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New Name, New Era

The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana (also known as 'The Square Colosseum') is perhaps the most symbolic architectural project during the fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini, who ruled Italy from 1922-1943.

Today, seventy six years later, the historical monument hosts one of the biggest fashion houses, Fendi. In 2015, the ancient Colosseum, became the headquarters for Fendi after an 18-month renovation. The move marked the fashion house’s 90th anniversary, as well as creative director Karl Lagerfeld’s 50th year with the company.

History of the Square Colosseum

The white marble “square colosseum” was intended to be the centerpiece of Mussolini's new Roman empire fantasy and was widely regarded as one of the greatest examples of fascist architecture. The six-storey monumental was designed by Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Bruno La Padula and Mario Romanoas in 1942 for the world exhibition, yet due to the events of the Second World War, never functioned as originally intended.

For the fashion brand, the decision to base its new HQ in the palazzo is a symbol of the company’s commitment to its native Rome. It is also restoring the city’s Trevi Fountain. It calls the palazzo a “symbol of Italian creativity, genius and craftsmanship”.

Since Fendi CEO Pietro Beccari joined the company seven years ago, one of his goals had been to unify its offices and design studio, which have long been separated in different parts of the city, under a single roof. Today, after an 18-month renovation, Fendi’s new HQ accommodates hundreds of employees and offer a ground-floor bookstore and gallery, both open to the public.

Criticism over the move to the Palazzo

Fendi's move to the Palazzo has been met with mixed opinions.  Paolo Nicoloso, an architectural historian, said the building, which was designed in 1937 and opened in 1940, is undoubtedly linked to Italy’s fascist past.

In an article written for the Architectural Review, Owen Hatherley also stated that “The architecture of the era can be interesting and attractive, but its values were deeply sick," he continued. "It is right that its architecture remain tainted."

Fendi, on the other hand, has rejected accusations of political insensitivity after opening its new headquarters in a building regarded as the most iconic symbol of the country’s fascist era.

According to Fendi’s chief executive Pietro Beccari believes that it is these views that are doing Rome's future a disservice. "Rome is on the verge of explosion," he said. "It will become a real European capital. Let's talk about what is right and what works rather than what is not right in Italy. It is too reductive or diminishing to say that people should not profit or praise the beauty of this [building], because people do." – “Fendi Fashion House Relocates to the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana in Rome” (10.2015) - “Fendi moves headquarters into iconic Mussolini-commissioned building” (10.2015) – “Fendi Relocates To A Roman Palace” (07.2013) – “Fendi Moves Its Headquarters To Rome’s Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana” (06.2015) - “Fendi rejects criticism over new HQ in Mussolini propaganda building” (10.2015) - “Inside Fendi’s New Headquarters in Rome, an Icon of Fascist Architecture” – (10.2015)