There are offices and there are offices, and then there is the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana — inaugurated on October 22 as Fendi's new corporate headquarters in Rome, which will now house its 450 employees, fur atelier and a public exhibition facility in a single magnificently palatial space.
The architectural wonder, with its white marble interiors dripping in sunlight from its high windows and awe-inspiring arches, opened with much aplomb on Thursday evening in Rome, with a stunning light installation by artist Mario Nanni and an elaborate dinner attended by friends of the house, Karl Lagerfeld (who marks his 50th year at the brand), all five Fendi sisters and international media.
The palazzo came alive with an inspiring light projection of the sunrise and birds flying across its facade and its arches illuminated to signify its rebirth. “Every time I come to Rome, I take pictures of Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana,” said Nanni. “Every time I shoot it, it completely changes because of the natural light reflecting on the white marble. It is something extraordinary to admire, to study, to be inspired by and therefore also to enlighten.”
The inauguration comes after an 18-month makeover by architect Marco Constanzi, which has breathed new life into the commanding Roman monument, left unused and vacant since it was built as an exhibition hall in the 1940s because of the world war. Also known as the square colosseum, with 216 arches lining its sides, each facade is inscribed with the famous words: “Un popolo di poeti di artisti di eroi / di santi di pensatori di scienziati / di navigator di transmigratori” (“A nation of poets, artists, heroes, saints, thinkers, scientists, navigators, transmigrators”).
The fashion house also opened its headquarters to the public with an exhibition, Una Nuova Roma. L'Eur e il Palazzo della Civilta Italiana (Palazzo della Civilta Italiana and the Universal Exposition of Rome), that will run till March next year. It features a range of contemporary artistic interpretations of the Palazzo, including photographs by Lagerfeld himself, as well as videos and images that highlight the building's beginnings as a cultural symbol and the creative thinking linked to its conception at the time.
Spanning six storeys and 8,400sq-m, the restoration of the iconic structure, which Fendi is renting at a hefty price tag of €2.6 million per annum, reflects the trend of Italian luxury houses giving back to the community. The brand has also pledged €2.5 million to the refurbishment of the Trevi Fountain and the Four Fountains complex, one of several high-profile restoration projects in the city.
“We are proud to give back today to our city Rome — and to the whole world — the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, symbol of our Roman roots and of a continuous dialogue between traditions and modernity, values dear to Fendi since ever,” said the brand's Chairman and CEO Pietro Beccari.
Addressing guests at the inauguration, Beccari aptly summed up: “Light is a symbol of life. Let us light Palazzo della Civilta Italiana and let's make palazzo live again.”
For more images and video footage of the inauguration, visit fendi.com, and read the December issue of Prestige for our exclusive interviews with Pietro Beccari and Marco Constanzi.