Walk up the street, toward the piazza (beware motorists turning left!) and enjoy the interesting section of the wall and a bunch of columns in front of it (we have no explanation for this craziness, except it's eclectic Rome at its best).
Another important feature is the substantial, open, steel cornice, referencing Michelangelo's cornice--surely the most famous in the city--for the Palazzo Farnese.
The Sorgente Group, which has owned the building since 2006, claims that La Rinascente "is considered the best example of the setting of a modern building within the historical context of the city." Architectural critic Reyner Banham, likely to be less biased, nonetheless shares the Sorgente Group's admiration, while noting the limitations imposed by the era. Albini, he notes, faced severe "cultural restraints." "He was designing a building for a conspicuous site in the history-laden ambiente of Rome, at a time when the historical nerve of most Italian architects had failed almost completely (these were the years of Neoliberty nostalgia)."
Descending on the escalators, you should know that these were installed in 2011 by the firm of Tim Power Architects, perhaps replacing an elevator. The Tim Power firm makes much of this makeover, emphasizing the importance of redoing the building's circulation so that customers could reach the upper floors rapidly and without waiting. (The Power folks even cite starchitect Rem Koolhaas, for whom escalators are a "key metaphor for the expanding city.")
|The Albini/Helg staircase|
It may well be the most sensational staircase in Rome, though modernists will claim that honor for Luigi Moretti's chiocciola in the ex-GIL (a Fascist-era youth center) at the intersection of viale di Trastevere and via G. Induno.
|The Borromini/Maderno staircase|