The Metafisica Solution: How to Discuss Fascist-Era Architecture Without Controversy


April 26, 2019

As part of the METAPHYSICAL MASTERPIECES STUDY DAYS, CIMA is pleased to welcome Prof. Mia Fuller to present her keynote from 6pm – 7:30pm:

The Metafisica Solution:

How to Discuss Fascist-Era Architecture Without Controversy

The term ‘metaphysical’ associated with the paintings of de Chirico and Carrà has, beyond its origins in the early 20th century, played an epiphenomenal role in post-World War II discussions of fascist-era architecture. Finding the 1934 Rationalist-designed town of Sabaudia too ‘good’ simply to be called ‘fascist,’ in the 1970s intelligentsia figures Pasolini and Moravia whitewashed the regime from it rhetorically, using the term città metafisica to describe the town and thereby placing it in an artificially apolitical zone of architectural history. In my talk I will trace this use of ‘metaphysical’ up through the architectural publications that popularized it through the 2000s, avoiding discussions about political origins and with them, political legacies. I will contextualize my presentation visually through a range of designs created in Italy under fascism, and in the Italian colonies. Finally, I will turn to recent controversies in Italy regarding the continued uses of fascist-era buildings and monuments.

Mia Fuller is an Associate Professor of Italian Studies at the University of California – Berkeley. She is a cultural anthropologist and urban-architectural historian who has published extensively on architecture and city planning in the Italian colonies, winning the International Planning History Society book prize for Moderns Abroad: Architecture, Cities, and Italian Imperialism (published by Routledge in 2007). She has also written on post-Italian Libya; how Eritrea capitalizes on the built environment Italians left behind; and the historiography of Italian architecture and the arts under fascism. Her research has been supported by a Rome Prize, a Fulbright Grant, and Fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among others.

Professor Fuller is currently in residence at the National Humanities Center working on a book on the force (or lack of force) of old fascist symbols that still exist in Italy, especially in the Pontine Marshes area, where Mussolini’s largest land-reclamation project took place in the 1930s. This is a long-term project involving intermittent ethnographic fieldwork – started twenty years ago – as well as memory studies, the historical sociology of migration, oral history, and theories of monumentality.

Free for students and CIMA members.


Program schedule:

The event is part of the METAPHYSICAL MASTERPIECES STUDY DAYS and will be preceded by a prosecco aperitivo at 5pm. Presentation begins at 6pm, followed by a Q&A.