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Inside Mussolini's Fascist New Town
Writing in Wallpaper, Owen Hatherley accompanies Oliviero Olivieri's photographic exploration of the Sardinian town of Arborea—a 'fascist new town' established on drained marshland in a process, he describes as a "clear colonisation within the Kingdom of Italy itself, where Sardinia was always somewhat apart, linguistically and culturally." The town's straight roads and unusual vernacular cue the visitor to the separate planning processes that helped to form Arborea. It was the first of multiple fascist new towns created in the first half of the 20th century throughout Italy.
You notice something is different when you drive from the nearest railway station, at Marrubiu, to the new town: suddenly the roads are rigidly straight, running alongside canals in rich arable land, in the shadow of harsh, bare mountain ranges.
The architect of Mussolinia, between 1928 and 1939, was Giovanni Battista Ceas, a critic and historian as well as a designer. Accordingly, there’s very little trace in the first clutch of buildings of the more modernising trends in Fascist Italy, such as the monumental dreams of Futurist architects like Antonio Sant’Elia or the cold rationalism of Giuseppe Terragni. A hospital, a school, a town hall and a police station are in an invented vernacular bearing little resemblance to Sardinian architecture.