Saturday, November 12, 2011

camminando | Rome Contemporary Architecture: MAXXI

Roma’s urban texture is based on the intersection of axes, which are often centered in a piazza, as an expanding spider web connecting with other webs of axes. The complexity of places and visual beauty of the urban fabric is often related to the axes connections and intersection, which create frames of views where the architecture of the buildings, often connected by arches or porticos continues in streets and squares, in the making of places.
Rome does not have much to present forcontemporary architecture and unfortunately the very few examples, signed by archistar like Richard Meier and Zaha Hadid, do not relate to the urban fabric at all. The relationship with the site is always been the very first condition to be analyzed in any architectural design intervention, as learned from Architecture 101 —or at least when I studied architecture in the University of Rome.  And Rome is quite a site: thousand years of history can be still perceived in the many layers of art and architecture of hundreds of piazze, vicoli, archi, fontane, obelisks.
My visit to the contemporary art museum MAXXI foundation confirmed my considerations, initiated by the Ara Pacis museum designed by Richard Meier. The MAXXI, signed by Zaha Hadid is located in a perhaps less prominent historical area, quartiere Flaminio, yet close to the river Tevere and to a masterpiece of modern engineering, Palazzetto dello Sport by Luigi Nervi.
The MAXXI would be a per se interesting ”blob”, following a vocabulary of linear geometries, cantilevered volumes and forms defined by circulation patterns. But it lacks integration with urban context. Another major criticism is in its formal complexity which competes with the artwork exhibited. Usually contemporary art, especially three-dimensional installations are best presented and perceived in a “white box” container. And the building also presents the typical blob characteristic of structure unrelated to form, so different from almost any example of architectural vocabulary present in Rome, from classical to Renaissance and Baroque.

Excerpts from the multimedia project
“Axes Mundi: Perceptions and Understanding of Places as Intersections of Space, Time and Culture"