Dr. Stefania Gialdroni on Law and Architecture

Dear students,
next week’s classes will be devoted to the meaning and function of the Italian Court of Cassation’s building, better known to the people of Rome as “il Palazzaccio”. Remember that, on April 30th, we are going to visit the court together.

Temple of Justice or “Palazzaccio”? Giuseppe Zanardelli’s Idea of Justice in Unified Italy

Terry Rossi Kirk, The Politicization of the Landscape of Roma Capitale and the Symbolic Role of the Palazzo di Giustizia, in “Mélanges de l’Ecole française de Rome: Italie et Méditerranée”, 109.1 (2006), pp. 89-114.

14 thoughts on “Dr. Stefania Gialdroni on Law and Architecture

  1. Chiara Casuccio says:

    I just wanted to add something about the cassazione’ s chosen site: rione Prati. Not only the palazzo di giustizia, but the entire district symbolizes the imposition of the state over the catholic church. Before the unification of Italy (or better, before the took of Rome which almost completed that unification -except for the liberation of Veneto- , 9 years after the 1861 ) this great area was covered by meadows and marshes and no high levee had been built alongside the Tiber so every flood of the river flooded the fields around (that’s why the name “Prati”). When in 1871 the capital was moved to Rome, and so did the monarchy, the first work in this area was to build levees alongside the river to reclaim the site. As Terry Rossi Kirk explained, the decision to place the bureaucratic center of the kingdom at the foot of Vatican was not random: it needs to be seen in the political context and precisely in view of the difficult relations between church and state in that period: the Pope couldn’t bare to be dispossessed from his lands and his sovereignty and autonomy , on the contrary the new kingdom needed to impose itself as a new, central power. With this in mind, the new district has been built in a way that none of the new streets had as background the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica and the streets’ names were chosen among all historical figures of the Republican and Imperial Rome , leaders and scholars of classical Latin and pagan (such as via Tacito, via Cicerone etc.) , and among the heroes of the Risorgimento – even the main street of the neighborhood was named after the Roman tribune and senator Nicola Gabrini, son of Lorenzo, said Cola di Rienzo, a Roman nobleman who in the fourteenth century tried to restore the republic in Rome in contrast to the papal power.
    Someone says that some buildings were erected with the money of the Masons and as proof of this Masonic symbols are present on the facades of these buildings (but personally I have not seen anyone, or at least I could not recognize it).
    From the point of view of urban, it is nice to notice that Prati’s plant resembles Turin, the city where the monarchy and the bureaucracy came from: wide streets and regular, in connection with a city plan geometrically regular. Even the buildinds seem to respect Turin’s style (the famous “umbertine” and “liberty” styles) : e.g. almost no balcony is on the facade of the building, as well as in the northen city because of the cold piedmontese winters.
    So , according to Kirk, the expansion of ” Roma capitale” into the Prati evidences a clear political move to introduce near to Vatican the secular institution. It will be only in 1929 that the relations state-church will have a breakthrough, and once again to witness this change will be an urban work : via della Conciliazione symbolizing the reconciliation between the two powers.


  2. Charles says:

    About what we talked today, an especially about a place, a building embodying the sovereignity of a state, the ideal of laws and justice etc. And also about the quotations reguarding how a justice court, and particularly a supreme justice court. How should it looks likes etc.

    I think, even if we are not talking anymore about law and litterature that i will not be a loss of time to draw one’s attention to the first description and the first constructed speech concerning how such a place should look like in our European tradition (older tales or testimonies can be found in old Egypt, Kouch/Ethyopia, Persia).

    This is to be found in Aeschylus’s Eumenides, one of the famous play composing what he wrote about Orestes.

    To make it short, Orestes killed his mother Clytemnestra for the motive that she poisoned and kill her husband Agamemnon, father of Orestes.(Hope no one is lost).

    Then, Orestes his pursued by the vengeful chtonicl godesses: Erynies.
    Daughters of the Night they were told to avenge mothers killed by their own.

    After running from them a good amount of time, Orestes find himself cornered, force to plead for a trial in Athenes (thanks to Apollo).

    To this purpose, under the supervison and commands of Athena a tribunal (assembly of men) is instituated; both physically and symbolically.

