Fascist Architecture in Italy & Germany: Buildings, Designers & Characteristics

Instructor: David Juliao

David has a bachelor's degree in architecture, has done research in architecture, arts and design and has worked in the field for several years.

In this lesson, we will learn about fascist architecture, which developed in Italy and Germany under dictatorial regimes, before and during World War II. See some of the examples of this architectural style and the architects who created it.

Fascist architecture in Italy and Germany

Before all the destruction of World War II, there was actually a time of development, when large scale civic constructions were completed. With the rise of absolutist governments in Italy and Germany, a new style of architecture quickly developed as a propagandistic means to show the power of the Fascist parties. Let's find out more.

Fascism is a term used to refer to a form of political governance based on nationalism and radical authoritarian power. After World War I, fascism started to grow stronger in Italy and Germany. When Benito Mussolini rose to power in Italy, he initiated a Fascist government that would last until the end of World War II. In Germany, Hitler made his way into power, instituting the Nazi regime and leading Germany to its most unfortunate episode, which dragged most of the world into an armed conflict. Fascist architecture was the style that developed in those countries under the totalitarian governments and that was promoted by the rulers as a means to exhibit their power.

Characteristics of Fascist Architecture

We start to see Fascist architecture in Italy in the twenties, as soon as Mussolini began to rule Italy. When Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Fascist architecture started in that country. Both of them were dictatorships and absolutist regimes, so architecture became an instrument of political propaganda and architecture was meant to show power and promote Fascist ideas.

In order to exhibit the greatness of the party in power, the new constructions were massive, so that they could serve to concentrate numerous crowds or important institutions. The main theme of Fascist architecture was civic buildings. The designs had notorious resemblances to ancient Rome, with the intention of bringing historical pride and a sense of nationalism. They were also influenced by the simplistic character of Modern Architecture, which was developing in the early twentieth century.

The Fascist architecture used symmetry almost all the time, as part of the classicist influences that were present. The general composition of facades emphasized simplicity and a lack of ornateness, with very little or no decoration at all. Another important feature was the materials used for the construction; in order to create durable structures that would last for centuries, the fascist constructions were made mostly out of limestone and other durable stone. Concrete was also used in some cases.

The interior design was very imposing and elegant, looking to promote and show the power of the government; even to the point of inspiring fear in the visitor. Marble and other noble stones were widely used for the interior decoration. No ornaments were used, other than a few works of art of particular value for the rulers.

Fascist architects

In Italy, Fascist architecture was developed by a group of about ten architects. Giuseppe Terragni was the most prominent one and some other important figures were Marcello Piacentini, Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Bruno La Padula and Mario Romano.

Architect Albert Speer was the most prominent figure of Fascist architecture in Germany. He was Hitler's favorite architect and was commissioned for many of the architectural projects of the Third Reich. After the war he was imprisoned, and many years after he was released. Architect Franz Ruff and his son Ludwig were also architects for the Nazi regime but had a much secondary role.

Examples of buildings of Fascist architecture

In Italy

  • Casa Del Fascio of Como (Como, 1936): As all other Casas Del Fascio over Italy, it was built as a place to hold Fascist Party rallies. Designed by Giuseppe Terragni, it has a strong influence of the International Style of architecture. The construction is very simple, with no ornamentation and a volumetric facade. Concrete and glass were used for the exterior while plenty of marble was used in the interior areas. Today it continues to be used as a public building.

Casa Del Fascio in Como, Italy
Casa Del Fascio in Como, Italy

  • Palazzo Della Civilta Italiana or Square Colosseum (Rome, 1943): It was built as part of the complex commissioned by Mussolini for the World Fair of 1942, that was going to be held in Rome, but which was cancelled because of the war. The building was inspired by Roman architecture, using plenty of arches in a facade consisting of two layers; the outermost layer with all the arches and a second layer that surrounds the interior areas of the building. It is a symmetrical and austere building, made out of limestone and other stones, and plenty of marble was used in the interior. It was designed by architects Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Bruno La Padula and Mario Romano.

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