Shaping the Body Politic: Architecture for Youth and Sports in Fascist Italy

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During the more than two decades of Mussolini’s reign in Italy (1922–43), the Fascist regime sponsored and encouraged the construction of dozens of sports complexes, stadia, and children’s summer camps or colonie in a quest to influence and shape the physical bodies of the citizenry of the young nation. The number of projects dedicated to health and fitness, their spread across the country, and their architectural and urban prominence illustrate the importance of youth and wellness in Fascist ideology. The regime sought to use these buildings and complexes to shape and regulate the bodies of Italians, particularly men and children. The designs of buildings for sport and youth range from futurist-inspired projects such as Angiolo Mazzoni’s summer camp in Calambrone to Enrico Del Debbio and Luigi Moretti’s more traditionally inspired design for the Foro Mussolini. My current research, Shaping the Body Politic, examines how the Fascist regime’s obsession with youth and health was translated into architectural projects through a study of sports complexes and colonie built in the interwar period. How, for example, did architects seek to shape the Fascist body through their design choices in regards to the relationship between the building and nature, the choice of materials, the arrangement of spaces? How might the public and private spaces of these complexes and buildings reflect idealized representations of the relationships between the individual and collective? How did individual designers attempt to use these projects to promote their own visions of the Italian national community? Finally, in what ways do the designs of these buildings illustrate the ways in which Italian architects sought to express diverse understandings of Fascism? This research has been supported by a Wolfsonian-FIU fellowship and a Faculty Investment Program Award from the University of Oklahoma.

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