The biggest buzz surrounds Expo2015, which is taking place right now in Milan, and everybody is trying to jump on that train. In Rome, among many other initiatives, we have an exhibition at Ara Pacis showing the development of E.U.R., a southern neighbourhood of Rome built to host a similar universal exhibition in 1942, which never took place as Italy entered WW2 in 1940. The exhibition “Esposizione Universale Roma: a new city from Fascism to the 1960s” shows the rise and the development of this monumental neighbourhood, in step with Classical Rome but looking into modernity.
For me, this exhibition was a great occasion to discover a district I’ve always known very little about. Moreover, it inspired the following ‘street photo shooting’ and it feels like a good pretext to show you a secret spot I’ve recently fallen in love with, a spontaneous corner within the highly rationalist district of E.U.R.
The area of E.U.R. (which stands for Esposizione Universale Roma) originated from the Fascist project of celebrating the success of the regime with a universal exhibition in Rome in 1942.
The regime wanted to create an ‘ideal city’, which was modern and celebratory; quoting Marcello Piacentini, the official architect of the Fascist regime, “the largest buildings of the Exposition, which will remain, must together constitute an immense Forum. Imagine standing in the midst of the Roman Forum, among the piazzas, colonnades, landscapes, arches, etc., and viewing in the distance to the left the Coliseum, and in the distance to the right the Campidoglio. An analogous classical vision, though modern, very modern”.
The construction was interrupted by WW2, and after the war the area looked pretty desolated: the partially constructed buildings from the years of the regime were bombed or occupied by the German Army, by the English troops later and later still by refugees and the homeless.
During the 1950s, EUR was reborn as an epicentre of the modern urban development that defined the southward expansion of Rome as far as the sea.
A modern business city and residential neighbourhood, characterized by a lot of green areas, including parks, gardens, a racetrack and even an artificial lake (E.U.R. is still the greenest neighbourhood in Rome).
A lot of private businesses settled in this area, government buildings and museums were set up and elegant villas were designed by leading architects from that time.
When Rome was selected to host the Olympic Games in 1960, several new buildings and infrastructure projects were specifically planned for this big event, which symbolized Rome’s rebirth after the war and recalled the original function of E.U.R.
In the spirit of looking forward, which has always characterized E.U.R., the area is still under construction, constantly reshaping itself through the vision of the most modern architects in Italy. As happened in the past, today there are two ambitious architectural projects ongoing in this district, by two very popular Italian architects: Massimiliano Fuksas and Renzo Piano.
EUR Rome || THE SECRET SPOT
Recently I took part in another urban exploration by Progetto Mamma Roma / DOM. While we were walking around E.U.R. and admiring its rationalist buildings, we suddenly stumbled upon a totally different space, risen from a more spontaneous plan than the surrounding urban structure. It was one of those corners of Rome that are unnoticeable during the everyday routine.
Here, the tweeting of the birds can be heard above the noise of the busy roads, kids play in the courtyards and local people take care of their beautiful allotments, which develops on either sides of a narrow canal.
There is a small pedestrian bridge connecting the unpaved paths on both sides of the canal, and on that bridge we met Mattia Cleri Polidori, a local artist who was showing his etchings.
It all felt very poetic, especially coming there after a long walk among E.U.R.’s white and square buildings and suddenly finding ourselves in a place where time had stopped and life flowed slower, following the natural cycles.
Find these and many cool spots in my Rome Google Map!
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