It's tucked in the hills above the Palazzo Farnesina, the massive Fascist-era building that now serves as the nation's foreign policy center, but was once Fascist Party headquarters.
Less monumental but perhaps more striking, the Villino Colli della Farnesina hugs the street by the same name (no. 144). The community is gated, but open for a tour on this particular Sunday, the 2nd day of the 5th edition of Open House Roma.
|A gated community, but even the gate is cool brutalism.|
|The front. Impressive verticality,|
deteriorating concrete below.
majestic, still. As our knowledgeable guide Elisa explained, the front of the building, despite its obvious weight, manages to project an impressive verticality, while, as we shall see, the back emphasizes the horizontal.
|Cantilevered front canopy, now supported by posts.|
The enormous, cantilevered canopy over the front entrance has suffered significant decay--its reinforcing steel bars (rebar) revealed here--to the point where it no longer can be depended on to hold itself up, and is now supported by construction posts. That condition is likely permanent, since it seems doubtful that the building's owners would elect to finance the kind of high-tech reconstruction used to reinforce the sagging balcony at Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater in Pennsylvania.
|Framed in red, that's the front, glass, door, hinged in|
|The Berarducci studio|
|Concrete-framed hole lets in light, lightens load.|
The Berarducci studio, now occupied by the architect's son--also an architect--is on the floor below, entirely below ground level but lit from the end by a large window that looks out onto a sloping garden, and by a large, round hole (in concrete, of course) that drops down into a square glass container with white stones below. It not only brings in natural light, but lightens the load on the roof of the studio.
Berarducci (1924-1992) is described in the literature as "schivo" (secretive), and he spent most of his later years in this studio, avoiding theoretical debates while focusing on design and construction.
A stone path meanders around the east side of the building, revealing a projection that from inside seems to have no other purpose that to give the building shape and complexity.
|Exterior projection right, in the trees.|
|Interior view/result of the exterior projection, above.|
A visit to a top floor apartment, originally Berarducci's, allows us to appreciate those balconies from inside, where the great expanses maintain their elegance.
The front door opens onto a very large, essentially square living room, slightly sunken; it reminded us of Don Draper's apartment in the Mad Men television series. It's been poorly decorated--the remaining furniture is
|Showmanship in Concrete|
|A not-so-spectacular view of the living room, looking inward.|
Bad art, bad decoration.
|Church of San Valentino in the Olympic Village.|
Berarducci's influences include Le Corbusier, Pier Luigi Nervi (his teacher at the university, where he graduated in 1950), Victor Morpungo, with whom he collaborated on the Torre Spaccato quartiere, Mario De Renzi, and postwar Scandinavian architects. Most of his work was residential, including Rome palazzine in Via Cavalier D'Arpino and Via S. Giovanna Elisabetta. He is perhaps best known for the church of San Valentino, in the Olympic Village (1962) and, especially, for the RAI center on Via Mazzini, apparently--though this is difficult to believe--the first all-steel structure in Rome.
The most famous concrete building in Rome is Nervi's Palazzetto dello Sport, on RST's Top 40.
For more on concrete, see Adrian Forty, who lectured on the topic this year at the American Academy in Rome and has inspired RST to do more posts on this topic.