ATRIUM - Architecture of Totalitarian Regimes of the 20th Century in Europe's Urban Memory


The ATRIUM cultural route (Architecture of Totalitarian Regimes of the 20th century in Europe’s Urban Memory) has its basis in a common urban and architectural heritage in Europe which may be termed “uncomfortable” or “dissonant”. The totalitarian regimes which characterized much of Europe during the central decades of the twentieth century, had a major impact on urban landscape. These regimes founded new cities and rebuilt parts of existing cities often utilizing the most advanced projects in architectural and urban design available. Whilst the democratic Europe which emerged from the Second World War and the fall of the Berlin wall is firmly based on its opposition to these totalitarian regimes, their built heritage remains on the streets of its cities. The Route thus intends to promote a new look at this uncomfortable heritage while maintaining a critical and ethical repudiation of the regimes. The democratic basis of the project for a cultural route is indicated very clearly in Article 2 of the Statute of the ATRIUM Association: “The Association’s activity is inspired by the principle of the promotion of the values of democracy and cooperation between peoples as the foundation for peaceful and civil coexistence. In no case and in no way does the Association accept expressions and forms of historical revisionism, exculpation for authoritarian, dictatorial or totalitarian governments.” The Route aims , however, to promote an appreciation of the architecture and urban design of the regimes as well as using the heritage as a means of fully exploring the sociological, ideological and geographical complexities of the history of these regimes.


After a start-up project funded under the South East Europe programme, the ATRIUM Route was founded in 2013 and gained recognition from the Council of Europe in 2014. It has its headquarters in Forlì and members in five other countries (Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rumania, Bulgaria and Greece). The cities involved all display examples of architecture or urban design deriving from a totalitarian period, often with a strong relation to the regimes. Forlì, Forlimpopoli, Bertinoro, Castrocaro Terme e Terra del Sole, Predappio, Cesenatico and Tresigallo in Italy all have important buildings or parts of the towns deriving directly from Mussolini’s desire to make a strong impact on the streets of the cities near his birthplace (Predappio). Labin and Rasa in Croatia host important examples of Fascist architecture, as does Thessaloniki in Greece. The county of Iasi in Rumania, Doboj in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sofia and Dimitrovgrad in Bulgaria have many examples of architecture deriving from the totalitarian regimes of the period of Soviet influence or from the socialist regimes of the Tito’s Yugoslavia.


The European Cultural Route ATRIUM thus promotes an appreciation of the architectural heritage left by these regimes, and the development of a sustainable tourism. Cultural tourism can enhance a full critical historical and aesthetic appreciation of the “dissonant” architectural and urban heritage that these regimes left behind as well as promote the cultural and democratic values at the heart of the European project.