The main work I’m doing on Rome is historical – researching the moment spanning the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, when modernity brought about new ways of experiencing time and space, and many working in design, urbanism and conservation intentionally brought history and tradition to bear in creating new work. The making of a “third Rome” – a modern one – was exemplified by the work of Gustavo Giovannoni (1873-1947).  Giovannoni was a Roman architect, engineer, historian, writer, educator and leader of the conservation field. He accomplished a great deal, including the design of new suburbs on Rome's periphery (Garbatella, Montesacro), conservation projects in the center of Rome and around Italy (via dei Coronari, many individual buildings), new architectural works (Peroni brewery complex, Chiesa degli Angeli Custodi) and articulating new norms for conservation theory (as an author of the Athens Charter as well as Italian laws).  Towards the end of his career, Giovannoni, like many in the architectural sphere, was connected to the Fascist regime. This casts a shadow over his significance.  Still, his early work is remarkable for its breadth across scales and modes of design, for his deep engagement with the Roman past, and for his embrace of modernity.

1909 Panorama's of Rome

Two aspects of early 20th century urbanism in Rome – the thick historical deposits celebrated in the Forum (bottom) and the modern space characterized by Tiber as a corridor of circulation, new public buildings like the Palace of Justice, and (in the relative background) great monuments like St. Peter’s and Castel Sant’Angelo.  (Both photographs dated 1909; US Library of Congress’ American Memory website).

Via dei Coronari Diradamento Plan

Source: AAR library
The diagram, published in a 1913 Giovannoni article, conveys his “diradamento” plan for the area encompassing via dei Coronari. The goal was retaining the character and idiosyncrasy of the street – narrow, slightly winding – while creating better-functioning public spaces and circulation routes to other points in the city. He sought to achieve this through a combination of building protection, restoration and demolition; his plans for "thinning" the area were partly realized. 

Tor Sanguigna, Drawing.

Tor Sanguigna, photo, 2013.

Courtesy the author.
Part of Giovannoni’s vision for the thinning of the area where Via dei Coronari meets the top of Piazza Navona included demolition to isolate the medieval Tor Sanguigna – a fairly common conservation strategy, even today.  While some demolition created a small piazza and the broad Via Zanardelli leading to the Palace of Justice across the Tiber, the tower was not totally exposed.

1909 Piano Regolatore Annotated

The 1909 master plan of Rome captures the balance of growing the periphery and the conservation of the Centro—some aspects subtle, some more dramatic. (Source:

Casa Giovannoni

Courtesy the author.
Giovannoni’s own house center. On Rome’s via di San Martino ai Monti, displays his slightly modernized historicism and particular references to Roman architecture. The beveled arch is one of his signature design elements. 

Chiesa degli Angeli Custodi

Courtesy the author.
Giovannoni designed this church (1924) as the centerpiece of the public square in the new garden suburb of Aniene/Montesacro, for which he composed the plan. The complex of buildings manages to be unmistakably Roman, historically grounded and yet modern – and is perfectly situated urbanistically, anchoring the main square and terminating the view on via Nomentana as it crosses the Aniene. 

Peroni Brewery Complex

Courtesy the author.
Giovannoni designed and constructed a number of buildings for the Peroni Brewery between 1901 and 1913, including icehouse, stables, offices and other industrial facilities. The buildings are beautifully decorated and constructed of reinforced concrete, exemplifying Giovannoni’s interests as both engineer and historian/architect.  The complex is mostly intact today; the buildings house a number of contemporary uses, including offices, shops, a parking garage and part of the MACRO contemporary art museum. 
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