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Old April 21st, 2006, 09:32 PM   #1
hkskyline
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Rome Unveils Controversial Modern Building in Ancient Centre

Modern building rises in heart of ancient Rome
By Rachel Sanderson

[img]http://www.*************/architects/meier/arapacis/4arapacis.jpg[/img]

[img]http://www.*************/architects/meier/arapacis/5arapacis.jpg[/img]

[img]http://www.*************/architects/meier/arapacis/6arapacis.jpg[/img]

[img]http://www.*************/architects/meier/arapacis/7arapacis.jpg[/img]

ROME, April 21 (Reuters) - After years of controversy, Rome on Friday unveiled the first modern building to rise in its ancient centre since dictator Benito Mussolini ruled Italy more than half a century ago.

Renowned U.S. architect Richard Meier was on hand for the inauguration of the Ara Pacis museum, a steel, glass and marble structure that has fired Roman passions with one critic comparing it to a giant petrol station.

"We've made something that is worthwhile," Meier responded to his critics at the gala opening. "To see it filled with people today is a great joy. Rome is a city where people walk and now this will be part of the itinerary," he told Reuters.

Meier's building -- the first to be erected in Rome since the 1930s -- was built to house the Ara Pacis, a 2,000-year-old altar commissioned by Roman Emperor Augustus to commemorate the pacification of what is today France and Spain.

Unlike the ancient artists who completed the altar's famous marble friezes in just four years, Meier battled to build the museum for more than a decade amid street protests and budget squabbles that sparked debate about the Eternal City's struggle to look to the future.

One former culture minister Vittorio Sgarbi on Thursday called it "an indecent cesspit by a useless architect paid two million euros". Some rightist lawmakers have threatened to dismantle and move it to the suburbs if they gain power in upcoming mayoral elections.

"Any work of architecture that has with it some discussion, some polemic, I think is good. It shows that people are interested, people are involved," Meier said, after telling Rome's centre-left mayor Walter Veltroni he hoped that he won a second term.

DOUBLE IDENTITY

Much of the pressure to drag Rome into the 21st century has come from Veltroni, an energetic, jazz-loving former communist.

He has staged free pop concerts at the Colosseum, introduced wireless hotspots to the lush Villa Borghese and pioneered all night shop opening as well as welcoming some of the world's greatest contemporary architects.

"This is a city where you can go from Bernini to Michelangelo to Julius Caesar to Meier. This is what we want to protect, Rome's double identity. The city as a rigorous protector of its past but also driven towards the future," Veltroni told Reuters.

Although Meier's Ara Pacis is the first building for decades to be built in the ancient centre -- alongside famous landmarks like Piazza Navona and the Spanish steps -- several of his contemporaries have already been busy in Rome's suburbs.

Award-winning Renzo Piano opened Rome's Auditorium concert centre in 2002, a building credited with changing Roman attitudes to contemporary building.

British-Iraqi Zaha Hadid is building a modern art gallery, Maxxi, half a mile north of the old city walls.

Next on the horizon is Massimiliano Fuksas who has conceived a convention centre for the south of the city, incorporating a large steel-and-Teflon "cloud".
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Old April 22nd, 2006, 12:17 AM   #2
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Its not that bad i dont think it would ruin the ancient center.
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Old April 23rd, 2006, 11:47 PM   #3
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It is pretty unassuming and shouldn't be overly controversial. It reminds me a bit
of an information centre/public washroom area of a park. It will not be noticed a lot,
so I think people should relax.
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Old April 24th, 2006, 01:01 AM   #4
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very cool.

I just learned about the Ara Pacis this past quarter in Arch&UrbDes101A :-D
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Old April 24th, 2006, 08:33 AM   #5
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I think it's wonderful and would fit in perfectly. Central Rome needs more buildings like this!
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Old April 24th, 2006, 08:54 AM   #6
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even if it looks modern, it does fit well...
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Old August 11th, 2008, 05:26 AM   #7
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FEATURE-Is Rome, the eternal city, stuck in the past?

