Fascism, Trump and Architectural Coprophagy

In his press conference of 26 September 2018 at the United Nations, Donald Trump quoted his critics’ views of him: ‘He’s a Fascist. He’s taking over the government ... We can’t stop him’.[1] Unperturbed, he adopted these claims as an opportunity to broadcast his allegedly anti-establishment status. Trump’s willingness to refer to himself as a fascist, and the lack of outrage with which this was received, serves to highlight that expressions of fascism have become increasingly normalised in contemporary political culture. This normalisation is widespread; in Australia, neo-Nazi and alt-right figures successfully infiltrated the Australian National Party,[2] while neo-fascist influences can be identified throughout European politics, including in the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Denmark, Austria and France.[3] In Italy, Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right Lega Nord party, has become deputy prime minister. Like Trump, in some ways, Salvini’s anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, Euro-sceptic views are, if anything, more outwardly extreme. Although Trump has unwittingly quoted Benito Mussolini in a tweet,[4] Salvini has done so intentionally,[5] which is particularly meaningful given that Italy is where fascism originated with the symbolic march on Rome in 1922 by the militant ‘black shirts’ of Mussolini’s Partita Nazionale Fascista.

We are simultaneously experiencing a fashionable revival of interest in Italian fascist architecture. A notable example is the Palazzo della Civilt. Italiana, in Rome, by Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Bruno La Padula and Mario Romano; it is commonly referred to as the square colosseum’ and was recently converted to the headquarters of fashion house Fendi.6 Why has 20th-century architecture of this period, previously derided as ugly and the expression of a draconian dictatorship, become appealing again?


[1] Aaron Blake, ‘President Trump’s U.N. Press Conference, Annotated’, The Washington Post, 26 September 2018, washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/09/26/president- trumps-un-press-conference-annotated/?utm_term=.2870a470b267; accessed 29 March 2019.

[2] Michael Koziol, ‘Nationals Members Resign en Masse amid Investigation into Neo-nazi Ties’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 October 2018, smh.com.au/politics/federal/ nationals-members-resign-en-masse-amid-investigation-into-neo-nazi-ties- 20181031-p50d3m.html. Jason Wilson, ‘Alt-Right Infiltrators Find Soft Targets in Australia’s Moribund Political Parties’, The Guardian, 8 November 2018, theguardian. com/commentisfree/2018/nov/08/alt-right-infiltrators-find-soft-targets-in- australias-moribund-political-parties. Both accessed 29 March 2019.

[3] Sean O’Grady, ‘Before Our Eyes, Italy Is Becoming a Fascist State,’ The Independent, 16 October 2018, independent.co.uk/voices/italy-fascist-policies-march-rome- matteo-salvini-donald-trump-a8586711.html; accessed 29 March 2019.

[4] Donald Trump, Twitter post, 3:13am, 28 February 2016, twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/ status/703900742961270784. Maggie Haberman, ‘Donald Trump Retweets Post with Quote from Mussolini’, The New York Times, 28 February 2016, nytimes.com/politics/ first-draft/2016/02/28/donald-trump-retweets-post-likening-him-to-mussolini. Both accessed 29 March 2019.

[5] Salvini’s quotation of Mussolini was timed to coincide with Mussolini’s birthday. Matteo Salvini, Twitter post, 2.28am, 29 July 2018, twitter.com/matteosalvinimi/ status/1023500457229070336.


Image: Palazzo della Civilita del Lavoro, 1937, designed by Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Bruno La Padula and Mario Romano. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons. 


This is a preview of 'Fascism, Trump and Architectural Coprophagy'. The full article can be found in Art + Australia Issue Five.

Justin Mallia is a practising architect, involved with built projects and theoretical works, research, teaching and writing. The studio is based in Australia and Italy, undertaking works of diverse scope and scale, and which have been widely awarded, exhibited and published. His PhD research focuses on Italian fascist architecture.