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Ara Pacis Museum Evening Openings

Starting September 4th and for October also the Ara Pacis Museum will stay open until 11:00 PM on Saturdays. You can save on entrance also by getting a Roma Pass.

More on the Vandalism

ANSA has some more details in their story of the paint attack on the Ara Pacis museum, and a picture:

re201ynkX_20090601.jpg.jpeg(ANSA) - Rome, June 1 - A wall of Rome's controversial Ara Pacis museum was spattered in bursts of red and green paint on Monday in an attack by unidentified vandals.

Police arrived on the scene at dawn after being alerted to the paint splashes, which were in the colours of the Italian flag.

Ara Pacis museum vandalized

You just knew this had to happen eventually (sadly):

ars-cp-6796717.jpg.jpegThe Ara Pacis museum, a controversial modern museum in central Rome, has been hit by vandals with paint-filled balloons.

Vandals left a porcelain toilet and two packs of toilet paper next to the museum in the overnight attack, which appeared to be a comment on the design.

The paint on the white, block-like structure was red and green — the colours of the Italian flag.

There have been objections to the modern outline of the building by Richard Meier since the U.S. architect was hired to design it.

Right-wing Mayor Gianni Alemanno last year threatened to move the building which was a project of his predecessor. His criticism is that the modern structure doesn't fit with Rome's classical architecture.

The mayor has begun negotiations with the architect in an attempt to change the design. And he condemned the vandals.

Photo courtesy of the AP (Riccardo De Luca/Associated Press). If anyone has any photos they took email them to me and I will post them here.

Rome museum blog

The Comune of Rome has a new blog - an official blog - for Rome's museums. This is definitely cool - now I just need to work on my Italian. Link: Blog Musei in Comune Roma

Meier Says Ara Pacis Is Victim of Italian Politics

More from Meier about the proposed demolition (via Bloomberg):

"The longer I'm involved in this the more bizarre it seems,'' said Meier, who accuses Alemanno of animosity toward the arts.

And this nugget from Culture Minister Sandro Bondi:

"It's really difficult for me to find beauty in contemporary art,'' said Bondi in an interview in the current issue of Italian women's magazine Grazia. "If I visit a show, like many people I pretend to understand. But sincerely, I don't understand.''

I have to say that if i was the Culture Minister of any country I would make it and important part of my job to understand contemporary art. I may not like it - but I would know how to talk about it in a critical, informed manner - and not just say "I pretend to understand". This is shameful - I hope that something was lost in the translation of this quote.

Italy to Tear Down Part of Richard Meier Museum

Yes - this is ridiculous news. And sad. Sort of hard to believe that a modern government can act like the Taliban:

Aug. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government plans to tear down part of a Rome museum designed by U.S. architect Richard Meier, Corriere della Sera said, citing comments by Culture Undersecretary Francesco Giro.

A travertine stone wall at the Ara Pacis museum will be removed to facilitate viewing of two historic churches in the same square that houses the 2,000-year-old Mausoleum of Roman Emperor Augustus, Giro said yesterday at the museum, according to the report. A section of another travertine wall connected to the museum also will be knocked down, he said.

Giro said Roman Mayor Giovanni Alemanno agrees on the plan, and a joint meeting between the mayor's office and the Culture Ministry will be held in September or October to discuss technical issues, according to Corriere.

The Meier-designed museum was inaugurated in 2006 and houses the Ara Pacis, an altar constructed in 9 B.C. to commemorate the peace following Rome's Gallic and Spanish campaigns.

Ara Pacis Museum controversy quiet for now

A recent editorial in World Architecture News says that the controversy about the Ara Pacis Museum possible being razed is quieting down:

Mary Lou Bunn, a communications spokesperson for Richard Meier's office said, "things have been quiet" (since the announcement was made). She added that Meier "is willing to talk to the Mayor" about the matter and that "people at the firm are very attached to the project." Ms. Bunn said that the Italian daily, the Corriere della Sera, had polled its readers about the matter with the results being that somewhere near 70% of respondents want the building to stay.

