Saturday, August 30, 2008

EUR Rocks Roma

One of my strangely favourite places in Roma to visit is EUR (Esposizione Universal Roma, originally called E42), the fascist Mussolini built sector of Roma about a half hour by train from Termini Stazione (Roma).

Centro Storico, the Colloseum, Spanish Steps etc etc can get a bit overwhealming with tourists, traffic and the general hubbub of life, so a great antidote to this is a trip out to EUR which generates an eerie feeling of calm and quiet on a grandiose scale. It seems to be the antithesis of ancient Rome which tourists flock to see, something I found interesting as EUR also holds an important historical place as well, much more recent and perhaps clouded by issues of a fascist Italian government and shades of Nazi Germany and WW2. But, apart from that dark, comparitively recent history (bearing in mind there were some pretty bloody goings on in ancient Rome, the Colloseum etc), it is an amazing place to visit, architecturally speaking, and there were long stretches of me walking around, drawing, taking photos, contemplating where I didn't see another soul, as some of these photos attest.

EUR is a bright, vast, open architectural situation as most of it is built in white marble and stone, with very minimal, modernist stylings punctuated by the odd colourful, modernist mosaic... very pleasant on the eye (though many think otherwise) and senses after the barrage of ancient Roma. Comparitively it feels like a ghost town, althought there is a couple of museums and alot of people do work/live out there, but on the day I visited it seemed oddly empty and somewhat decrepit.... here's a bit of historical info:
EUR was started in 1935 by Benito Mussolini and planned to open in 1942 to celebrate twenty years of Fascism. In urban planning terms, E42 was designed to direct the expansion of the city towards the south-west, connecting it to the sea. The planned exhibition never took place due to World War II.
The most representative building of the "Fascist" style at EUR is Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana (see photo at the top) (1938-1943), an iconic project which has since become known as the "Colosseo Quadrato" (Square Colosseum).
After the war, the Roman authorities found that at EUR they already had the beginnings of an out-of-town business district that other capitals did not begin planning until decades later (London Docklands and La Defense in Paris).
During the 1950s and 1960s the unfinished Fascist-era buildings were completed, and other new buildings were constructed in not dissimilar styles for use as offices and government ministries, set in large gardens and parks. Many Italians consider EUR sterile and lacking in character, but many expatriates from North America choose to live there because it is conveniently close to the old city but with newer buildings and infrastructure, is close to the main international airport, and is easily accessible by car. It is also served by Line B of the Rome Metro and Roma-Lido.

So, when in Rome...

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