One of the more important architects working in Rome between the 1920s and 70s, Enrico Del Debbio (Carrara, 1891 – Rome, 1973) completed his studies in Carrara at the Regia Accademia di Belle Arti, where he specialised in architecture (1910).
In 1914 he was assigned the prestigious Pensionato Artistico Nazionale, moving to the Capital, where he remained for the rest of his life, passing his time amongst writers, critics and artists The winner of numerous national architectural competitions, Del Debbio also worked in some of the Italy’s most well known offices.
In 1920 he began teaching at the Scuola Superiore di Architettura in Rome. During the first Roman Biennale, held in 1921, he was awarded the first prize for architecture.
For Del Debbio, the 1920s and 30s coincided with a period of public and institutional recognition: he was nominated a member of the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca (1930) and the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno in Florence (1936); he was a member of the organising committee for the I Esposizione Quadriennale Romana (1930); Del Debbio was also the technical-artistic consultant for the renewal of the Palazzo delle Esposizioni and the organisation of the Exhibition for the 10th Anniversary of the Fascist Revolution (1931).
In 1927 he began working on the urban plan and design of the Foro Mussolini, later renamed the Foro Italico, which kept him occupied for 40 years. As director of the Technical Office of the Opera Nazionale Balilla, he supervised numerous educational and sporting facilities in Italy and designed the structures for various Balilla [summer sports and educational camps – TN]. He also participated in the formulation of numerous Italian urban planning laws (L.1050 from 1942) and those relative to the presence of works of art in public buildings, the so-called 2% Law, also from 1942.
After the Second World War Del Debbio began focusing on various architectural typologies: residential dwellings – the Ponticelli housing in Naples (1952) and the Isolotto in Florence (1954); and sacred architecture – the San Salvatore Church in Pantelleria (1947-48). He returned to working on the Foro Italico, designing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, initially suspended by the approach of the War.
For the 1960 Olympic Games he designed the International House of the Student and the Stadium of Water Sports. He received various public recognitions, including the Class I Gold Medal reserved for the Benemeriti of education, culture and art awarded by the Ministry of Public Education in 1959; he also received academic commissions from the Pontificia Accademia dei Virtuosi al Pantheon (1961) and the Faculty of Architecture in Rome (1967), where he was nominated Professor Emeritus.
E. Valeriani, Del Debbio, Roma, Editalia, 1976
Il Foro Italico, a cura del Comitato dei Monumenti Moderni, Roma 1990
A. Greco, S. Santuccio, Foro Italico. Atlante storico delle città italiane-Roma1, Roma 1991
M. L. Neri, Il ruolo di Enrico Del Debbio nella cultura architettonica italiana, in V. Fianchetti Pardo, (a cura di) La Facoltà di architettura dell’Università di Roma “La Sapienza” dalle origini al duemila, Roma 2001, pp.317-372
M. Mulazzani, R. Capomolla, R. Vittoriani, Roma, il Foro Mussolini, in “Casabella”, 1, Dicembre 2004/Gennaio 2005, pp. 7-27
M. L. Neri, Enrico Del Debbio, catalogo della mostra (Roma, 7dicembre 2006- 4 febbraio 2007), Milano 2006
E. Terenzoni, A. Vittorini (a cura di), Enrico Del Debbio architetto – la misura della modernità, guida breve alla mostra, Roma 2006