As I stated earlier, I think the odds of anything happening to this museum are close to zero. It is simple populist politics to make statements like Alemmano did, which the Italians are quite good at. At the same time, the article quotes a poll by Corriere della Sera showing that the "people" want the building to stay. There are other papers in Italy that if polled would probably show the opposite.

Italy needed fascism, says the new Duce

Rome's new mayor continues to make news:

Alemanno praised a district south of Rome, which Mussolini built as a symbol of fascism, calling it an example of "architecture that was part of the modernisation process and gave importance to Italy's cultural identity". The EUR district's monumental style, built for an international exhibition that was abandoned because of the war, was modelled on that of ancient Rome.

After living here for a few years you start to understand the Italians fascination with Mussolini - but it is a false hope, based on nostalgia and selective memories (the trains ran on time, the modernizing of the infrastructure, etc.). It is much like the American Right's fascination with the post WWII boom and the longing for the "good old days" of a dad that worked and a mom that stayed home and baked cookies. These are just cultural myths - and even if they were real for a moment in time, they were eventually unsustainable. Instead of looking to the past we all should be looking forward, but as always, it is easier to blame others and long for better things than to roll up your sleeves and actually do something. Shipping 20,000 Romanians out of Italy isn't really going to stop the problems in Rome.

So while we were on holiday in Sorrento this news broke - which explains the spike in traffic to the site the last few days. Personally it sounds like a lot of hot air, and a lot of free publicity for the new (reportedly far right) mayor. This seems to be a tried and true trick of Italian politicians. Does anyone think that a brand new building like this is going to be razed? Would the Romans want to be compared to the Taliban? I don't think so - but for now it generates some news, sells some newspapers and makes the new mayor look tough.

"The famous American architect Richard Meier has denounced as incredible plans by Rome's new right-wing mayor to dismantle a state-of-the-art museum designed by Mr Meier that opened just two years ago.

The white marble, glass and steel structure housing the Ara Pacis, an ancient Roman altar with a sculptured frieze on the banks of the Tiber, is regarded by some architectural experts as a masterpiece. Others, however, find it hideous, with some critics dismissing it as being "like a suburban swimming pool or a giant petrol station". Silvio Berlusconi, whose centre-Right alliance won a sweeping victory in national elections last month, once described it as monstrous.

Gianni Alemanno, a member of the "post-Fascist" Alleanza Nazionale who overturned decades of centre-Left rule in a run-off election on Sunday and Monday, said bluntly that "Meier's building is a construction to be scrapped". He added that this was not his" top priority", leaving the timing of the demolition unclear."

More here.

DISSONANZE 08 at the Ara Pacis Museum

Here is another event slated to take place at the Ara Pacis Museum:

Dissonanze, the festival for electronic music and multimedia art returns to Rome for the eighth year...

The 2008 edition of Dissonanze will also involve new spaces. The historic and architecturally acclaimed PALAZZO DEI CONGRESSI and L'AUDITORIUM PARCO DELLA MUSICA (which last year hosted the great Karlheinz Stockhausen: first and foremost) will remain this year – but another extraordinary space, the museum of the ancient l'ARA PACIS, will be added to the list.

The above is from BERLINISTA.

Mimmo Paladino | Brian Eno: a work for the Ara Pacis


Contemporary Italian artist Mimmo Paladino and music legend Brain Eno have a new, site specific exhibit at the Ara Pacis Museum:

This event, which could well be described as long-awaited, is the second time that these two indisputably important contributors to contemporary culture have worked together; the first being almost ten years ago in 1999 at London's "Round House".

I can't find many details about the exhibit at this point - I am hoping there is some more coverage once it opens. From 11 March to 11 May, 2008.

Notes on the Ara Pacis

Came across and interesting blog post about the Ara Pacis Museum:

"The contemporary fetishization of this moment in history comes from a desire to remember Rome's one-time value and, in turn, anticipate the return of this value. The construction of this new museum is a direct act of myth-making. This agenda is clearly mapped out in the ichnography of the building. The fear of fire, or at least the institutionalized residue of a fear of fire, presumably truly felt by someone at some time but we don't know who, introduces a second logic with a second ichnography. This system is laid out over the first system, using the architecture as its starting point. In this interplay between the two logics, two hands are obviously at play with two different agendas."

