• Roman Leviathan: Architecture and Capitalism in Postwar Italy
    Davide Spina
    MIT Press, 2024
    Davide Spina

Ugo Luccichenti, SGI apartment building in Rome, 1958. Photograph. Courtesy Central State Archive, Rome; SGI Archive, Album fotografici, folder 38

Architectural histories of postwar Italy tend to focus on the work of progressive agencies, magazines, and architects, while they rarely look into the activity of conservative outfits and individuals. Also, as a rule, these histories rely on two sources: the visual records of buildings and the mediatized discourse by their designers and critics. Roman Leviathan differs in topic and method: by exploring the unpublished papers of an Italian construction company, it sheds light on the production of architecture and urban space in Christian Democratic and American-influenced postwar Italy. The book focuses on the activity of Rome-based developer and contractor Società Generale Immobiliare (SGI) from 1945 to 1975. SGI was the largest firm in Italy, worked with signature architects (Luigi Moretti, BBPR, AdalbertoLibera), and built major schemes—many of them controversial (Watergate Complex, Torre Velasca, Casal Palocco). Within this time frame, SGI’s major shareholder was the Vatican, and the company had close relationships with American partners. Roman Leviathan shifts the focus of architectural history from designers to patronage by looking into the ideology of the organization, its business model, its agency in the transatlantic exchange, and its impact on Italian architectural production and discourse in the postwar period.

Davide Spina is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture, ETH Zurich, where he also completed his doctorate. Previously he studied architectural history at the Bartlett, University College London. Spina’s work has been supported by the Swiss Institutes in Rome and Milan, the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the JM Kaplan Fund, the Gill Family Foundation, and the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH). Since 2020, Spina has co-organised DocTalks, an international online platform for early-stage researchers in architectural history and theory. He regularly presents at international conferences, including those hosted by the SAH and European Architectural History Network, and his writing has appeared in Architectural History, Log, AA Files, and gta Papers.