    Here are the words of the godess (this is certainly one of the most important piece of litterature concerning justice and democracy in our european tradition):

    “O men of Athens, ye who first do judge
    The law of bloodshed, hear me now ordain. (* it is therefore the first criminal court)
    Here to all time for Aegeus’ Attic host
    Shall stand this council-court of judges sworn,
    Here the tribunal, set on Ares’ Hill
    Where camped of old the tented Amazons,
    What time in hate of Theseus they assailed
    Athens, and set against her citadel
    A counterwork of new sky-pointing towers,
    And there to Ares held their sacrifice,
    Where now the rock hath name, even Ares’ Hill.
    And hence shall Reverence and her kinsman Fear
    Pass to each free man’s heart, by day and night
    Enjoining, Thou shalt do no unjust thing,
    So long as law stands as it stood of old
    Unmarred by civic change. Look you, the spring
    Is pure; but foul it once with influx vile
    And muddy clay, and none can drink thereof.
    Therefore, O citizens, I bid ye bow
    In awe to this command, Let no man live,
    Uncurbed by law nor curbed by tyranny;
    Nor banish ye the monarchy of Awe
    Beyond the walls; untouched by fear divine,
    No man doth justice in the world of men.
    Therefore in purity and holy dread
    Stand and revere; so shall ye have and hold
    A saving bulwark of the state and land,
    Such as no man hath ever elsewhere known,
    Nor in far Scythia, nor in Pelops’ realm.
    Thus I ordain it now, a council-court
    Pure and unsullied by the lust of gain,
    Sacred and swift to vengeance, wakeful ever
    To champion men who sleep, the country’s guard.
    Thus have I spoken, thus to mine own clan
    Commended it for ever. Ye who judge,
    Arise, take each his vote, mete out the right,
    Your oath revering. Lo, my word is said.”

    As it is institued by a godess, the sacred dimension of the court is certain. But looking precisly at what she said we might add that the court, located on a hill sacrated by the blood that has been spilled, appears to occupied the upper position, located beyond mortals’s reach and so able to judge them untainted.

    Moreover it has to be “swift to vengeance, wakefull ever”.

    What it is meant to be:

    “And hence shall Reverence and her kinsman Fear
    Pass to each free man’s heart, by day and night
    Enjoining, Thou shalt do no unjust thing,
    So long as law stands as it stood of old
    Unmarred by civic change”

    It also has to inspire man: “Therefore in purity and holy dread/ Stand and revere, so shall ye have and hold.”

    Finally we, i think, link this genesis of a justice court to what we saw to today and probably to what we will see tommorow.


  3. Federica Celli says:

    When today we talked about the reason why the Palace of Justice is called “Palazzaccio”, I thought about the structural problems of this building.
    The “Palazzaccio” is situated in an area where the ground is sandy and because of the heaviness of the building gave a hard time since the beginning. In 1970 the risk of a collapse was so high that someone proposed the demolition of the building, but the costs for this extreme solution were too high so they decided to restore it.
    Nevertheless the possibility of a sinking of the palace of justice still worry us, for this reason somebody used to call it “il gigante dai piedi di argilla”, so huge and majestic, but at the same time so fragile at the foundations.



    I’ve made some researches about piazzale Clodio,which has been mentioned by dr.Gialdroni during the lesson and honestly it has been really hard to find something concrete on the internet. Before 1958 there was a luna park near there, the-so-called “Parco del soldato”, which hosted the first Fiera di Roma. In the place where now we can see piazzale Clodio there was a football field in which the neighbourhood’s football team used to train. It has been all demolished to build “the new” piazzale Clodio and Via Olimpica for the Olimpic Games of 1960 hosted in Rome. There’s no mention on the internet about the approval or not of the opera. I link one picture I’ve finde which shows how piazzale Clodio was before the reconstruction



    Referring to the lesson of today I’ve found that there’s really a tax on the exposition of our flag in public places.
    The most famous case is the one of the Caslini’s hotel in Desio. Four years ago it was asked to the Caslini,owners of a small hotel,to expose the flag of the “Palio degli zoccoli”,a traditional fair which takes place every year in june. Some days later showed up an employe of Censum,who communicated to the Caslini that the exposition of flags was considered as it was publicity so they was supposed to pay taxes for it. There were also exposed on the front of the hotel the UE flag,the Swiss flag,the UK flag and the italian one too. The owners were supposed to pay 54,22 euro for each flag.