Don't know if I agree with the premise - but I will be sure to take note of the fire extinguishers on my next visit.

Oh no - Rick Steves has discovered the Ara Pacis!

Expect visitors to increase in 2008:

And travelers are rediscovering the Ara Pacis -- the first-century "Altar of Peace" built by Emperor Augustus to kick off the Pax Romana. It's wonderfully displayed in a state-of-the-art exhibit housed in a starkly modern building -- the first new construction in Rome's old center since 1938.

I love to hate this guy - from the TV show to the books to the armies of people that mob places he recommends, but then I read a very surprising interview of him that has made me soften my view - a bit. More after the fold.

The eternal city

"And Rome is starting to look more contemporary - in a uniquely Roman way. American architect Richard Meier's new museum for the Ara Pacis, opened in 2006, has been attacked as a coldly modernist intrusion into the city's past, and yet, what was more shocking, seeing it last summer, was an exhibition of dresses by Valentino that cluttered Meier's cool space. Valentino's opulently sheethed mannequins turned good taste into bad, and made the new building and the ancient Roman treasure it houses seem like backdrops for a Fellini film."

Just a snippet from an excellent, concise article from the Guardian about the new Gagosian gallery in Rome.

Video Interview with Ara Pacis Architect Richard Meier

Richard Meier Interview

So it seems Meier has an exhibit in his honor at some new museum - the Louise T. Blouin Foundation. Bloomberg news has an interview with Meier:"Meier happily takes credit for two recent Rome buildings. One is the uncharacteristically curvilinear Jubilee Church, with three sail-like arches, in a working-class suburb. A more central landmark is his glass-and-travertine container for the Museo dell'Ara Pacis, the newest edifice in historic Rome since Mussolini's day. Flooded with light, it contains Augustus's Altar of Peace, from 9 B.C."

Photo copyright and courtesy of

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."

With all its treasures sold, who will visit Italy?

Sort of a hit and run piece from the Telegraph

"Rome recently allowed Valentino, a fashion designer, to throw a party around the Ara Pacis, a gleaming white marble altar from 13bc celebrating Augustus's victories in Spain and France. He also erected a tacky resin temple to showcase his frocks in the middle of the Forum. The city even wanted a company to wrap an advertisement around the outside of the Colosseum, but failed to find a bidder with deep enough pockets. The result is that nine tenths of the building is too decayed to visit."

There is more, about how Italians don't pay taxes, Venice is smelly and crowded, etc. - but I think the overall issue is far greater than just an Italian one and is over simplified in such a short piece. The new museum building is a showcase and was built for such attractions. The photos from the Valentino show are stunning, with the juxtaposition of the gowns on the dozens of mannequins against the backdrop of the altar itself.

There are problems in Italy, and problems with mass global tourism everywhere. I think I am just getting tired of the complaints. Let's see some new ideas about how to change the course from the people that are so unhappy with it.

Here is a really stunning slide show from the International Herald Tribune of the Valentino exhibit at the Ara Pacis Museum. I thought from the news reports that the museum was just going to be used for an event, but it looks like this exhibit will be in place until late October.


Photo credit Christopher Moore for the International Herald Tribune

Valentino event at the Ara Pacis Museum

From the Guardian:

"It is a buzz that mayor Walter Veltroni wants back, prompting him to hand over the keys to a second Roman temple, the Ara Pacis, originally built to honour the conquest of France by Augustus. Valentino will host a 300-dress exhibition of his best works in the temple."

Following the news for the Ara Pacis museum as closely as we do here, it seems obvious that the new museum was really pushed by Veltroni specifically for these kinds of events. No wonder the altar had spaces designed for exhibitions and a theater. A lot people - and many Italians obviously - may not like Meier's work on a personal level (which is really not much of an argument anyway) - but he can't be blamed for shoe-horning in elements that probably would have been left out if the building wasn't intended to serve several purposes from the beginning.

