What makes Rome so beautiful from an architectural perspective is all the layers. There are so many of them. Any building in the center of the city can show traces from all the most important eras: ancient Rome, medieval Rome, renaissance Rome, industrial Rome, and modern day. The urban fabric is a patchwork of styles, materials, and historical details. Building is highly regulated in the center of Rome which restricts architects – of Italian or international fame – to leave any substantial mark. But there are a few exceptions, like the six remarkable pieces of architecture we’ve included in our list. From the boundary pushing MAXXI and Macro Museums to the deconstructed, light-filled church by Richard Meier, there’s something for everyone to appreciate.
The Ara Pacis is an ancient altar to the Goddess of Peace built in 13 BC to celebrate the homecoming of Emporer Augustus from Spain and Gaul. The altar was originally located outside the historic center in the flood planes of the Tiber River, which eventually covered it. It was unearthed in 1938 and reconstructed in its current location, appropriately adjacent to the Mausoleum of Augustus. The original building which encased the altar was a similar design, with glass walls to let natural light illuminate the monument. But in its decrepit condition, the City of Rome decided to hold an international competition to invite international architects to bid for the redesign. Richard Meier won the bid and the new Ara Pacis Museum was inaugurated in 2006.
Address Lungotevere in Augusta
North of the historic center and just a short tram ride from Piazza del Popolo, the MAXXI (Museum of Art from the 21st Century) Museum has an astounding presence with it’s cantilevered forms, columns, public lighting and angular open space. The museum, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, opened in 2010 and houses important contemporary works by Italian and International artists, including William Kentridge, Anish Kapoor, and Alighiero Boetti.
Address Via Guido Reni, 4A
Massimiliano Fuksas is one of Italy’s most celebrated architects at the moment, and La Nuvola, a massive conference space in the EUR neighborhood of Rome, is one Rome’s newest piece of contemporary architecture. The building design features three separate elements: the Theca, which is the large geometric, glass “box” that houses all of the functions inside; the Cloud which is formed from steel and fiberglass and seemingly “floats” inside the Theca; and the Blade which is the narrow black building that runs along side the Theca and will house a 4-star hotel for conference participants. La Nuvola isn’t open for public viewing when there isn’t a public expo taking place, but the building is worth the visit even just from the outside.
Address Viale Asia, 40 (EUR)
The Parco della Musica is one of Europe’s most visited cultural venues, thanks to the unique design by Genovese architect Renzo Piano and expert acoustics in its three massive music halls and outdoor theater. The huge volumes house the separate music halls and appear to levitate off the ground. The forms were inspired by the voids in hollowed musical instruments which paired with the unique zinc roofing material look almost like beetles. The plush interiors and exquisite acoustics attract national and international artists all year round as well as host the annual Rome Film Festival that takes place in October.
Address Via Pietro de Coubertin, 30
Built as an adaptive reuse from an old Peroni Beer brewery, the MACRO (Museum of Contemporary art in Rome) museum is a conceptual space designed by French architect Odile Decq. A dark stone palette contrasts with the bright red cube that sits in the center of the large interior open space. The permanent collection includes works from Italian artists as early as the 1960s and the museum is constantly hosting temporary exhibitions, including a recent retrospective on Pink Floyd. The renovations of the museum began in 2004 and are technically still on-going. The MACRO museum has two locations, this one on Via Nizza (north of the center of Rome) and in Testaccio, in an abandoned slaughterhouse.
Address Via Nizza, 138
The Chiesa Dio Padre Misericordioso (Church of God the Merciful Father) is located far outside the center of Rome east of the city. The church was designed by Richard Meier in 1996 as part of the Vatican’s preparations for the 2000 Jubilee. The church serves a parish of 8,000 in the Tor Tre Teste area of Rome. The church’s design resembles ship sails with three curved walls that not only let light in but also reduce heat gain on the interior. The all-white church highlights Meier’s geometric and monochromatic style which contrasts with the surrounding urban landscape.
Address Piazza Largo Terzo Millennio, 8
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