Giuseppe Terragni, (ex) Casa del fascio (1928-1936)
The initial idea and actual design of Terragni’s Casa del Fascio occurred in two different moments: the first blueprints dated back to the end of the twenties, while the final plans and the construction of the building during the first half of the thirties. Thanks to its function – one of the headquarters of the PNF (National Fascist Party) – the building soon became a disputed emblem of the Fascist government. Built in the city centre of Como, not far from the cathedral, it was supposed to be the modern heart of the city, geometrically shaped according to the Rationalist style. A regular parallelepiped built on an almost perfectly square-shaped land (33.25 X33.15 metres) and four-floors high, it has a reinforced concrete shell covered by Botticino marble surfaces. The transparent entrance (18 glass panels) leads to the main hall, the heart of the building: a huge double-height hall around which all the other rooms (offices, a library, archives and a sacrarium) are located. In order to accomplish this parallelepiped, Terragni cooperated with the artists Mario Radice, who was in charge of the interior, and Mauro Nizzoli, who was responsible for the main façade, though his metallic plaques painted with key Fascist events were never put in place. The building now hosts the offices of Guardia di Finanza (Italian finance police).
The Spatial Construction of the New Man’s Urban Reality
Narrative Rationalization: Staging a Collective Spectacle
The double, conflicting nature of Casa del Fascio – then Palazzo Terragni – is well expressed within Ciucci’s words: 'marbles and glass fulfil a symbolic function, strengthening the dual character of the building, which is traditional and modern' ('Marmi e vetro adempiono anche a una funzione simbolica, rafforzando il duale carattere tradizionale e moderno dell’edificio'; Ciucci 1996, 400). Erected in the central part of the city of Como over a long period, with several interruptions due to technical and financial problems (the total amount was 2.900.000 lire), Casa del fascio is one of the most significant expressions of the mature language of its architect, Giuseppe Terragni. Initially conceived at the same time as Novocomum, in its definitive version (1932-1936) Casa del Fascio is distinct in style from Terragni’s residential building: first of all, black-and-white spaces and decorated environments are preferred to the vivid colours of Novocomum, and it hosted public offices (the local headquarters of the Fascist party) rather than private apartments/residences.
Having designed every part of this ‘architectural machine’ from the general concept to the window fixtures and the furniture, Terragni is the ideator of a complex space, at the same time practical and iconic. The whole building is in fact charged with metaphorical meanings and, in a way, can be considered an architectural journey through time. Being an accessible place with a public purpose, it could be said to have recalled an ancient ‘foro romano’ where people used to go for economic, social and political reasons.Having reshaped the configuration of the historical city centre, Casa del fascio is visually and idealistically correlated with the Duomo. The two of them, together, reunite the most influential powers – political and religious – within an urban space, potentially recreating a Medieval square. What is more, Casa del fascio is the Rationalist interpretation of a Renaissance palace: in other terms, it is a modern, representative space that needs to be severe, elegant, well-organised but also open to the city. The emphasis on openness and transparency clearly echoed Mussolini’s motto 'fascism is a glass house where everyone can and must look at' ('Il fascismo è una casa di vetro dove tutti possono e devono guardare'). Born to be the political point of reference of a ‘secondary city’, far from the most politically powerful centres such as Milan or Rome, Casa del fascio was nonetheless a central space for the local community. It was a ‘collective house for the people’, a landmark for the inhabitants of Como, and soon became a recognised symbol of the city. Its paradigmatic identity has been so strong and resistant throughout the years that, despite many attempts to change its name, it is still commonly referred to as Casa del fascio.
Ciucci, Giorgio (ed.). 1996. Giuseppe Terragni 1904-1943. Milan: Electa.
Marcianò, Ada Francesca. 2008. Giuseppe Terragni. Opera completa 1925-1943. Rome: Officina edizioni.
Schumacher, Thomas L. 2006. L’immagine della ragione. La Casa del fascio di Giuseppe Terragni (1932-1936). Como: Nodo Libri.Casa del fascio di Giuseppe Terragni (1932-1936)*. Como: Nodo Libri.