16 September 2020
Ghirardo, Diane. “Politics of a Masterpiece: The Vicenda of the Decoration of the Façade of the Casa Del Fascio, Como, 1936-39.” The Art Bulletin, vol. 62, no. 3, 1980, pp. 466–478.
This article is a history of a series of failed attempts to decorate the facade of Como’s Ex Casa del Fascio, an Italian Rationalist building intended to be the local headquarters of the National Fascist Party in the 1930s. The building, designed by architect Giuseppe Terragni, is famous for its unornamented geometric white marble facade. This article walks the reader through the various competitions, designs, discussions, personality clashes and bureaucratic stalemates surrounding the Fascist Party’s desire to add ornamentation - either through sculpture or photomontage - in order to convey more specifically the party’s political messages and communicate more directly with its people. In the end, no ornamentation was added. We learn that this had more to do with delay caused by paper pushing coinciding with the end of World War II than it had to do with any overall aesthetic judgement. Today, the building is widely appreciated for its restraint and minimalism. This article hints at the fact that its reputation may have taken a different path with a different facade.
How does this article relate to scenography?
This article does not relate directly to theater or stage design. However, the Ex Casa del Fascio is a well-known site of political theater and is important in terms of statecraft and public performance. Additionally, this article raises interesting questions about ornamentation and political expression through design. Lastly, this article chronicles the nuts and bolts of a failed attempt by a group of collaborators to realize a design “improvement” and would be interesting to designers of all stripes.