Essay on Piazza d'Italia as an Example of Postmodern Architecture

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Piazza d'Italia as an Example of Postmodern Architecture

A public place incorporated into a larger commercial complex, the fountain of the Piazza d'Italia occupies a circular area off center of the development, which consists of buildings and open-air corridors planted with trees. The fountain is set on a ground of concentric circles in brick and masonry, and is composed of a raised contour relief of the boot of Italy and a construction of several staggered, interconnected facades following the lines of the circles. Each facade incorporates one of the five Classical Orders in various materials, including marble, stainless steel, artificial lighting and water. The facades are one side of the space and the whole is surrounded by a ring of trees. Though a collaborative effort Charles Moore with the UIG, Perez & Associates, and others, Moore headed the creative development of Piazza d'Italia (3).

Contemporary architectural commentary has iconized the fountain as an example of Postmodern architecture, primarily for its adaptation of historical architectural ornament (4).


Charles Moore's use of all five Classical Orders in the fountain make a very conscious reference to the past. The details, however, speak an entirely different dialect from that of Vitruvius, or Roman public architecture in general.

His articulation of the Orders are more than an recitation of Classical form. The Doric, Tuscan, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite columns and other architectonic elements associated with the orders draw on the wealth of Greco-Roman architecture in Italy. Six unmatched walls of different orders and heights form the vertical structure of the fountain. Marble and bright yellow, ochre and red surfaces cover the facades, ...

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...ctives and elevations of the fountain recall the cityscapes seen on the walls of the cubiculum and other paintings having something to do with scenae frons architecture (11). The exhedrae, which usually adjoined open palestria or peristyles, offer a good comparison with their semicircular arcades forming annular volumes. These spaces communicate with the outer area but still have their own sense of place and charm. They also have a particular public character more appropriate to looking at the Piazza, than say, the semicircular arcades of the markets of Trajan behind one exhedra of his forum (12). While an engaging space in its own right, the Piazza d'Italia fountain operates only partially within the realm of ancient Greco-Roman architecture (Moore's Ph.D dissertation at Princeton was on water in architecture, so he had ample material to draw from. Kiem pp. 196-198).

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