WIf you want to understand a foreign city and its inhabitants, then it’s not the worst idea to look at the entrances to its buildings. A house entrance does something to its residents: there is a difference whether you enter the world in the morning through a black corridor with brown steamed mirrors or through a bright hall with terrazzo floors. If you want to understand Rome, you usually start in the center, between the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona. But there is another Rome, without which one cannot understand this city and the Romans: modern Rome.
From 1951 to 1971, in the decades of the Italian economic miracle, the population grew by over a million people, and construction had to be done to accommodate them. Everything a modern, growing city needs was built on the Grande Raccordo Anulare, the urban highway that runs seven miles around ancient Rome: universities, shopping centers, office districts, libraries, swimming pools, new market halls and social housing. This is how modern Rome emerged after the war – and what was built there was often of a surprisingly high architectural quality. One type of house particularly stands out from this architecture from the years after 1945.
For the upper middle class, who couldn’t afford a villa but also didn’t want to simply move into an apartment in a normal residential complex, a new housing typology was developed in the 1920s, which flourished after the war – the “Palazzine”, four to five-story townhouses with large, comfortable residential units. The architects were able to draw on the full scope of their design.
Borromini’s influence on Italy’s avant-garde
Italian modernism deserves special attention. Because unlike in Germany, where the Dessau Bauhaus with its sparse, clinically white boxes developed an architectural language that was, so to speak, Protestant-reduced and noticeably aimed at efficiency and cost savings, Italian modernism was based on the tradition of the Baroque, the architectural forms of antiquity with their mosaics and terrazzo floors and Marble facades are often closer to Central German reductionist functionalism. Anyone who has ever stood in front of Innocenzo Sabbatini’s residential complex with integrated theater built in 1927 in the modern garden city of Garbatella can clearly see the influence of Borromini’s Baroque on Italy’s avant-garde architecture; Anyone who looks at Angiolo Mazzoni’s wonderful post office in Sabaudia with its fine blue mosaic facade can feel the legacy of ancient Roman architecture.
Italy’s modernism was a lavish movement characterized by the dynamism of the Futurists; This is also impressively demonstrated by the photo book “Beautiful Games” published by Steidl Verlag. Roman Entrances”, in which the architectural photographer Heiner Thofern, who is a lawyer and diplomat in his day job, devotes himself to the entrances to modern Roman houses. For years he walked through a different Rome than the one that tourists know – because this tourist Rome only covers a fraction of the area of the Italian capital, and only 125,000 of Rome’s 2.8 million inhabitants lived there, writes Thofern in his foreword. His book shows Mediterranean modernity in a new light and makes you want to wander through this unknown Rome yourself.