The Coloniality of Italian Fascist Architecture


Emilio Distretti
The Journal of Architecture, 2023

This article traces the modern history of the Piazza di Porta Capena in Rome. It begins with the design of a modernist building for the square by the architects Ridolfi and Cafiero in 1938 created to celebrate the empire of fascist Italy. The building was intended to host the Ministry of the Colonies and to be flanked by an ancient stele looted from Aksum in Ethiopia. With the shift to a new world order after 1945, the building was completed to serve as the headquarters of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. As part of Italy's belated commitment to reparations for colonial crimes, the stele was dismantled and reinstalled in Aksum in 2008. The void thus created in the piazza was filled by a new monument, this time a memorial to the victims of the 9/11 attack in New York in 2001. Through the lens of the ‘coloniality of architecture', this article explores the changing aesthetics of the square, uncovering a history of shared rationalities between Italian fascist colonialism and its afterlife, as forms of government of ‘others'. By investigating the pìazza’s architectural configurations, it assists the re-orientation of narratives around the history of Italian fascist architecture.