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When in Rome: Daniel Libeskind’s Lost Mobile Phones Land in the Italian Capital

Everyone’s favourite Polish-American deconstructivist starchitect – that’s Daniel Libeskind, in case you were in any doubt – has unveiled proposals for a trio of commercial skyscrapers at the heart of a planned business hub in the Italian capital. The three towers will stand alongside Dan Meis’s planned Stadio della Roma, set to open in 2016, and will form the centrepiece of a contemporary business district in this ancient city.

 

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Libeskind’s commission for this major new development shows the Italians still have an appetite for the architect’s distinctive brand of arbitrary angles and object-based high-rise designs, after the architect’s contentious contribution to the Citylife masterplan in Milan: the latest towers sit within a complex of low-rise office buildings like a trio of 1980s mobile phones, reminiscent of that gargantuan device from Trigger Happy TV – Dom Joly was clearly ahead of his time with this iconic form.

 

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These 3 vast objects upon the landscape are intended to stand “in conversation with one another”, as if cut from a single stone block. Their façades are clad with a mesh of opaque panels, giving the trio a monolithic appearance which accentuates their scale, incongruous with the surrounding city – one wonders what the reaction might be if these alien obelisks were proposed for Paris… there would likely be a proverbial meltdown in the French capital.

 

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In Italy though, there appears to be a growing appetite for strident commercial structures, as the country attempts to adopt a more cosmopolitan aesthetic – is this a reaction to the country’s fragile economic state? Can a contrived business park such as this really act as a catalyst for improved financial prosperity, or could this be a case of “cart before horse” in urban planning terms?

 

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Getting back to the architecture itself, one feature appears to carry a degree of merit – a series of sky gardens are incorporated into each tower, much more expansive than those seen in similar high-rise proposals recently, such as Rafael Viñoly’s Walkie-Talkie in London. As usual though, the architect is caught photoshopping mature trees – together with their inevitably deep root systems – on top of exceedingly thin floor plates. It presents a utopian image of ‘green’ aesthetics that will never be matched in reality – that age-old art of rendering misrepresentation in architecture simply will not die…

 

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SDL continues to secure commissions for landmark urban structures and vast masterplans alike – clearly, many significant clients remain besotted with the firm’s well-known brand of architectural showmanship, along with Libeskind's proven ability to deliver. The commercial developers and city planners involved here are determined to make a bold statement upon the skyline of “The Eternal City”, and are no doubt happy they have selected the right man for the job. Will the citizens of Rome be just as content? The jury is out…

Yours monumentally,

The Angry Architect

Images via Design Boom