ROME, Aug 11 (Reuters) - On the banks of the Tiber river by two baroque churches and Emperor Augustus' 2,000-year-old Mausoleum sits a marble, glass and steel structure -- the first modern building to rise in Rome's historic centre.

But unlike the ancient landmarks around it, the Ara Pacis Museum, designed by U.S. architect Richard Meier and unveiled two years ago, may not last -- at least in its present form.

Rome's new right-wing mayor, Gianni Alemanno, promised upon taking office in April to tear it down, saying it lacked "compatibility" with the heart of the ancient city.

He has since partly backtracked, saying removing the structure is not an immediate priority.

But the Culture Ministry has weighed into the debate, with Undersecretary Francesco Maria Giro proposing to take down one of the building's adjacent walls, and lower another, so that the churches behind it are not obscured.

"It's ugly and excessive ... a slap in the face to Roman citizens. If it was up to me, I'd demolish it completely, but because we haven't got the money, this is not possible," he said, touring the museum at the end of July.

Whether it survives or not, Meier's building has become a symbol of a fierce controversy over how far, if at all, the Eternal City should let contemporary architecture take its place alongside the Colosseum or Michelangelo's dome.

"We are a city enslaved by its past, so hung-up on being the home of art, culture and creativity that it doesn't realise that in reality it is static and hostage to politicians, archaeologists and intellectuals who talk and talk but do nothing," said Roman architect Francesco Coppari.

"INDECENT CESSPIT"

Meier's construction is a reliquary to house the 1st century BC Ara Pacis, a sacrificial altar with marble friezes commissioned by Emperor Augustus and dedicated to peace in what is now France and Spain.

In 1995, when Rome was run by the centre-left, Meier won a contract to build the transparent structure and replace a crumbling building erected under fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

The Ara Pacis Museum was championed by former mayors Francesco Rutelli and Walter Veltroni as part of a series of cultural initiatives to drag Rome into the new millennium.

Yet the award-winning architect, whose works include museums in Los Angeles, Barcelona and Frankfurt, battled more than 10 years to achieve his 16 million euro ($24.9 million) project amid budget squabbles and street protests.

Vittorio Sgarbi, an outspoken art critic, once described Meier's Ara Pacis as "an indecent cesspit", a cross between a petrol station and a pizzeria.

Several people living and working near the museum also call it an eyesore.

"It's disgusting. They put modernity right next to these two ancient churches, covering them," said Franco Rocca, who owns a bar around the corner. "Unfortunately, this is a city where that kind of architecture just won't be accepted," he said.

Supporters of new projects say Rome struggles to embrace modernity like other Western capitals -- in direct conflict with its past as a cultural icon.

CULTURE HOSTAGE TO POLITICS

From Michelangelo to Fellini, around the world the designation "Italian" has been synonymous not only with beauty, great art and culture but also innovation. Today however change and innovation are struggling to be accepted.

Over the past decade, a handful of new projects -- mainly in the suburbs -- have actually started to challenge Roman attitudes to contemporary building.

Renzo Piano opened Rome's Auditorium concert hall in 2002. British-Iraqi Zaha Hadid is building a modern art gallery, the Maxxi, half a mile north of the old city walls.

And Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas has conceived a modernist convention centre for the south of the city, incorporating a large steel-and-Teflon structure known as the "Cloud".

Others fear that because the cultural revival of Rome is mainly associated with Alemanno's centre-left predecessors, the debate is more about politics than aesthetics.

"This is a sad legacy of the previous administration, imposed on citizens from the top by two mayors who wanted it at any cost," said Giro, who like Alemanno is an ally of conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, as he visited the Ara Pacis Museum.

