Coming from what sometimes feels like the most average city in the UK where any form of artisticness has to be unearthed and separated from the humdrum of ordinary life, imagine my excitement to find this marked and quite frankly enormous example of public artwork in Rome. On one of my first days in the city I remember being driven along the river, passing the ancient monuments I’d come to love as a tourist when this giant palazzo came into view. It was so different to what I expected, and what I thought I knew about Rome.Call me easily distracted, but it took me almost a year to find out that the building is a ‘centro sociale’. Which in this case, from what I can work out, is halfway between a squat and a space for communal organisations. The rules for occupying buildings must be different in Italy as it doesn’t match up with the idea of squatting I have in my (British) brain as something dingy and detrimental to the local area.
On the morning we were poking around, the space was closed but according to a man we met there it is possible to go inside in the afternoons. We were even invited to take part in circus classes later that day. Next time, Francesco. Next time.
Painted by an Italian artist known as Blu, the mural took around two years to complete and was finished in 2014. You can see a photo of how the building looked before, on the artist’s website here. I’m impressed at the vision needed to transform a rather industrial building into a bold and striking focal point of the neighbourhood.If you want to see the 27 painted faces in all their glory, you can find the building on Via del Porto Fluviale in the Ostiense neighbourhood.This post originally appeared on an old blog of mine way back in 2015. It’s one of the few posts from that time I’ve decided to keep online – I just love this building.