Bara Pacis

Newsweek reports on Richard Meier's Ara Pacis Museum becoming "a lightning rod for protest against war and America." Notable as "the first modern building project in the historical center since the...1930s," it has drawn criticism, been beset by delays periodically ever since it broke ground, and is only half-finished. Nevertheless, "Visitors have taken to expressing their dissatisfaction in graffiti."

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The above image, taken from the Newsweek piece, appears to be a rendering of the complete project, probably incorporated into the construction fence and a welcoming surface for graffiti. I'm guessing security makes defacing the actual building impossible.

While Newsweek makes a point of mentioning anti-war and anti-American protests, the article is more about the non-contextual design of Meier's -- its alien white presence in the travertine, Baroque surroundings -- than these larger issues. Not surprisingly, since not only is it the first building in Rome's city center in 75 or so years, it also houses one of the most important pieces in Roman history, Emperor Augustus's Altar of Peace.

Meier deflects criticism of the design with the oft-repeated and now tired mantra of "life in Rome moving on into the 21st century." (See also Frank "we're not riding around on horseback anymore" Gehry's retorts to criticisms of his Atlantic Yards project) Surprisingly, Meier's website puts a different spin on things (my emphasis):
The location of the site has particular characteristics due to its outstanding historical, archeological and architectural values, and requires a process of enhancement and a level of quality that will ensure the approval from the Italian and the international architectural communities, as well as from the general public.
Ensuring this approval was former Mayor Francesco Rutelli, who picked Meier and pushed the design through the appropriate channels. His successor does not share Rutelli's seemingly blind allegiance to Meier and his design. Instead now Mayor Walter Veltroni is more aligned with Italian art historian Vittorio Sgarbi who burnt a model of project at its opening in April and who says Meier, "[knows] Rome the way I know Tibet."

(via Veritas & Venustas)


  1. And the graffiti (an Italian word!) on the left, the one that says in Italian,

    "Meglio gli architetti di secoli fa..."

    means in English,

    "Better, the architects of centuries past." !


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