. As well as Rome’s wide boulevards the Via dei Fori Imperiale and Via della Conciliazione, he also built post offices, sports facilities for the youth, flats and schools, market halls.
Now, one of the most iconic of these Roman buildings has been transformed into a cathedral to fashion. The monumental Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana was commissioned from architects Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Bruno La Padula and Mario Romano in 1943 – his last year of office - but it was never completed.
Fendi has spent an undisclosed sum on turning the building in the Esposizione Universale Roma district into its new headquarters, a move that coincides with the Italian fashion house’s 90th anniversary. The firm brought in local architect Marco Costanzi to handle the 18-month renovation. The six-storey cuboid building is described as being ‘simplified neoclassicism’ in style, and boasts a grid featuring six-by-nine arches in travertine marble. Mussolini’s aim was to celebrate the Ancient Roman Colosseum.
On the ground floor, each arch contains a statue representing a practice, industry or trade including: history, mathematics, painting and architecture - heroism is even represented. These were added in 1942. Visitors will pass by these figures into a free gallery space – the first time the general public has ever been allowed into the palazzo. Until now, it's only been possible for most to view the building as it has been depicted on the silver screen, in films such as Peter Greenaway’s 1987 movie, The Belly of an Architect.
Costanzi, who designed Fendi’s showroom in Rome, had some original details to preserve, such as the marble stairways and floors. The changes he has made are to accommodate Fendi’s 450 staff in a modern workplace setting. If you like what you see and you're a fan of luxurious fashion environments you should spend some time leafing through the pages of our new Grace Coddington book, Grace: Thirty Years of Fashion at Vogue.