Colonial Italian villages in Libya. 1934 – 1939

Libya has been under Italian rule since 1911, when it was conquered in the war with the Ottoman Empire. From then until the Second World War, the Italians moved to Libya and were then under the protectorate of the Kingdom of Italy. The development of the region under the Italian administration was different, being conditioned by the economic situation of the whole country, the bad social policy and the Italians’ lack of interest in investing as much money in the region. In 1922, with the arrival of Benito Mussolini in power, Italy experienced radical changes in all areas. In 1934, Italian Libya became a definitive colony, due to the fact that Mussolini saw the future of Italy through the eyes of the Roman eagle.

With the appointment of Italo Balbo as governor of Libya in 1934, there was also an impetus of agrarian colonization of the territory. Thousands of Italian settlers moved to Tripolitania and Cirenaica, where many special villages were built for the Italians. The colonists’ villages were named in honor of the national heroes: Marconi, Garibaldi, Baracca, Battisti, Filzi, Biachi, etc. The colonies were built for the Italian region by the Italians, especially because there were many needy Italians who were hardly finding jobs, especially the peasants. For this reason, most settlers were peasants and farmers, who knew how to process the fertile lands of northern Libya.

Homes, churches, schools, etc. were built in the style of Mediterranean rationalism, very popular in Italy with the fascist realm. Modernist, contemporary, interwar, cheap and easy-to-build buildings were the new Italian era in Libya. These colonies were built in the years 1936-1939, and the main architects of the buildings were Florestano di Fausto, Umberto di Segni and Giovanni Pellegrini.

The village of Beida Littoria in 1934

The colonies were endowed with modern dwellings, all white and united in a unique complex of the village. The edifices were imposing, especially the religious ones, which represented the cultural and spiritual center of the entire community. You can see the influences of Roman architecture, mauresque and bauhaus. The Italian tradition is also involved in the structure of the villages and is based on the idea of the permanent support of peasants and farmers, so much promoted by the fascist propaganda.

I like these constructions very much and I think they would have been very useful nowadays. When talking about urban or rural development, all elements present in these villages can be welcomed. If it is to compare with the contemporary architecture of the Republic of Moldova, then these colonies seem like corners of heaven. The aesthetics of fascist architecture are very pleasant, and Mediterranean rationalization can be used anywhere. It’s much cheaper to build something than Zaha Hadid Architects’ miserable edifices. In any case, there are more buildings to be admired in Italy’s history, and I will continue the theme of fascist architecture.

Text by Claudiu C. CREȚU

Photography source: VENTENNIO

© The Bunget Arts & Culture 2019

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