One of the ‘newest’ additions of contemporary architecture in Rome is the new National Museum of the XXI Century Arts by Zaha Hadid, otherwise dubbed ‘MAXXI’. Despite the fact that it took about ten years and six different governments to build this museum, MAXXI is considered one of the ‘newest’ additions of contemporary architecture in Rome, probably due to Rome’s notorious reluctance to create signature buildings by star architects. The building has received quite a lot of press recently and our studio decided to stop by for a visit.
Getting to the museum was actually harder than we had expected. Located in the suburbs of Rome, we ended up walking around an entire block to find the museum entrance. Nevertheless, it is actually quite hard to miss this massive concrete building, elevated above the ground and juxtaposed against the surrounding suburban brick buildings with its monolithic aesthetic.
We met with the engineer in front of the museum, who gave us a private tour of the building since the museum was still closed to the public. Although the building has been mostly finished, it was obvious that it was still in the final stages of being completed- floor tiles were being installed, lights being fixed, and the smell of paint noticeable in the air. It was indeed quite exciting to see the building in its primitive state, being made ready to be contaminated with pieces of art and hordes of people.
The engineer then brought us to what I think was the most impressive part of the building-the building atrium- linking all the spaces of the museum into this one chamber space. A series of spaces and building parts are weaved together to create one sinuous and fluid interior, creating a powerfully sensual space which offers an always unexpected and different experience.
Natural light is modulated by steel fins which run along the upper ceiling. Artificial light bathes the walls and staircases to further accentuate the fluid lines and control your vision of the elements.
Zaha Hadid may be known for her excessive sensibilities but this is a building which I think has a great balance between continuity and variety, suspension and weight. The interior is extremely varied but measured to ensure its gracefulness. Its elements are visually bold but also balanced by the subtle changes of natural and artificial light flooding the atrium space.
What an architectural feat for the city of Rome. I can imagine nothing but excitement as people enter this museum for the first time when it opens in a couple of weeks.