  6. lawadminhumanities says:

    Great comments! It would be interesting to see if there is a comparable tax in the USA. This tax would be a real “symbol” of the oppressive tax system and of the indifference towards patriotism in Italy.



    I haven’t found nothing on the internet which says that also in America there are taxes on the exposition of their flag. It’s only written that the costumer who wants to buy an american flag has to pay a little tax,but in America it happens for every article,they pay taxes in the moment in which the buy the thing the need/want,not later,nor before. In my opinion american patriotism is very exagerated,but if we had even the half of their patriotism, Italy surely would be a better nation.


  8. Federica Rossi says:

    In my opinion an other model of the political project developed for the re-building of a secular centric-city is represented by “Palazzo delle Finanze”, situated in via XX settembre, which is the current head-quarters of the Minister for Economic and Financial Affairs.
    The beginning of the construction of this building, soon after the conquest of the Papal State (the so-called “Breccia di Porta Pia”) in 1870 and the capital’s relocation of the Kingdom of Italy from Florence to Rome in 1871, started the determined urban expansion of Rome and the creation of new districts like “Esquilino”, “Prati” and “Castro Pretorio”.
    Quintino Sella, then-minister of economy and finances, intended to build this monumental complex in order to prove the stability and the efficiency of the new born Italian Kingdom: it followed the largest and biggest construction in Rome, after the “Quirinale”, with a surface measuring 152.000 square meters. Just to underline the importance of Quintino Sella in the government of those days as a decisive member of the Historical Right party, to him is dedicated a statue situated in via Cernaia on the back side of the building; by that position it seems as if he keeps monitoring the statal funds like a silent sentinel.
    At that time this palace housed more than 2000 employees of the Minister for Economic and Financial Affairs, Court of Cassation (which as we learned in the previous classes was planned in 1889 and completed only in 1911) and Cassa Depositi e Prestiti.
    Raffaele Canevari realized this project completed in five years (1872 -1877) with the collaboration of many architects and painters of that time, like Francesco Pieroni, Ercole Rosa, Piero Costa and Cesare Mariani. The building as many architectural works of that period is characterized by a sort of sixteenth-century reinterpretation, with open spaces and large courtyard, wide hallways and rooms, high ceilings and many windows. At the first floor prevail the “bugnato” technique while the upperest floors have a smooth surface: this contrast was a typical signature of the eclectic style.
    As the public works examinated for the “Palazzo di Giustizia”, the slowness of the construction works and the fact that the original budget plan for the construction was widely exceeded implied strong protests among public opinion.


  9. Anthony J. Cacciotti says:

    I want to share my personal opinion about the question Professor Conte asked during the class: why is there so much indifference towards the monuments of this country? I’ve been thinking about it and my answer is because we got used to them.
    You might think this is a semplification, but, according to me, this’s the ugly truth: we got used to those treasures.
    As a matter of fact, Italy is ranked at number one position in the particular list created by UNESCO as the home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites, but also lots of them are located in the mediterranean area, so once again, we’re back to the same point.
    When you walk through Rome, everywhere you turn, you will see a monument, a statue or an ancient church; paradoxically this is the real “problem”: when you walk around and discover a new statue or a new monument or even a particular you didin’t notice before you will say something like “oh another one? I’ve seen hundreds of them!”. It’s a supply issue: from this point of view, Italy has a lot to offer, maybe too much!
    I don’t think this’s a problem of patriotism or national identity, bacause people are proud of this cultural heritage but if you’re roman and you’re in Via Condotti, maybe you prefer go shopping instead of visiting Piazza di Spagna and all the monuments around.
    Sad, but true.


