What is architecture? Is it only a design form aimed at protecting us from environmental factors and prioritizing human comfort? Does architecture aim to enable us to easily sustain our lives while considering both function and aesthetics, or is it more than that? Not only can architecture influence living environments, but it can also influence entire societies; therefore, leaders and authorities have acknowledged and embraced its power throughout history. For a very long time, people have believed that architecture has the power to influence politics and tell stories about the past. It can be used to establish a narrative, demonstrate power, or mobilize people around a cause or ideology. Some of architecture’s most significant works were created during the years when politics and art collided, especially during World War II. By reexamining the tangible artifacts from that era, we will examine the intersection of politics and architecture during the Second World War era in this article.

One of the best-known architects of the Italian Fascist era, Marcello Piacentini, was a political strategist in addition to being an architect. Piacentini, who was close to Mussolini during the war, rose to prominence as an architect in Italy but turned his focus to teaching when fascism began to fade. Rome‘s urban fabric is home to many of Piacentini’s creations; Piazza Della Vittoria, or Victory Square, is one prominent example. Originally intended to unite like-minded people, the square today serves as a stark reminder of its original intent amidst urbanization.

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Monumental architecture is known for its self-celebratory nature and the impact it seeks to create on the viewer. The products of these approaches’s reference to the periods they are influenced by—like the Roman Empire—are shown through their architectural language and the use of materials. To give an example, the business square in Milan has large white marble columns and tries to embody the futures of the Roman Empire that the fascist party of the time sought to evoke. The newly designed headquarters for the leading banks of the era, Banca Commerciale and Banca Popoare are centered in the area, defining the relationship between the banks and the fascist party right in the heart of Milan. 

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In the middle of Piazza Affari in Milan, where the Italian stock exchange is held, there is a marble sculpture that depicts a hand with an extended middle finger. To observers at a distance, the hand may appear to show only the middle finger in front of the stock exchange headquarters, but a closer look may reveal that all the fingers other than the middle finger are unbent but instead appear to have been cut off, mimicking historical sculptures that have eroded over time.

If not for the severed fingers, Maurizio Cattelan’s sculpture “L.O.V.E.” would display the well-known fascist salute and potentially be a political statement. The marble material used and its appearance seem to refer to ancient sculptures. The title “L.O.V.E.” stands for ‘libertà, odio, vendetta, eternità’ (freedom, hatred, revenge, eternity) and is a clear reference to fascism, but it also functions as a statement in response to the economic recession and the high anti-financial protest that followed.

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Maurizio Cattelan, the proprietor of this extremely political piece of art, gave it the moniker “L.O.V.E.” Criticizing the totalitarianism that tormented Europe in the previous century, he defined it as an anti-fascist declaration. The sculpture acts as a warning about the current financial crisis to Milanese stock market traders. Milan chose to keep the artwork on permanent display for the next forty years or more after Cattelan gave it to the city and had it installed in Piazza Affari.

The world still hosts many architectural works that emerged during the fascist era or other morally contentious periods in history. So, as users, how should our stance towards these structures, which reflect the political context of their time, be? Is demolishing or destroying them to build new ones a solution? Or should we approach these works solely from a technical and aesthetic standpoint, regardless of the era in which they were created?

Despite having unique characteristics from a particular era, the building seeks to stand the test of time and serve future users for centuries. This is a significant distinction between the form and function of art and architecture. Piazza Della Vittoria is one example of a structure that has survived beyond its original intent because it is no longer a representation of the time period in which it was constructed. If so, what should we do with a structure of that kind that is no longer functional or holds no value? Should we fully demolish it and build a new green area, or should we replace it with something more practical?

Perhaps tearing down a building because it doesn’t adhere to traditional moral standards isn’t the best course of action. Destroying architectural masterpieces that we find inspiring in history can have the unintended consequence of making people forgetful. Fascist buildings now have the goal of exposing historical evidence in front of us rather than acting as propaganda against us. Architectural works should be objectively judged in the context of the day and conditions they were built in, regardless of the age and motivations behind their creation. Overly sentimental approaches to these frameworks can result in the hazardous outcomes described above. However, preserving the existence of these buildings does not necessarily imply approval of the actions that were carried out. Criticizing modern issues while referencing the past, as Cattelan did, is a beautiful way to unite art and architecture while bringing a contemporary breath to modern debates.


Maulsby, L.M. (2014) Fascism, architecture, and the claiming of modern Milan, 1922-1943. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 

Culotta, A.S. (no date) A founder of Fascist Architecture: Marcello Piacentini was born in Rome on 8 December 1881., Italian Art Society. Available at: https://www.italianartsociety.org/2017/12/a-founder-of-fascist-architecture-marcello-piacentini-was-born-in-rome-on-8-december-1881/ 

L.O.V.E. (no date) Institute for Public Art. Available at: https://www.instituteforpublicart.org/case-studies/l.o.v.e/ 


Lara Tikenogullari, a wandering mind immersed in the infinite subtleties of architecture, seeks to explore and share the intricate delights with fellow architects and those who embrace a common love. This journey will host myriad discussions, not only about the field of architecture in terms of design but also its relationship with humanity, time, history, and so much more.