In Rome, A Day-long Exploration of Luigi Moretti’s Architecture

Moretti’s Girasole (1949) at Viale B. Buozzi 64. Photo: Michael Waters

Luigi Moretti (1907-1973) is widely considered the most important Italian architect of the 20th century. He produced a massive body of work in the years 1930-1973 in Italy and further afield. Best known to Americans is surely his 1961 Watergate Complex in Washington DC.

On Friday 26 November, a group of more than 20 Academy Fellows and visitors grouped together for a nine hour quest to examine some of Moretti’s most significant pre-war and post-war constructions in Rome. The day concluded with a visit to “Luigi Moretti architetto: Dal razionalismo all’informale”, the inaugural exhibition of MAXXI Architectura, a show which closed 28 November.AAR group at MAXXI Luigi Moretti exhibit with Prof. Francesco Garofalo and Prof. Aldo Aymonino (fourth and fifth from left). Photo: Michael Waters

Sites visited included the Casa della gioventù in Trastevere (1933); modifications to the Porta S. Sebastiano (1940, apartment for Ettore Muti); the exhibit “Luigi Moretti Architetto. Storia, Arte, Scienza” at Accademia di San Luca; the Casa detta il Girasole (1949); Accademia di scherma at Foro Italico [sadly, exterior only] (1936); the base, very possibly by Moretti, of the long-lost ‘Cacciatore’ statue (1936, rediscovered 2009) on the slopes of Monte Mario; at Foro Italico, the Piazzale dell’Impero (1937) and ex-Palestra del Duce (1936); and the visit to Moretti exhibit at MAXXI. Moretti’s work for the Villaggio Olimpico (1960) was the focus of an Academy walk in October.

Mellon Professor Corey Brennan FAAR’88 led the tour for the Academy. Guest presenters on this occasion included Arch. Luigi Prisco (ex-GILTrastevere), dott.ssa Valentina Follo (University of Pennsylvania), Emily Morash (Brown University + AAR), dott. Paolo Pedinelli (CONI), Prof. Aldo Aymonino (Venezia), and Prof. Francesco Garofalo (Pescara). Special thanks also to Arch. Pippo Ciorra and Arch. Esmeralda Valente (MAXXI Architettura) and especially Giusi Faustini (AIG Ostello Foro Italico A. F. Pessina = Foresteria Sud).

AAR Programs Assistant Giulia Barra organized the day trip for the Academy; Donald and Maria Cox Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize Michael J. Waters (Institute of Fine Arts NYU) photographed the site visits.

9.15 AM: Ex-GIL Trastevere. Bottom photo: Corey Brennan (left, speaking) with Arch. Luigi Prisco. Photos: Michael Waters

11.00 AM: Porta San Sebastiano (= Museo delle Mura), in the ex-apartment of PNF Secretary Ettore Muti. Photos 1, 3, 4: Michael Waters. Photo  2: Vasar.


11.30 AM: The exhibition “Luigi Moretti Architetto. Storia, Arte, Scienza” at Accademia di San Luca. Top photo: Giampero Bucci. Middle photo (“volumetric” study of St. Peter’s) and bottom photo: Michael Waters

1.15 PM: Moretti’s Girasole (1949). Photo: Michael Waters [One of the real surprises of the day!—Ed.]

1.45 PM: At Foro Italico, on the roof of the Foresteria Sud, to get a look over the fence surrounding the Accademia di scherma (“Fencing Academy”). The Accademia saw itself turned into a high-security tribunal for terrorist trials in the early 80s. Photos: Michael Waters

The Accademia di scherma shortly after its opening in 1936.

2.20 PM: On the slope of Monte Mario in precise alignment with the “ponte” of the Accademia di scherma, the newly cleared area of the “Cacciatore” statue (1936, and signed by the otherwise unknown “Michele Tiliacos”). Overgrown for decades, the statue was brought to light in October 2009 by Sandro Bari and Paolo Pedinelli. Photos: Michael Waters

2.45 PM: At the ex-Foro Mussolini (now Foro Italico), Moretti’s vast Piazzale dell’Impero; lower image shows plans in mosaic (1937) for facilities both realized and anticipated (but never to be built). Photos: Michael Waters

Looking east, the Piazzale dell’Impero, which united in mosaic pavement the preexisting Fontana della Sfera and Mussolini Obelisk (each 1932)

4.00 PM: With Paolo Pedinelli as expert guide, Moretti’s ex-Palaestra del Duce above the Piscina Coperta in Foro Italico. Construed as a “gift” to Mussolini, the dictator rarely used the facility. It now is used as a conference room. Photos: Michael Waters

4.30 PM: at MAXXI, viewing the exhibition “Luigi Moretti architetto. Dal razionalismo all’informale”

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