  10. Martina Diglio says:

    I was thinking about another important monument that has been created to legitimaze, in a certain way, political power: the Colosseum. The symbol of Rome and one of the seven wonders of the world was created by Flavius Vespasian, who choose the site for the building not by chance: in fact, it was built up in an area misappropriated by Neron, the previous emperor, who had used that public land to construct his Domus Aurea. The Colosseum was built inside the Neron artificial lake, that was dried up to build the Colosseum. Vespasian did that to show the Romans that the new dinasty was distant from Neron and wanted to give the lands back to the Romans. The Colosseum, in fact, was built to give Romans what is called “panem et circensem”. This is a famous locution used by Juvenal, satirical roman poet, to explain which means emperors used to obtain political control and approval: bread and public games. In this case, we can see how the construction of a huge amphitheatre, where gladiators fought to delight spectators, could be seen as an instrument of unification of all the Romans, who all together took part to an important public event, organised by the beloved emperor.


  11. Emanuele Ballabene says:

    It’s very important,for me,learn and understand the story about the ideas, the construction and the birth of the italian monuments and buildings.
    In Italy we have an incredible heritage, from the ground to the sky:also a tipical roman street,”I sampietrini”,is sometimes considered by tourists important to photograph!
    Although we have all the best monuments in the world, we don’t wonder going to Piazza di Spagna, or seeing the Colosseo:we are in the habit of seeing Rome and of thinking that we have a whole life to visit those; this is the biggest problem.
    Behind every statue there is a man,his thought, his life; behind every monument there is an idea, a plan. This wonderfull heritage is our story, our wealth and we have to know and protect it.
    This “Palazzaccio” was given us to guarantee the justice for all:but, I think, if we don’t respect the rules, if we don’t take care of its importance, it won’t never be the “Temple of Justice”.


  12. Elena Francis says:

    During the last lessons we analised the relationship between law and architecture. I found the lessons very useful for me because i’ve been really interested in our Supreme Court, since i studied history of law: i remember that at the second year of university i saw the carvings of the Middle ages jurists (like Graziano and Alciato) on the facade of the second floor, and i was very curiouse about the story of the building. The lessons gave me the chance to examine in depth this theme and to see architecture in another point of view. The lessons dealed not with law ‘in’ architecture (laws about architecture) but with the importance which architecture can have in our society and in policy. We focused on the “Palazzaccio” and on his historical and political aim: the politicization of the landscape. Indeed, architecture is not an arid and technical discipline, but it is really a form of useful art and an instrument through which express common feelings. Architecture is also an instrument used to represent the evolution of our society and the changes of different periods. Architecture has, in this way, a deep political meaning. The construction of our Supreme Court was strongly supported by Zanardelli and he was the head of the whole procedure for the realization of the building. In this case we can consider architecture as a sign of the presence of a new political power and the auspice of a new national identity. The Court was built in Prati di Castello, very near to the Vatican to prevent the expansion of the Church. So, we know that a lot of elements, like the position of the building, the architectural elements choosen, and the political characters behind the entire work, permit us to understand the opposition to the Vatican and the purpose of Zanardelli to create a unified secular State, where the Court would have been the symbol of justice.
    Thinking about the relationship between law and architecture comes to my mind a building that could have a political meaning and that is linked to law: The Parliament of Louis Kahn in Dacca, Bangladesh ( 1962-1974). The idea came to me reminding a conversation i had time ago with my sister, who studies architecture. So, i started a little reserch. Kahn realized a sort of “cittadella del parlamento”, like a fortified castle, and the building is very symbolic and reach of mystery. The architect uses pure geometric figures and a volumetric composition because he wants to create an ambient without neither time nor mutations., an ambient which is eternal (maybe linked to the idea of law and the political power after the english colonial empire). Kahn designed the building aware of the political and historical situation, and he expressed this awareness using different materials, forms and elements. For example, he decided to put a mosque inside the building ( in our country it would be unimaginable to situate a catholic church inside the court of justice because of our culture! But it was understandable for the government of Bangladesh). For Kahn, indeed, near the place where men create laws and order the society, must have been a place for the encounter between men and God. Kahn wrote somethjing about the meaning and the aim of architecture : he belived that architecture has an ‘essence’, difficult to find for the architect, that sometimes is not able to connect this abstraction to reality ( and here i wonder if the Palazzaccio embodies this connection). Kahn admired the italian architectural style: he gave a particular importance to history and used a lot of elements from ancient times in his projects because history is not nostalgia, but an incentive to creativity. These historical ‘models’ becomes “entità poetiche” with an intrinsic beauty. He expresses a new concept of architecture where formal aspects become symbols, creating what he calls “ricordo collettivo della storia”. The sense of his “storicismo” is linked to the idea of “monumentalism”. Kahn belongs to the functionalist architecture, but he thinks thet buildings must be not only functional and useful, but also functional in a psychological point of view.
    In class we disacussed also a possible answer to the Prof. Conte’s question about the reason of our loss of interest in stuatues and in the emotions that statues, and art in general, can convey. I agree with my collegues who said that today we are more interested in career, work and material things. maybe today we are disillusioned and discouraged because in the contemporary world something has changed in comparison with past.: today you must be very competitive and aggressive, so you can’ t lose time in contemplating statues! Obviously, it is wrong because we can’t focus only on concrete things. We need to focus also on art and humanistic disciplines to understand our society and to find a better way to live. What’s more, today it is hard to think about statues that represent political personalities, but in the past it was normal. Maybe today the situation doesn’t permit to embody political symbols of power in statues (in our western culture), because we don’t have good models.
    A symptom of this situation is that today architecture is mainly focused on buildings which are linked to economy and policy (the most important things in our globalized world). We are used to see more frequently projects of huge administrative buildings than projects of religiouse buildings or social spaces. Comes to my mind the new building of the European Central Bank in Francoforte. The costs for this building were very high (1,3 billion of euro). The building represents the economic power in the ‘eurozona’, indeed his architectural elements expresses this importance. This building is very tall, 185 m., and it is very modern and sophisticated. I found that there are several connections with the story of the Supreme Court of Cassazione. Like Zanardelli for the Palazzaccio, for the new building of BCE a lot of political personalities were involved: the vice president of BCE, responsible for the project, affirmed his enthusiasm and his pleasure in being active in the constructiuon, finished in november 2014 ( Victor Constancio). Another one said that the new seat had the purpose to link historical architecture and advence guard.( Warner Studener). Another responsible of the BCE for the project said that it was a project of the staff for the staff. From these words we can intend that there is a strong political engagement and participation in the construction of the new BCE building. Furthermore, this building embodies economic power and represents ,for the citizens of all european countries, the symbol of the political èlite that has in his hand the economic future of Europe ( and of his citizens!). So, it is not difficult to understand why the new seat of BCE was the scenary of a civil revolt of 350 persons from all european countries, more or less twenty days ago, against the policy of austerity. This event can help us to understand how architecture gives an image of power, justice ,or of an idea, and the influence that a particular building has on the crowd. Each building conveys an image, a perspective of the period and a story. Behind each building there is, indeed, a narrative that tells us a story.


