During a Summer School at the Swiss Institute in Rome, ECAL MA in Type Design and ISIA Urbino students explored a more recent avatar of this communication tool. During the fascist era in Italy (1922–1943), the rise to power of Benito Mussolini made his revolutionary political party a ruling institution, which had, as its ambition, the creation of an empire modelled on ancient Rome. The visual aesthetic of the Caesars was captured and used by the fascists to position themselves as successors to a glorious tradition. Imagery and photography also played a part in this endeavour, as did architecture and inscription letters. The buildings and monuments of the 1930s frequently display mottos and texts carved in white marble. Latin and Italian were used, and full capitals, in the ancient Roman tradition. While the design of these letters is based on Ancient models, their shapes are definitely modern; sans serif geometric letterforms.
In the first instance, Archigraphiæ sought to collect images of inscriptions on monuments, public buildings, graveyards, street plaques in Rome. Then some of those original designs were digitised to reveal their construction, and the ways in which small elements can be capable of turning a neutral geometrical font into a very Italian-style fascist symbol. By mapping this conspicuous feature of fascist propaganda, the Summer School aimed to deconstruct the mechanisms used to promote political ambitions, and to compare this font with other modernist sans serifs of the time. An analysis of the storytelling behind the use of the letterforms allowed students to develop critical thinking about current (political, commercial, militant) uses of type and lettering.
Lecturers and researchers
ECAL MA PhotographieAlina Frieske
ISIA Urbino MA in Communication, Design and Publishing
Gianluca Ciancaglini, Alberto Malossi, David Mozzetta, Giuseppe Romagno
ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne
Istituto Svizzero di Roma
Archigraphiæ. Rationalist Lettering and Architecture in Fascist Rome (1921–1943): a Fieldwork, Rome, Istituto Svizzero, September 2–9, 2018.
Archigraphiæ. Rationalist Lettering and Architecture in Fascist Rome (1921–1943): a Fieldwork, Rome, Istituto Svizzero, September 8, 2018.
Matthieu Cortat, Davide Fornari, Archigraphiæ. Rationalist Lettering and Architecture in Fascist Rome / Architettura e iscrizioni razionaliste nella Roma fascista, Renens: ECAL 2020 (contributions by Chiara Barbieri, Gianluca Camillini, Joëlle Comé, Jonathan Pierini, Paul Shaw, Alessandra Tarquini, Carlo Vinti).