Coppari said: "If Rome carries on in this way, it will become a beautiful necropolis, beautiful for the Japanese who come for the shopping and the Americans who get drunk in the centre, but it certainly won't be a modern city."
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Old August 12th, 2008, 04:55 AM   #8
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I can't blame the mayor, the building is ugly.
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Old August 26th, 2008, 03:50 PM   #9
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If Rome wants to host an Olympic Games again soon, they can win it by having a brand new set of facilities showing off great NEW architecture -- so a la Beijing.
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Old August 26th, 2008, 07:19 PM   #10
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I don't mind modernism(thought I'm really not a big fan of modern architecture.) but to place this in the centre of ancient Rome is quiet lacking in taste. Regardless of what Rome does, people will always think of it as a city of older roman architecture, as the cradle of the civilization that has pretty much dominated what western culture would become. If this wasn't in the ancient centre I probably wouldn't care.
I'd find this lacking in taste even if it was in a 18th century neighborhood but to place such a thing in ancient Rome would be highly regretted decades from now.
Not everything needs to be transformed into something futurestic. Let old and historic be historic and let modern and stylish be modern( as much as I dislike it.)
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Old August 26th, 2008, 07:22 PM   #11
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I dislike how the article makes it seem like the mayor is somehow backward or not with it.
I think his choice is quiet understandable. It doesn't go with the ancient area around it. It doesn't mean people shouldn't construct anything there but people shouldn't construct it so at the least it doesn't suck up attention. This is ancient Rome! We should respect it and its wonderful architecture.
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Old August 28th, 2008, 07:12 PM   #12
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Can anyone add some pictures from the context place? Even tho, it is possible to co existe both typs of architecture, but its no easy and its quite a delicate subject.
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Old September 6th, 2008, 07:05 PM   #13
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I have been to the Ara Pacis museum and studied its context. I'm not generally a huge fan of Richard Meier but I can say that his building is certainly an improvement to what was there before.

In 1938 Mussolini ordered that a pavilion be built to hold the Ara Pacis next to the Mausoleum of Agustus. After World War II and a subsequent period of neglect, the altar and the pavilion were restored, but it was found that the pavilion could not guarantee the long term conservation of the altar, due to high temperature and humidity oscillations.

This is the pavillion from the Mussolini era. The huge stone base has the Res Gestae (a text describing the deeds of the emperor Augustus) engraved in it, and was kept in Meier's project.



Here is an aerial vew of Piazza Augusto Imperatore. The Mausoleum of Agustus is the circular object in the center and the Ara Pacis museum is highlighted on the left. The Piazza is lined with fascist era buildings, built by Mussolini, so that is one thing to take into account regarding the context.



The first two images below are examples of the fascist architecture that almost completely surrounds the piazza. The only notable exceptions are the two churches.










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Old September 6th, 2008, 07:07 PM   #14
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Some more photos







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Old September 6th, 2008, 08:18 PM   #15
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To be honest, I think it fits beautifully in that location.
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Old September 7th, 2008, 01:28 AM   #16
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Sorry to say but the fascist architecture is better looking.
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Old September 7th, 2008, 04:33 PM   #17
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I don't know why people are so afraid of new things in old areas.I'm a firm believer that anything looks good againts clean modern lines, be it trees, ruins or general antiquities. This, of course should be done judiciously, but otherwise this kind of building offsets older structures beautifully
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Old September 7th, 2008, 04:56 PM   #18
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Rome is so wonderfully preserved, that the odd modern building does no harm...provided it remains an exception! I would hate to see Rome's character changed. There is always space to build modern buildings outside the historical centre.

Yes, good architecture is good architecture, but there are more subtle distonctions than "good" and "bad". An historical preserved area has a certain physiognomy, which is compromised by the presence of buildings of a completely different era and a completely different character.
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Old September 8th, 2008, 04:12 AM   #19
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It's fine. If it was of some flashing color or black glass, it would most certainly be out of place. There is such building in the middle of baroque centre in my town. But sometimes old and modern make fascinating combinations.
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Old September 8th, 2008, 04:21 AM   #20
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This building is excellent! It fits very well and I really like the public space, etc.
It has to remain the exception though, as has already been said
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