Departmental Research Seminar: Wednesday 20 January

‘Fascist Fountains’

Dr Lara Pucci
(University of Nottingham)

Wednesday 20 January
Barber Institute Lecture Theatre

Fontana della Sfera Foro Mussolini.jpg

‘In his Ascension Day Speech in May 1927, Mussolini presented the modern, industrial city as a site of contamination and sterility. With concerns about population directly linked to the regime’s imperial ambitions, this speech set the stage for the demographic and pro-rural policies that would be framed by the concept of bonifica or reclamation. What began as an agricultural campaign to convert malarial marshland into arable soil became a flexible concept applicable to the regime’s campaigns to boost wheat production (bonifica agraria), to increase the birth rate (bonifica umana), and to purge Italian culture of foreign influences (bonifica della cultura). Central to Fascism’s regenerative project, bonifica came to represent the regime’s ‘desire to purify the nation of all social and cultural pathology’ (Ben-Ghiat, 2001). This paper will relate this discourse of cleansing to the case of public fountains integrated as sculptural elements within regenerative architectural schemes, such as the flagship new town of Littoria in the reclaimed Pontine Marshes, and the Foro Mussolini sports complex in Rome. As symbols of purification and regeneration, the fountains are read as concrete manifestations of the multivalent concept of bonifica. Stylistic, material, and architectural qualities will be considered in relation to the themes of modernism, historicism, nationalism, and imperialism. Finally, given the centrality of bonifica for Fascism’s discourse of modernity, the fountains are read, metonymically, as emblems of national rebirth and of the wider fascist project.’

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