Some time ago one of our readers--we'll call him Mr. X (if, indeed, he is a man), responded to a piece we had written on Brutalist architecture. What set off Mr. X was our statement that "There isn't much brutalism in Rome and environs."
"WTH?" began Mr. X. "The entire 544 ATAC bus line is nothing but Roman Brutalism. I invite you to visit here and ride it with me. Get off, take a look at Balsamo Crivelli and tell me the entire facility isn't classic Brutalist architecture. La Questura headquarters at Serenissima station as well. All of post-Fascist Rome is as Brutalist as it comes. How can you have missed it? Dear God, come see it! Rome is almost entirely Brutalist. Look at her government architecture. I live here!"
What we did find is the subject of this post. But first a little background on Brutalism. As used by scholars, the term Brutalism refers to an architectural movement of the mid-1950s through the 1970s. The word Brutalism derives from the French term beton brut (raw concrete), the material identified with Brutalism. Buildings made with raw, unfinished, and uncovered concrete often have a fortress-like feel and appearance. Then there are the "brick brutalists," who combine detailed brickwork with concrete.
|Some of the post-1960 apartment buildings that line Viale della Serenissima. "Brutal" perhaps--that's a matter of|
taste--but not Brutalist.
|To our knowledge, the only Brutalist|
structure in Serenissima.
And Balsamo Crivelli has one, maybe two. Nor did we find much raw concrete on the ride between the two suburbs.
|The Autostrade HQ, ahead center right.|
standard, government-issue late modernism, but it isn't Brutalism.
|All concrete all the time. Brutalist. The Soviet look.|
Both places have plenty of large apartment buildings, many of them without distinction, some of them downright ugly. Most are not Brutalist, but the one on the left, above, is.
|Corviale-esque in its length and sameness. But unlike Corviale, it's not concrete.|
|Looks like "projects." You might not want to live there, but it's not Brutalism.|
|Amidst all those big apartment buildings and "projects," this|
elegant coffee/wine bar. Estro, Viale della Serenissima 67
|One of the ends of the "U"|
|Ground level shops, now mostly abandoned, swallowed|
by the concrete pit.
It's both Brutalist and brutal--one of the ugliest interior courtyards ever designed. The architect expected that the space just above the parking area--the ground floor of the apartments--would be lined with shops. But they're mostly gone, victims of that concrete pit below.
According to one source, Brutalist structures often express in the most obvious way "the main functions and people flows of the buildings." That's what is happening here. From the street one can see where people live, where they are expected to shop, and--especially in this case--where they'll park.
RST would like to thank "Mr. X" for his comment; for helping us work out some of the issues; for getting us into two interesting and seldom-visited neighborhoods, both remarkably close to central Rome; and for leading us to that new wine bar. Now if only we can find the Questura.