Valentino a Roma: 45 Years of Style

The Ara Pacis museum is getting a lot of duty as an event space:

"As for the exhibition, Valentino a Roma: 45 Years of Style is the retrospective that, via around 300 garments and rare archive material, will celebrate Valentino's 45 years of creativity, with a spectacular staging in the Ara Pacis Museum, which was recently renovated and extended by architect Richard Meier. The exhibition, which will run from July 6 to October 28 and is being curated by Patrick Kinmonth and Antonio Monfreda, is developed around the Ara Pacis and in all the rooms of the museum. The display will create a chronological retrospective, which is visible to passers-by outside the museum, strengthening the link that connects Valentino to Rome and Rome to Valentino. The complementary exhibition catalogue, published by Taschen, will include a detailed philological analysis of the garments and materials on display, alongside critical texts written for the occasion by the curators, by the Mayor of Rome Walter Veltroni, and by some of the most eminent figures of the worlds of journalism and fashion criticism."

Italians Protest U.S. Museum

This is a year old, but I hadn't come across it before:

"The building has become a flash point for anti-American sentiment and public disaffection for efforts to modernize the ancient city, which residents, historians and many visitors prefer were left untouched. Visitors have taken to expressing their dissatisfaction in graffiti. MEIER IS A CRIMINAL wrote one visitor in English on a construction tarp. IKEA: NOW SELLING TOILETS AT THE ARA PACIS wrote another in Italian. The site has also become a gathering spot for antiwar and anti-American protestors who point to its lack of regard for its surroundings as a symbol of everything they hate about the United States. According to most Italians interviewed at the site, the modern look is wholly unacceptable in the heart of the Eternal City."

From Newswe(a)k.

Frankly, I think Schnabel is a blowhard (from Italy Mag):

Well-known artist Julian Schnabel on Thursday provided heavy ammunition for the many critics of Rome's new home for the Roman Empire's most famous peace symbol.

Speaking on the sidelines of a new show he is giving here, Schnabel called the Ara Pacis museum, designed amid fierce polemics by his eminent countryman Richard Meier, "an air-conditioning unit".

"Modern museums are all the same, all glass and marble."

"They're soulless," said Schnabel, whose first-ever Rome show will be at the famous Palazzo Venezia from May 4 to June 26 before moving to Milan.

"People have to realise we're just ghosts, we're going to be leaving pretty soon, so we have to seek beauty in the present and use the things we have, not novelties," said the 55-year-old New York artist and film-maker, whose works dot the world's leading museums.

Schnabel was flanked by a delighted Vittorio Sgarbi, the outspoken art critic, now Milan cultural chief, who once urged students to bomb the building and accused the American architect of "knowing Rome like I know Tibet".

Knowing his paintings I think the phrase "seek beauty in the present and use the things we have, not novelties" is especially egregious. And having your building called "an air-conditioning unit" could be considered a deconstructivist compliment actually.

This looks like a good site to visit if you are into architecture:

There is a very long and detailed post up about the Ara Pacis Museum, with lots of photos and information.


FotoGrafia exhibit at the Ara Pacis Museum

Part of this year's FotoGrafia exhibit will be in the Ara Pacis Museum - from

A new production of work by Antonio Biasiucci, curated by Giuseppe Prode and dedicated to Exvoto will be presented at the prestigious location of the Ara Pacis Museum. This is a new stage in the photographer's "from Genesis to Catharsis". In this beautiful location designed by Richard Meyer, there will also be an exhibition entitled "Inheriting landscapes", by Maddalena D'Alfonso and Giovanna Calvenzi, in which for the very first time seven great photographers who have contributed to the redefinition of criteria for research in the aesthetics of landscapes, compare their work with that of their possible "heirs". And so Olivo Barbieri, Gabriele Basilico, Vincenzo Castella, Giovanni Chiaramonte, Guido Guidi, Mimmo Jodice and Massimo Vitali have invited two young photographers each to exhibit their work with them.

Visitors flock to Rome's museums

WantedInRome is reporting:

Since its opening in April 2006 l'Ara Pacis has had more than 200,000 visitors.


In Rome the other day, Richard Meier's design for the Ara Pacis was publicly burnt in the streets by an enraged critic, who described it as "an indecent cesspit by a useless architect". Right or wrong, he seized the headlines. We need a few bonfires.

From City plans? Hand me the matches

Rome wasn't built in a day

Interesting article from

How does the ‘Eternal City' juggle the need to preserve its past with the equally important need to construct its future?

