As part of our recent Studio One trip to Rome, we visited the film studios at Cinecittà. The studios are the largest in Europe, with 22 stages and covering an area of 40 hectares.

Opened by Mussolini in 1937, Cinecittà contrasts with the grand monumentality of EUR, which developed at the same time. Whilst the permanent buildings of Cinecittà share a similar formal layout, they are much more simple, functional buildings, aligned more closely with the modernist tradition.

Early design drawing by Gino Peressutti.

The studios have a permanent public exhibition 'Cinecittà Shows Off'. In addition they offer guided tours of several of the sets, which are also available to be hired for corporate functions and weddings.

The Main Street set, used in Scorsese's 'Gangs of New York' (2002). The buildings on the right are currently being adapted to look more Roman for a different production.

The wafer thin veneer exposed.

The set of the HBO/BBC production 'Rome' (2004-07). Parts of this set were re-used by the BBC in 2008 for an episode of Dr Who located in Pompei.

A view of the inside of a building on the 'Rome' set, showing the translucence of the fibreglass.

Aerial photo showing the 'Rome' set, with streets and alleys above and forum below.  The area to the upper right was destroyed in a fire in 2007. (photo © Google Maps)

The 7,000 square metre (2.7 million gallon) outdoor tank with blue screen backdrop, used for the waterfront scenes in the 'Gangs of New York'.

The medieval Tuscan town set.

An annotated detail drawing explaining the construction of a set. A practical balcony is one that can support the weight of an actor (or crew). A non-practical balcony cannot.

The sculpture workshop.

A design model of the monastery and library tower for Annaud's 'The Name of the Rose' (1986).

Set builders working on a Byzantine church interior for a future production.  The construction principle is formally very similar to the effect of Gae Aulenti's exhibition space at the Museo Nacional d'Art de Catalunya in Barcelona, where carefully conserved wall paintings from Romanesque churches are displayed on timber formwork.

(all photos © Russell Light, January 2012)

More information is available on the Cinecittà website (in Italian and English).