important architect and urban theorist of the Italian Fascist Regime, Marcello Piacentini, died in
Rome on this day, May 19, in 1960. Born in Rome, he studied architecture at the Regio Istituto di Belle Arti, Rome, from
1901 to 1904 and completed his training with his father, Pio
Piacentini, also an architect.
Piacentini is credited for having devised
the authoritative architectural language for Il Duce: a “simplified neoclassicism” which
took inspiration both from 18th century classical revival and the
more recent Rationalist movement. His mark can be clearly seen in the new
university campus (Università di Roma La Sapienza, 1932) and the E.U.R (Esposizione
Universale di Roma) district. Piacentini
was instrumental in giving vision to Mussolini’s desire to restructure Rome. He
worked on various urban proposals that cleared slums, improved traffic, and rendered visible prominent classical Roman monuments from a distance. To achieve this, he designed straight processional avenues, such as Via
dell’Impero (1932; now Via dei Fori Imperiali) and Via della Conciliazione.
Piacentini’s other notable projects include the urban renovation of Brescia and Livorno, the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia in Reggio
Calabria, and the restoration of the Rome Opera House (1928–1958).
favored agent for the reconstruction of central Rome, Piacentini was the
target of severe criticism for many decades. His work from the Fascist period
is being reconsidered as scholars are reevaluating his architectural and urban
planning projects independently from politics.