FENDI’S SQUARE COLOSSEUM
By Naomi Barling
As Italian luxury brand Fendi gets ready to celebrate its 90th anniversary, it has decided to unite its brand with a beloved symbol of Rome: the house is renovating the impressive six-story palace nicknamed “the Square Colosseum” at the Palazzo Della Civiltà Italiana to make it their new exquisite Rome headquarters. The new building is due to be officially unveiled during a special event at the end of September or early October 2015.
The house of Fendi was launched in 1925 by Edoardo and Adele Fendi at a shop in Via del Plebiscito, Rome. Since 1946, the five second generation sisters Paola, Anna, Franca, Carla & Alda Fendi started engaging with the company and built its second wave of enthusiasm. CHanel designer, Karl Lagerfeld joined Fendi in 1965 and became the creative director for fur and then women’s ready-to-wear when the line launched in 1977. Silvia Venturini Fendi, the daughter of Anna, joined the brand in 1994 as the creative director for accessories and the men’s line. In 2001, Fendi became a multinational luxury fashion brand and a member of LVMH group.
Chairman and chief executive officer Pietro Beccari spearheaded the restoration project. His vision was to transform the 75-year-old untouched palace into the new creative hub for Fendi’s 450 loyal employees, who currently work in two offices separated by a 30 minute drive. “We are thinking out of the box,” he said about the choice of venue, “but this is very Fendi. Both have a geometric and aesthetic concept and are associated with design and Rome. It all fits with Fendi and is an inspiration for the brand. The building was created to honor Italian excellence and Fendi is entirely made in Italy,” Says Beccari.
Architects Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Bruno La Padula and Mario Romano designed the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana in 1937. It was inaugurated in 1940 and was meant to be a gateway from the coast to the city as part of the international Expo of 1942, which incidentally never actually took place because of World War II. The building features six stories of symmetrical arches, which gave it its nickname “the Square Colosseum.” “It was my dream to reunite all employees under the same roof, but the square footage available around town remained a problem,” said Beccari.
Although the breathtaking 205,200-square-foot structure, perched on a hill with a panoramic view of the Italian capital, is a statement in theatricality, its grand scale and location was what lead to its neglect over the years.
The architect Marco Costanzi, who also designed Fendi’s Milan headquarters on Via Solari, is in charge of the interior design at Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana. The palazzo, which was both inspired by the work of artist Giorgio de Chirico and later influenced his paintings, is decorated with 28 statues on its facades.
Fendi’s archives and its fur atelier will be located on the lower floor, while a 10,800-square-foot exhibition space on the ground level will hold art, history and design installations open to the public, as well as a café and bookshop. At the center of the building is an open-air cubic space, spiraling upward 157 feet, which the company is bridging with a futuristic steel and glass structure.
At Palazzo Fendi on Via Condotti in central Rome, the former offices will not go to waste. They are most likely going to be converted into a center of cultural interest, while the flagship is scheduled to expand onto a third level that will include a space dedicated to Fendi’s VIP customers.