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New Lights And New Buildings

Rome is glittering in the new year

Elisabeth Lang, eTN  Jan 07, 2011

(eTN) - The Forum Roman is dressing up in new ecologic light and illuminating one of the most precious and beautiful places in the "Eternal City" until the early hours of dawn (2:00 am). Since December 30, 2010, radiant light from Campidoglio to Titus Arch - all along the ancient way from Temple Vespasious to the Temple of Saturn (700 meters) - is illuminating the architectural glory of Rome’s past. Over 140 projectors have been installed, bringing to light and life, a past which has been hidden by night for ages.

This brilliant idea is supposed to make up for the new tourist tax that began on Janauary 1, 2011, adding a cost of 1 euro for entry into Roman museums.

“The tourists not asking for discounts but asking for highlights and Bellezza," explained Francesco Giro, Italy’s Undersecretary for Culture Heritage, who is also planning to have the Palatine area of Rome completely illuminated at night this year.

But Rome has another stunning highlight – still a secret and hardly known to Romans - the city’s most ambitious contemporary art museum, MAXXI, which stands for National Museum of XXI Century Arts, opened last year on the grounds of a former tank factory and barracks, and it is only two stops away (by Tram N° 2) from the Piazza del Popoli and Rome's historic center.

The idea of building a center of contemporary arts and architecture dates back to early 1998, shortly after the inauguration the famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, which has brought in over 1 million visitors already in the first year of opening.

The Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage, which had so far proudly focused on the defense of a glorious past, felt the need to also promote today’s artistic expressions, which could become tomorrow's cultural heritage.

In a bid of 276 renowned international architects, among them world-renowned Renzo Piano, Sir Norman Foster, Daniel Liberkind, and Zaha Hadid. Zaha was the only woman in the running, and she won the bid. Hadid is the most famous woman architect in the world and the first to win the Pritzker Prize, having achieved international recognition through her striking images and design.

For her US$207-million monumental MAXXI Museum in Rome, (yet to be finished), the Iraqi-born Zaha Hadid won the British Stirling Prize (Royal Institute of British Architects). The building, which is made of gray cement, has an undulating façade and is judged as “perhaps her best work to date,” according to a Bloomberg report.

In her acceptance speech, Hadid said working in Rome was “very difficult.” The judges described MAXXI as a mature piece of architecture, the embodiment of years of experience. Among Hadid's works is the Zaragoza Bridge in Spain, a high-speed train station in Naples, Opera Houses in Dubai and Guangzhou, a performing arts center in Abu Dhabi, private residences in Moscow and the USA, as well as major master-planning projects in Bilbao, Istanbul, and the Middle East. Undoubtedly, Hadid has cemented her reputation as one of the world’s most exciting and significant contemporary architects.

Rome's brand new Contemporary Art complex houses the latest trends in art and architecture and since December 15, 2010, the latest exhibition of Pier Luigi Nervi, "Architecture as challenge: Ingenuity and Construction," is open to the public until March 20, 2011. The exhibition has been defined by architectural historian, Niklaus Pevsner, as “the most brilliant artist in reinforced concrete of our times." Fifteen of Nervis' greatest projects are featured in the exhibition.

Visitors will be welcomed in the La Guiseppina, the family boat in ferrocement over 8 meters long on MAXXI Piazza in Via Guido Reni, Rome.

Nervi’s masterpieces in Rome include the Palazetto dello Sport, Stadio Flaminio Palazzo dello Sport in EUR, and Corso Francia conduct (built 1959-1990), and the last of Nervi’s Olympic works. But Pier Luigi Nervi has also realized works at the UNESCO building in Paris, Victora Square skyscraper in Montreal, the Italian Embassy in Brazil, and the well-known Aula Nervi in the Vatican.

MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts has late-night openings on Thursdays and Saturday from 1100-2200 hours and from Tuesday through Sunday from 1100-1900 hours.

Music lovers should not miss out on nearby Rome's new auditorium, designed by Renzo Piano and Zaha Hadid’s Italian counterpart. The large public music complex on the north side of Rome, exploits a spacious site that was once part of the 1960 Olympic area. It is composed of three separate giant bug-like halls whose forms are inspired by musical instruments. Positioned around an open air amphitheatre, the halls look like three enormous music boxes, whose colors and materials recall those of the domes dotting the urban landscape of Rome. It took seven years of work and a US$270 million investment for this great citadel of music to be completed - a place Renzo Piano calls "both sacred and profane, with a link to the city in its everyday, urban dimension."

Rome is glittering in the new year
MAXXI Museum / Photo by Elisabeth Lang

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