Angiolo Mazzoni, Colonia Rosa Maltoni Mussolini (1925-1935)
The Colonia Rosa Maltoni Mussolini was a public summer camp located in Calambrone, a Tuscan maritime town not far from Pisa. Designed by the architect Mazzoni in the mid-twenties and completed at the beginning of the thirties, it was inaugurated two years later, only to be enlarged in 1935. Four main bodies – the entrance, the school, the dormitories, one with service and common spaces – and two minors, which were used as receptions,composed this huge, pink building/structure (around 100.000 m3). The plan, axially structured, is composed of two symmetrical sections and flanked by two tall towers which also function as tanks served by an external helicoid stairway. After WWII, when the Ministry of Communications (Ministero delle Comunicazioni) was abolished, the Colonia was shared between the Ministry of Posts and Telegraph (Ministero delle Poste e dei Telegrafi) and the Ministry of Transport (Ministero dei Trasporti), who took responsibility for modifying the building to their needs. In the 1960s it was used once again as a summer camp before being definitively abandoned. Recently, it was restored, repainted and partially reconverted into a residential building.
The Spatial Construction of the New Man’s Urban Reality
Narrative Rationalization: Staging a Collective Spectacle
Developed at the end of the 19th century, the architectural typology of the 'colonia' (summer camp), became essential during the Fascist Ventennio, for it was a place where children could safely spend their summer. There, without their families, they were ‘free’ to learn and engage with Fascist principles: the youngest generations – known as ONB, Opera Nazionale Balilla (a name that was used until 1937) – thus had their first approach to a militarised education. Divided into groups of 11 in imitation of the maniples of the ancient Roman legion, they took part in daily physical exercise and rituals, such as parades or flag-raising. The ethos of the summer camps was also connected to the importance the PNF (National Fascist Party) gave to sports and to the athletic body as capable of giving everyone power and, as a consequence, supremacy. Since it seemed that children had to show and expose themselves publicly, the ‘spectacularization’ and the exploitation of childhood was the fundamental idea this ‘militarised holiday’ was based on. In this respect, the Colonia Rosa Maltoni Mussolini was exemplary, even though the architect Mazzoni tried to make it a surreal and magic place, where Fascist symbolism was a subliminally repeated rather than being as literally explicit as it was in other cases.
The ‘Fascistisation’ of this summer camp was evident in a series of different elements. Firstly, the name of the camp is a dedication to Mussolini’s mother, Rosa Maltoni Mussolini, suggesting that the 'colonia itself could substitute the role a mother had in every child’s everyday life. During the summer, the State, with its political-military organisation, played a significant maternal role within the ‘Fascist family’, educating and creating new generations of disciples. The pink colour (in Italian 'Rosa' is a name, but means also ‘pink’) that the architect used for the exteriors was intended to hint at the dematerialisation of the educational experience, which became a magic and almost supernatural dimension. This surreal impression was further increased by two towers served by an external stairway: an architectural element favoured by Mazzoni which he used in other buildings such the helicoid stairway within the Palazzo delle Poste in Pula and the Stazione Termini in Rome. Finally, just to underline the message, the architect applied a 'fascio littorio' decoration throughout the structure. Unlike the Palazzo delle Poste in Palermo, where the 'fascio' is represented as a massive sculpture, in Calambrone it appears in a more discreet stylised and geometrical pattern. The message was still there, not so invasive but clearly legible, and it could be subtly absorbed by the youths’ minds attending the camp.
The forced collectivisation that was Fascism’s goal can also be read in the very structure of the building: a continuous series of volumes – every volume with its own spatial configuration – hosting communal spaces. Everything was designed for group use, from the classrooms to the dormitories (with at least 11 beds), from the kitchens to the refectories. This programme intended to inspire and cement the sense of comradeship that was at the base of the Fascist consensus. The aim of the camp was to instil Fascist ideals in the children who attended, creating a mass base of support and future generations of Fascists.
Cozzi, Paola, Godoli, Mauro, and Ezio Pettenella (eds). 2003. Angiolo Mazzoni (1894-1979). Architetto Ingegnere del Ministero delle Comunicazioni. Milan: Skira.
Forti, Alfredo. 1978. Angiolo Mazzoni. Architetto fra fascismo e libertà. Florence: Edam.