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The post office in via Marmorata

Rationalism in Testaccio

The realization of the post office in via Marmorata was included in the development plan of the city, those interventions that aimed at the decentralization of some services in areas outside the historical center. Like this in the Ostiense area, are also included the post offices of Viale Mazzini, Via Taranto and Piazza Bologna.

In 1932 a competition was announced by the Ministry of Communications for the construction of the building won by the architect Adalberto Libera. In reality, the project also had the signature of Mario De Renzi, co-author of the other projects for the postal buildings, but the announcement provided for the official signature of a single designer, for this reason De Renzi is often not mentioned. Let’s claim the co-ownership here too!

The building, adjacent to the monumental complex of Porta San Paolo and the Piramide Cestia, was built between 1933 and 1935. It is considered by the historiography of architecture to be a model of rationalism in Rome.

It has a very simple and squared shape, it is like a C, a halved court building. It appears on a wide flight of steps, like a pronaos that interacts with the context. Intentionally oriented at midday, the arrangement of the complex is symmetrical and the design is based on geometric proportions. The building consists of three floors for offices, the central body is double-height, for the distribution and sorting of the post, highlighted on the back elevation by the dense grid of square holes, motif taken from the tipical roman “colombari”.

The side parts end with a pattern of ribbons and diagonal lines that characterize the main façade, denouncing the presence of the staircases. The lower central body e-xtends outwards with an ellipsoidal cement-glass drum while a prolonged architecturally autonomous portic binds the buildings, closing the square court around which the entire composition is set, thus determining a filter area between the interior of the living room and the exterior and a unitary front.

On the ground floor are located postal services, on the first floor and in the side wings are the offices and a large hall of telegraphic equipment in the central part. The whole building is covered with smooth white marble, as the Roman and ratio-nalist tradition want, except in the part of the portic where the marble takes on a different, darker color.

The main feature in the design of the two was to combine modernity with tradition: the main front on Via Marmorata is new and dynamic in spite of the more static and classic rear elevation. Also Le Corbusier was of the same opinion, describing the realization by Libera and De Renzi: “the post office of Testaccio is Roman, but full of modern formalism”.