When MAXXI opened in my neighborhood of Flaminio in 2010, I felt I was a witness to Rome’s modern-day Renaissance. The emblematic acronym, which stands for the National Museum of XXI Century Arts, suggests something monumental””the maximum””which one would hope for, considering the 150 million euros it cost to build. At the time, I was excited by the prospect of a museum for contemporary art which had the potential to revitalize Rome, and its relatively quiet neighborhood of Flaminio, easily accessible by tram, but just beyond the limits of the historic city center.
Zaha Hadid spent more than ten years perfecting MAXXI’s design, of which she can be justifiably proud. The ultra-modern architecture seems like something Fellini might have dreamt up had he gone the opposite route of Satyricon and imagined what Rome would be like in the future rather than the past. The architecture is black, white and gray, with swooping lines that seduce the eye and staircases so long they’re almost intimidating. The museum flows from one space to the next, like a metaphor for Rome’s transition from the past to the future, and attracts many of the world’s most important contemporary artists and architects to its exhibition spaces: Anish Kapoor, Joseph Beuys, Carlo Scarpa, and countless others. According to Hadid herself, the MAXXI museum turned Rome into one of “the most important cities in the world for contemporary art.”
Much of the same can be said of MACRO, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome, designed by Odile Decq, who is also responsible for the ultra-stylish restaurant in the Opéra Garnier in Paris. Located on Via Reggio Emilia, the museum is on the border of Parioli and Nomentana, Rome’s business districts outside the historic center. Without MACRO, tourists probably wouldn’t visit this part of the city, but the museum has become an attraction for Romans and visitors alike. The museum is housed on the site of a former brewery, and Decq’s design retained two of the original walls and roof. The giant red cuboid in the center might be its most iconic feature, but Decq’s rooftop terrace brings the concept of an Italian piazza to a whole new level. Even more than MAXXI, MACRO is emblematic of Rome’s commitment to both preservation and development. Compared to MAXXI, which feels a bit austere with its monochromatic color scheme and emphasis on negative space, MACRO is playful and inviting. Both are worth a visit for their architecture as much as the art.
About Laura Itzkowitz
Laura is an editor and regular contributor to Untapped Cities, a web magazine dedicated to helping people rediscover their city. She prides herself on being not only an avid traveler, but also a cultural chameleon, after having lived in Paris and Rome and soaking up the language and customs. She’s currently based in New York City, where she frequently writes about art and cultural events, and translates from both French and Italian. You can follow her at Untapped Cities and on Twitter: @lauraitzkowitz Photos by Fabienne Zwagemakers
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