In his design for a new museum to house the Ara Pacis, a Roman altar commemorating Augustus' victory in Gaul and Spain in 15 BC, Richard Meier was always going to have to tread carefully. Not only was the American ‘star' architect chosen over local candidates, but this would be the first modern architectural project to be undertaken in Rome's historical centre for more than 60 years. Could a contemporary architect really succeed in reconciling 21st century design with the ancient landmarks and heritage of the Eternal City - among them the mausoleum of Emperor Augustus which borders the new building?

More here.

It's The Way He Stands

One of the first readable blog entries I have come across about the Ara Pacis museum (and it is about the museum - not the altar):

Every so often, I hear how ugly Richard Meier's home to the Ara Pacis is-- what a mistake, it ruins the cityscape of Rome, it's too white. Blah blah blah. First of all, the city scape isn't ruined, it's a flat bed roof, low and hidden beneath Rome's domes. Second, its practically open. Sitting in lungotevere traffic, zipping by on motorino, chilling on the bus or just strolling, no matter what you get a direct peak at the Ara Pacis, direct interaction with Augustus and Ancient Rome, just as it was originally planned 2000 years ago. Third, it's a contemporary building smack in the center of Rome which always sparks a beautiful, enriching and heated discussion of the confrontation between classical and contemporary architecture. Even if you think it sucks, you will still talk about it.

There is more, from an interesting blogger called Moscerina who appears to live in Rome.

Piazza Augusto Imperatore competition at the Ara Pacis

Wanted in Rome is reporting the following:

Italian design wins Piazza Augusto Imperatore project.

The city has presented the plans which have won the competition for the second phase of the long-term revamping of the Piazza Augusto Imperatore and its mausoleum...

According to these plans, there will be a large pedestrian area all round the mausoleum, with gardens which descend towards the entrance of the monument, and an eventual complete restoration of the monument itself. Estimated cost of the works is €20 million with a further two million for restoration of the monument itself. Tendering for the contracts will begin in the summer of 2007, and works should be finished by the end of 2008 or the beginning of 2009.

The ten projects from the competition will go on display at the Ara Pacis on November 30th.

Ara Pacis Museum on

9arapacis.jpgHere is the website page about the Ara Pacis Museum. This is an architecture based website, and the gist of this article is overall sympathetic to the project and the architect - it doesn't get into the Ara Pacis itself in any detail. It does have some good photos of the museum and architectural models, computer renderings, and elevation drawings though. If you are interested in the building, this site is a good reference and worth checking out.

An Oracle of Modernism in Ancient Rome


The NY Times reviewed the Ara Pacis Museum in late September 2006. The author levels both scant praise and heavy criticism at the architect - he uses the term "flop" early on. Meier has tried to move the conversation about the shop and the auditorium to the client, the mayor of Rome:

The museum's bloated size was not entirely Mr. Meier's fault; the government client had something to do with it. But he compounds the problem by playing to the piazza's monumentality rather than countering it with the quietness that its pomposity demands.

There is a lot not to like about the building, but unfortunately, in a place as ancient as Rome, this project really never had a chance. You can read the whole article here.

Picture courtesy and property of the NY Times.

Imperial Roman Treasure Gets a Modern Home

The NY Times has published several articles about the new museum. This one, "Imperial Roman Treasure Gets a Modern Home", first appeared on April 24, 2006:

Since this city was not built in a day, it is perhaps unsurprising that a plan to house Caesar Augustus's Ara Pacis, or altar of peace, in a new museum has taken 10 years to be realized. Romans, after all, feel possessive about their city. And, in this case, the idea of inviting Richard Meier to design a dazzling white modernist building for Rome's historic center was the stuff of heated debate -- and multiple delays.

Rome's mayor, Walter Veltroni, went ahead with its scheduled inauguration on Friday because April 21 was, at least in theory, the city's 2,759th birthday. But even now, work is continuing on the $24 million glass and travertine marble structure, which stands between a busy highway overlooking the River Tiber and the Mausoleum of Augustus. A 300-seat auditorium and a lower-level exhibition space may not be finished before the fall.

The whole article is here - you will need to be a Times Select subscriber to read it though.

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