Rome’s Montemartini power station: olympic electricity

Roma, Centrale termoelettrica Montemartini - Rome, thermal power station

The Montemartini thermal power station was Rome’s first public plant for the production of electricity. It was built in 1912, one year after the Italian poet Corrado Govoni had published his “Poesie elettriche” (“Electric poems”). Govoni, like so many of his fellow artists at that turn of the century, was enamored with Futurism and the acclamation of technology and progress by the movement’s electrified proponents.

With the station’s inauguration in Rome, progress made its dwelling along the rivers of the ancient Tiber with colossal diesel engines, über-modern turbo alternators and huge steam boilers.

In the vast halls of the station, a storm of tens of thousands of kilowatts began to rage, and energy silently escaped those solid walls to go generate the bustling movement and blinding flashes of light of the cities of the future.

But the future, as they say, never waits, and tomorrow soon became yesterday. The Montemartini station was shut down in the beginning of the 1960s, and has morphed in 1997 into a beautiful museum, where visitors today can enjoy room after room of staggering wonder, with old productive machinery paired with the masterpieces of ancient sculpture from the Capitoline Museums.

A quick journey in time, spanning from classical to industrial archeology, in a place where the ancient gods surely smile, with Olympian irony, looking at the remains of an electric future that is already history.

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November 14, 2014

Rome’s Montemartini power station: olympic electricity