Dome of St Peter's Church in Rome
Art and culture

The history of Rome in five architects

June 27, 2022

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The complexity and grace of Rome’s basilicas, aqueducts and amphitheatres showcase the city’s journey from ancient to modern times. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and here we discover five architects whose influence has led to the city’s architectural legacy.

Giuseppe Valadier (1762-1839)

Neo-classical designer, urban planner and archaeologist Valadier is renowned for his unique geometric buildings adorned with Baroque details, best visible in his work at Villa Torlonia. This complex features buildings reflective of the elegant design of the late 18th century, complemented by gardens heralding the symmetrical landscapes typical of Italian design of the time. One of Valadier’s most prominent works is a clock on the façade of the largest bell tower in St Peter’s Basilica. While many of his works were unfinished, his contributions in the restoration of the Colosseum and Arch of Titus remain intrinsic to Rome’s history.

Villa Torlonia, 70 Via Nomentana, Rome 00161
St Peter’s Basilica, Piazza San Pietro, Vatican City 00120

Main clock of St Peter's Basilica by Giuseppe Valadier
Aerial view of Foro Italico sports complex in Rome

Enrico Del Debbio (1891-1973)

Architect and professor Del Debbio’s most famous design is the Foro Italico sports complex, previously known as Foro Mussolini. Originally built for the 1940 Olympic Games – which were cancelled due to World War II – the arena has hosted international events such as the 1960 Summer Olympics and the 1990 FIFA World Cup. The periphery of the stadium is dotted with 60 white marble statues of athletic males to promote the discipline of sports and Italian craftsmanship. Over the years, the complex has expanded to include more facilities and buildings designed by master architects such as Luigi Moretti.

Viale del Foro Italico, Rome 00135

Ernesto Bruno La Padula (1902-1968)

La Padula was a member of the Italian movement for Rationalist architecture, which was anchored in symmetry and structure in a time of ornate classical architecture. His most famous work, Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, or ‘Square Colosseum,’ features six rows of superimposed arches. Commissioned by Benito Mussolini to serve as a symbol of the Fascist regime, the building was designed collaboratively alongside architects Giovanni Guerrini and Mario Romano. Since 2015, the property has served as the headquarters for Italian luxury fashion brand, Fendi. The first floor is open for exhibitions honouring Italian art and history.

3 Quadrato della Concordia, Rome 00144

Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana in Rome
Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome

Renzo Piano (1937-present)

Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Piano believes that his designs should always tell a story. At the helm of some of the world’s most iconic buildings, including The Shard in London and the New York Times building in Manhattan, Piano is behind the design of Parco della Musica Auditorium in Rome. The Roman auditorium complex consists of three contemporary music venues which seem to hover over the surrounding greenery, designed around an outdoor amphitheatre. Details such as uneven bricks in the interior walls serve as natural sound-absorbers, which builds on Piano’s goal of creating spaces that facilitate artistic interaction.

Via Pietro de Coubertin, Rome 00196

Zaha Hadid (1950-2016)

The first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the late Hadid is renowned for her radical approach to deconstructivist design. Influenced by non-linear styles and a defiance of symmetrical shapes, one of her most famous works is the MAXXI museum, a creative space which depicts the chaos and flows of modern life. Her use of flowing lines is visible in the smooth curved walls of its façade and in the suspended black staircases inside. Within the more classical landscape of Rome, this impressive building stands as an advocate for contemporary art.

4a Via Guido Reni, Rome 00196

Interior of Maxxi museum by Zaha Hadid
Image © Guido Caltabiano

Intrigued by the artistic wonder of Rome? Then embrace the spirit of the city and explore our selection of Rome’s must-see art exhibitions in 2022.

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