Building Power: Italy's Colonial Architecture and Urbanism, 1923-1940

Essay Excerpt

Before turning to the architects' texts themselves, this article examines the ideological setting in which the debates regarding the colonies took place. First, I discuss some of the claims made by the colonial expansionist movement about the colonization of Libya, as well as the different ideology that colored the colonization of Ethiopia. Next I describe the debates-contemporaneous with those concerning the nature of colonial architecture in Libya-involving the nature, meaning, and especially the form of Fascist architecture.

Then I discuss the Italian colonial architectural discourse in three periods that to breaks and reorientations of that discourse in the architectural correspond journals:(1) from 1923 to 1928, when the topics were principally archaeology, geography, and architectural history, and the extent to which were useful in the colonial enterprise; (2) from 1929, when the nature of colonial architecture emerged as the dominant concern, to 1936, when the shift to a discourse of planning began to occur; and (3) from 1937 to 1940, when the new questions of colonial urbanism became fully pronounced. I am primarily interested in the strikingly different treatments in these journals of Libya, a space for the realization of modernita, and of Ethiopia, where it is barely even mentioned. (Fuller, 456)

About the Author

Mia Fuller, Ph.D. Berkeley, is Associate Professor of Italian Studies. She is a cultural anthropologist who has combined fieldwork and archival research in her studies of architecture and city planning in the Italian colonies between 1869 and 1943. Her book on the subject, Moderns Abroad: Architecture, Cities, and Italian Imperialism, was published by Routledge in 2006. She is also the co-editor (with Ruth Ben-Ghiat) of Italian Colonialism: A Reader (Palgrave, 2005). Currently, she is preparing an ethnographic, architectural, and oral-historical study of the 'New Towns' built in 1930s Italy.

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