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Walking Over Haddon in The Peak District

I confess I'm a fair weather walker, which means I often want to walk on our holidays, but whether we go is always dependent on the weather. I have a Goretex jacket but it's like a talisman. I own it, but I don't want to wear it and I hope vainly that just by having spent so much on it an schlepping it with me that it's going to ward off the rain! As you can see my travel planning involves a good deal of "magical thinking!" In California our cultural exuberance (paired with low standards) means we shamelessly call anything a "hike"  - as if we've scaled Everest in an afternoon. Here in England I'm not sure I even qualify as a "walker" because that denotes a level of seriousness I've failed at previously. Minimally it means you're wearing boots  and have an Ordnance Survey map (and possibly a compass) in your back pocket. I guess I'm more of stroller to be honest and I've blogged about my strolls all over the world; m…

EUR - Mussolini's Architectural Showcase

Seeing sites outside the historic center was one of the things we aimed to do during our three weeks in  Rome and so we headed out to the business district EUR. Work on EUR began in  1938 in preparation for the  the 1942 World's Fair which was eventually cancelled due to the war. This was a showcase for the new Italy and its leader Mussolini, and indeed there remains a frisson of discomfort in admiring these buildings, despite the fact that their modern designs have withstood the test of time.

Essentially the viewer's moral conflict can be summarized by translating the inscription boldly placed on all four sides of the most iconic building know as the Square Colosseum, see photo above. It reads rather grandiosely   "One nation of poets, artists, heroes, saints, thinkers, scientists, navigators and travelers. " In retrospect we can only focus on those who were excluded  from this nation, victimized by fascist sentiment and action, excluded, marginalized or killed, Jews, Gypsies, communists and dissenters of all stripes - including ironically poets, artists, heroes, saints, thinkers, scientists, navigators and travelers. But the building, stripped of their original meanings and repurposed for business (like so many of the ancient buildings you see in Rome) remain extraordinary.
Strangely many of the blogs seem to focus solely on  the Square Colosseum (above), but what is significant about this site is that it is an entire district made up of the original building, government building built later to the original plans and more contemporary business headquarters  that  filled in the site. 
The buildings are hugh and broadly spaced. Often they are designed to be see and approached from multiple sides,  so there  may be no obvious back or front. There is an expansive central boulevard with broad traffic lanes and an enormous piazza at one end. The design is very geometric, with building facing each other, echoing the architectural lines of sight. There is a sense of balance, repetition and classical harmony (albeit rather cold) because nothing is designed to be human scale out here. This is architecture as shock and awe and frankly it still works.
The buildings include the church above with door details below. It feels monolithic, immovable and solid, the message is that this Italy is here to stay.
Not all of the buildings are in great condition, there were a number of homeless people living beneath the arches on in the ground floor of the colonnaded building below. The curvilinear form and classical yet modern styling reminded me of the circus in Bath.
We hoped to see inside the Palazzo Dei Congressi but there was a convention and we were stopped by the guard at the door. 
The modernist rear entrance was marred by parked cars - which seems to be the main obstacle to appreciating any architecture in Rome!
I particularly liked this mid century bas relief version of an obelisk, with a later building behind. I think the obelisk was dedicated to Marconi.
It is hard not to compare EUR, in part, to much later works such as Brasilia or Lincoln Center. Today the district is  crowded with new buildings which were not part of the original plans and cars which are parked haphazardly as you can see above. Clearly no politician can get between the Italian working person, their car and its parking space. These were buildings designed to float in space, to be seen from multiple directions, surrounded by piazzas and boulevards. Today they are hemmed in, imagine a planned showcase like Brasilia now filled in in with no apparent master plan for the design. Perhaps the plan was to dilute the original effect? 
Tip: It's easy to get to by Metro or bus. If you're near the Torre Argentina it's an easy ride on the 30 express bus. We wanted to try the metro and took it back. It's a quicker ride but we had a longer walk back to the flat from the Colosseum stop. Which ever you take it's a flat 1:50 euro one way which is very reasonable. 

If you liked this you might like my post on the Courtauld's Art Deco Palace at Eltham outside London or this post on Finnish Art Nouveau.

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