A quick walk down the hill this afternoon with the other preservation Fellow and a couple architecturally tolerant colleagues to see this–the Gioventù Italiana del Littorio by Luigi Moretti. Moretti was a Roman native, born in 1907, and he came up through the city’s Royal School of Architecture. Timing, of course, is everything, and as one of the brightest stars in the country during the peak of the Fascist movement he ended up becoming Mussolini’s primary architect. His best known fascist work is in the Foro Italico, but he designed this local headquarters for the Fascist Youth Organization in Trastevere in 1933.
It’s hard, of course, to separate the building from the politics, but it’s easy to read the confusion of the era into this facade in particular. Is it International Style? Art Deco? Classical? All three, and then some, of course. Moretti was clearly an accomplished stylist–the building hangs together despite trying to bridge the monumental ambitions of the regime and the fashionable tastes of the moment. Sketches for this facade show the entrance as a large triumphal arch (the inscription, somewhat chillingly, reads something like “if you want to win, you have to fight”), but obviously a cooler, more moderne aesthetic ruled.
Inside, the international style won out–Moretti designed some really lovely spiral stairs, and this one is superb. Nervi, of course, had just done the widely publicized stairs at the Florence Stadium, but the concrete spiral goes all the way back to Perret, who did them in his Paris work twenty years before. (is the Trastevere building open to the public? It is not, and this was confirmed to us about ten seconds after that photo by a couple of very polite but insistent workers–the building is still an active gym, though, so the morning workout may be a way in…)
The rest of the exterior, once you’re past the monumental tower, follows the interior’s lead. International Style and streamlined Art Deco, but with details of travertine and an occasional nod toward the stripped-down classicism that was becoming the Fascist’s signature style.
Moretti was prosecuted after the war and served time in jail for his support of the Fascists, but eventually founded a development company that built housing throughout Italy in the 1950s.
Nervi connection? Sure. Moretti was the architect for the Tour de Bourse in Montreal, for which Nervi was the engineer. (And, before dying in 1973, Moretti designed the Watergate complex in Washington).
Off to Poland tomorrow for the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures 2013 Symposium. I’ll be presenting some preliminary work as part of a day-long special session on Nervi, in addition to scoping out Max Berg’s awesome Jahrhunderthalle…