As it prepares to celebrate its 90th anniversary, Fendi is fusing its image with a beloved symbol of Rome—and it’s an impressive and imposing one at that: the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana.
The project to transform the 75-year-old, never-occupied structure, which features six stories of symmetrical arches and is nicknamed “the Square Colosseum,” into new corporate headquarters for Fendi’s 450 employees was spearheaded by chairman and chief executive officer Pietro Beccari. “It was my dream to reunite all employees under the same roof, but the square footage available around town remained a problem,” said the executive during an exclusive tour of the site, due to be officially unveiled during a special event at the end of September or early October.
The striking 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 contributed to its neglect over the years—until Fendi stepped up. Renovations to the travertine marble palazzo will be completed by the end of the year to welcome employees who currently work in two offices in the city separated by a 30-minute drive. The house’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.
The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, designed in 1937 by architects Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Bruno La Padula and Mario Romano, 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 never took place because of World War II. “It’s symbolic that the palazzo will be officially unveiled in September at the same time as the Expo in Milan is taking place,” said Beccari, referring to the event that runs from May to the end of October.
Fendi inked an agreement in 2013 to rent the building for 15 years, renewable for another 15, and started working on the space in July 2014. The structure was “an empty box,” noted Beccari, as it was incomplete and had barely been used since the war, although in June 2013 Giorgio Armani held his One Night Only event in part of the palazzo. The exteriors did not require any significant renovation, but the interiors needed to be reformatted for office purposes.
At Palazzo Fendi on Via Condotti in central Rome, the former offices will most likely be converted into a center of cultural interest and the flagship is slated to expand onto a third level that will include a space dedicated to VIP customers.