EUR, a residential and business district in the south-east of Rome, started off life as the site for the 1942 World's Fair, which Benito Mussolini planned to open to celebrate twenty years of Fascism; the letters EUR stand for Esposizione Universale Roma.
The project came to be known as E42 and at its head was the Roman architect Marcello Piacentini (1881-1960). On April 26th 1937 Mussolini inaugurated the project by planting a pine in the centre of the district. A year later Piacentini presented the initial project. However, in September 1939 the Second World War broke out; the Expo was cancelled, and the building work ground to a halt in 1942. Work was renewed in the 1950s and 1960s when the Fascist-era buildings were finally completed.
EUR was designed to be reached by Via Cristoforo Colombo (formerly Via Imperiale), a wide traffic-congested avenue, which leads to the Obelisk of Marconi. The 20th century obelisk graces the centre of the grand Piazza Guglielmo Marconi (formerly Piazza Imperiale).
The Palazzo degli Uffici, which was designed by Gaetano Minnucci (1896-1980), was the first building to be erected (1939) in EUR. Its facade sports a long inscription: LA TERZA ROMA SI DILATERA SOPRA ALTRI COLLI LVNGO LE RIVE DEL FIVME SACRO SINO ALLE SPIAGGE DEL TIRRENO (The Third Rome will expand above the other hills along the banks of the sacred river until the beaches of the Mediterranean). In his speeches, Mussolini often referred to his regime as the 'Third Rome'. The monumental bas-relief, at the main entrance to the palazzo, is the work of Publio Morbiducci (1889-1963), and depicts La Storia di Roma Attraverso le Opere Edilizie (The History of Rome Through its Building Works). Mussolini appears in the relief on horseback.
The large fountain, in front of the Palazzo degli Uffici, is decorated with a series of black and white mosaics, the work of Gino Severini (1883-1966), Giulio Rosso (1897-1976) and Giovanni Guerrini (1887-1972).