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Angiolo Mazzoni: the master of railways

Anyone who has travelled by train in Italy has probably encountered one of Angiolo Mazzoni’s railways station buildings. Even Termini in Rome, more famous for that extraordinary curved lobby at the front (completed in time for the 1950 Jubilee by a design team featuring Leo Calini, Eugenio Montuori, Massimo Castellazzi, Vasco Fadigati, Achille Pintonello, and Annibale Vitellozzi, with Pier Luigi Nervi acting as the technical architect), was originally designed by Mazzoni. His original plan for the station (in a city exhilarated by the prospect of holding the 1942 world fair that never was) underwent numerous modifications in the late 1930s before getting the final approval. By the time that the war put an end to all works, Mazzoni had overseen the construction of the two long side colonnades, along Via Giolitti and Via Marsala.

The register of Mazzoni’s work for the Ministry of Transport is extraordinary in both scale and inspiration. From Palermo to Venice, Mazzoni became identified with some of the most consistently imaginative modernist architecture of the Fascist era. His designs for the Trento and the Ostia stations in particular reference eloquently the work of an architect that kept experimenting with pure forms in the most fluent and elegant structural compositions. As an architect with strong early attachment to Futurism, Mazzoni understood the creative power of movement and speed, capable of celebrating with combinations of glass, steel, and stone the cult of technological progress and the revolutionary potential of the fast rhythms of modern life.

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Along with his celebrated designs for railway stations, Mazzoni also authored a number of post office buildings, like the one in the ‘new city’ of Sabaudia. In fact, his involvement in the ‘new city’ projects of the Agro Pontino was significant, especially in Latina (formerly Aprilia), where he completed the duo of railway station and post office.

But it was the construction of the new main railway station for Rome that was meant to be his centrepiece – the crowning achievement of a life dedicated to a celebration of modernity through architecture innovation. It was not meant to be. A vocal supporter of the Fascist regime, Mazzoni could not rebuild his reputation and career in postwar Italy, unlike so many other architects who had flourished under both Fascism and the First Republic (Libera, Piacentini, Moretti etc). He spent the last two decades of his life in self-exile in Colombia, awaiting in vain some form of rehabilitation. He died in 1963, long before his work was reassessed and re-appreciated, if always with some degree of unease for his Fascist past. Termini of course still bears his creative signature, even if his name has been overshadowed by the teams that extended and completed the station, with a very different design, in 1950.

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