  13. Fabia says:

    I was thinking about the fact that, nowadays, statues and great buildings aren’t used anymore to celebrate the richness and greatness of a nation or to show economical and political power. I think it’s surely because , as we’ve already told i class, in our century there is a different way to communicate; we don’t pay attention to powerful statues and monuments , we’d rather prefer navigate on the internet… But I think that , those days, instead of a powerful political class, which creates huge buildings to show the greatness of the nation , we , as citiziens , just want politicians who solve our problems. We aren’t impressed by celebrative monuments and we don’t care about them as a form of political propaganda.. Nowadays we’re aware of what kind of work or behavior would be really important for us to understand from our politicians, and it can’t be shown by a statue or a moument… Actually I think, on the contrary, that the eventual future construction of a majestic building (like “Palazzaccio”) would be considered by the majority of our population as a not acceptable waste of public money instead of a great celebration of our majestic nation.
    So, I don’t think we’re not interested in monuments: I live in Rome and I’m not indifferent to Colosseum, Pantheon or other wonderful monuments in my city even if I am used to them…In my opinion we just look at them as witnesses of the past, absolutely useless and old-fashioned either to celebrate the majesty of our State (however.. which majesty?) and to remind the importance of our national values. Actually I think that, nowadays, we don’t trust our politicians at all and , for this reason, any of their eventual try to construct or organize something, which can depict the portrait of a wealthy nation, will be seen, by most of population, as an attempt to obscure real problems that they can’t solve and which determine our national crisis.
    See you tomorrow!


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