Filling in the Details

A new article in The New York Sun about the Ara Pacis Museum and Richard Meier from James Gardner, with a pointed criticism that I can relate to - the details:

"In architecture, details matter. The principle was brought home for me during a visit to the recently completed Ara Pacis Museum on the banks of the Tiber River in Rome. Designed by the New York-based Richard Meier, the building itself exhibits many of the powerful spatial effects and much of that quadratic elegance that are the signature of the architect. The fountain in the plaza out front, however, is a complete disaster. The problem is not so much with the design as with the materials, the engineering, and the maintenance of the waterworks. In homage to the architectural traditions of the Eternal City, much of the plaza is clad in travertine, a porous, igneous stone, susceptible to infestation.

Only a year old, the entire wall of the foundation area is already covered in reddish-brown algae. Because this is just about the first thing you see as you enter the museum's grounds, it casts a pall of ineffaceable abjection over the entire project. As you step closer to the fountain itself, its shallow pool marked by a sequence of liquid jets, you notice refuse and plastic bottles bobbing about in the fountain's gutters or rutted in a pool of viscous fluid."

There's more here. This is the kind of focused criticism that I appreciate - Gardner isn't saying "I like this" or, "I don't like this" - he is making a specific observation about the usage of materials and the design being able to exist in a specific (in this case urban) setting. Mold is growing, and the garbage is piling up. Certainly these are issues that could have and should have been addressed in the design phase. The situation may simply be alleviated with proper maintenance - if that is the case, then the museum needs to hire someone now.

As van der Rohe said and surely Gardner is alluding to with the title of his piece, "God is in the details".

comments powered by Disqus
Follow us:

Recent Entries

Ara Pacis Museum on a Map
The Ara Pacis Museum is in a kind of tucked away location, but this map should help you find it…
Josef Koudelka. Radici
January 1 to April 11, 2021 (planned) The dates indicated may be subject to change. An exhibition dedicated to the…
History of the Ara Pacis Altar Video
From the Khan Academy series. Ara Pacis Augustae (Altar of Augustan Peace), 13-9 B.C.E. Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris &…