Italian fashion icon Fendi recently opened its new headquarters in a building that many Italians associate with fascism.
The company recently relocated to the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana. The building in Rome is a white marble “square colosseum” that once served as a major base for former fascist Italian ruler Benito Mussolini.
The company has renovated the building, and they have no problems in making it their headquarters despite its association with a troubling period of Italy’s history. The building has been largely abandoned since the end of World War II.
CEO Pietro Beccari said, “For me it is a non-issue. For the Romans it is a non-issue. For Italians it is a non-issue. This building is beyond a discussion of politics. It is aesthetics. It is a masterpiece of architecture. To rebuild it today would cost more than €500m (about $550 million). For Italians and for Romans, it is completely de-loaded; empty of any significance of that period. There was no political activity that took place here. We never saw it through the lens of fascism."
The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana is 70 years old, and the move by Fendi marks the first time that the building has been utilized by a company. Fendi claims that the building is representative of both their fashion brand and native Rome.
However, historians tend to view the building differently, remembering the times of old.
Architectural historian Paolo Nicoloso said, “Fascism governed with Romanity, which held that there is a continuity between the (ancient) Rome that ruled the world and fascism, that wanted to at least dominate the Mediterranean. From the propaganda perspective it worked well. Fascism collapsed a year later, but in that moment it had an impact, and even after. It gives an image of a fascism that built buildings."
Most people are fine with Fendi using the building, as long as the company maintains its historic design. The team that renovated the building for Fendi emphasized the fact they kept the original architecture on the building intact.
Still, the move has attracted some criticism from people who feel that the move was politically insensitive.
Architect Owen Hatherley wrote in an article, “It propounds a notion of ’good taste’ that is deeply similar to that of the fashion industry. (It’s) shamelessly elitist, willfully sinister, hierarchical, Classical, its apparent minimalism belied by an obsession with the finest possible material and the severest cut.”
The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana originally opened in 1937 during the regime of Benito Mussolini. It was going to be featured in planned world fair in 1942, but that was cancelled because of the war.