The so-called Plastico di Roma is one of Rome’s great attractions. The extraordinary detailed plaster reconstruction of fourth-century Rome monopolizes the image of the imperial city for scholars and visitors alike. Archaeology played an important but small part in the making of the model. The majority of buildings consist of volumetric modules, invented by the “architect” Italo Gismondi and his team, to mask and replace the missing architectural evidence. Victor Plahte Tschudi traces the impact of Gismondi’s invented antiques in Plaster Empires: Italo Gismondi’s Model of Rome. Completed in 1937, in time for the fascist exhibition (the Mostra Augustea), the model gave Fascist modernism a seeming imperial origin. It also legitimized, even inspired, the regime’s town planning policy and brutal overhaul to redeem Rome’s ancient monuments. Reconsidering the history and ideology of the model is crucial as Gismondi’s eighty-year-old inventions of the city reappear today in cutting-edge virtual reconstruction projects.

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