Designed by architect Zaha Hadid (winner of the international competition in 1999), the MAXXI is located in the Flaminio quarter of Rome, in the area of the former Montello military barracks.
The MAXXI_Museum of 21st Century Arts is a foundation created by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities (Minister Sandro Bondi). The president is Pio Baldi.
The complex houses two institutions: MAXXI Arte (Director Anna Mattirolo) and MAXXI Architecture (Director Margherita Guccione), aiming to promote art and architecture through collection, conservation, study and exhibition of contemporary works.
As of today, over 300 works are part of the MAXXI Art collection, including those of Boetti, Clemente, Kapoor, Kentridge, Merz, Penone, Pintaldi, Richter, Warhol and many others. MAXXI Architecture includes the files of the designs of Carlo Scarpa, Aldo Rossi, Pierluigi Nervi and others, as well as the projects of contemporary authors such as Toyo Ito, Italo Rota and Giancarlo De Carlo, and photography collections of the projects Italian Atlas and Author’s Site.
Designed as a true multi-disciplinary and multi-purpose campus of the arts and culture, the MAXXI creates an urban complex for the city that can be enjoyed by all. The MAXXI includes – in addition to the two museums – an auditorium, library and media library, bookshop and cafeteria, spaces for temporary exhibitions, outdoor spaces, live events and commercial activities, laboratories, and places for study and leisure.
The MAXXI, open to the city and to the world, is offered as a point of reference for public and private institutions in Italy and abroad, as well as for artists, architects and the wider public.
The design by Zaha Hadid is woven into the city’s fabric with an architectural arrangement based on the idea of an urban campus. In the MAXXI, the idea of a “closed” building gives way to a broader dimension, creating both indoor and outdoor spaces that become part of the surrounding city.
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The two museums - MAXXI Art and MAXXI Architecture – are located around a large full height space which gives access to the galleries dedicated to permanent collections and temporary exhibitions, the auditorium, reception services, cafeteria and bookshop. Outside, a pedestrian walkway follows the outline of the building, restoring an urban link that has been blocked for almost a century by the former military barracks.
Materials such as glass (roof), steel (stairs) and cement (walls) give the exhibition spaces a neutral appearance, whilst mobile panels enable curatorial flexibility and variety.
The fluid and sinuous shapes, the variety and interweaving of spaces and the modulated use of natural light lead to a spatial and functional framework of great complexity, offering constantly changing and unexpected views from within the building and outdoor spaces.
Two principle architectural elements characterize the project: the concrete walls that define the exhibition galleries and determine the interweaving of volumes; and the transparent roof that modulates natural light. The roofing system complies with the highest standards required for museums and is composed of integrated frames and louvers with devices for filtering sunlight, artificial light and environmental control.
“I see the MAXXI as an immersive urban environment for the exchange of ideas, feeding the cultural vitality of the city. " commented Zaha Hadid about the project. "The MAXXI should not be considered just one building - but several. The idea was to move away from the idea of “the museum as an object” and towards the idea of a “field of buildings”.
After many studies, and research evolved into the concept of the confluence of lines, where the primary force of the site is the walls that constantly intersect and separate to create both indoor and outdoor spaces. It’s no longer just a museum, but an urban cultural centre where a dense texture of interior and exterior spaces have been intertwined and superimposed over one another. It’s an intriguing mixture of galleries, irrigating a large urban field with linear display surfaces.
The walls of the MAXXI create major streams and minor streams. The major streams are the galleries, and the minor streams are the connections and the bridges. The site has a unique L-shaped footprint that meanders between two existing buildings. Rather than seeing this as a limitation, we used it to our advantage, taking it as an opportunity to explore the possibilities of linear structure by bundling, twisting, and building mass in some areas and reducing it in others - threading linearity throughout both interior and exterior or the MAXXI.”
Analyzed by ZHA, the MAXXI addresses the question of its urban context by maintaining a reference to the former army barracks. This is in no way an attempt at topological pastiche, but instead continues the low-level urban texture set against the higher level blocks on the surrounding sides of the site. In this way, the MAXXI is more like an ‘urban graft’, a second skin to the site.
At times, it affiliates with the ground to become new ground, yet also ascends and coalesces to become massive where needed. The entire building has an urban character: prefiguring upon a directional route connecting the River to Via Guido Reni, the Centre encompasses both movement patterns existing and desired, contained within and outside. This vector defines the primary entry route into the building. By intertwining the circulation with the urban context, the building shares a public dimension with the city, overlapping tendril-like paths and open space. In addition to the circulatory relationship, the architectural elements are also geometrically aligned with the urban grids that join at the site. In thus partly deriving its orientation and physiognomy from the context, it further assimilates itself to the specific conditions of the site.
SPACE VS OBJECT
Still according to the architects, the proposal offers a quasi-urban field, a “world” to dive into rather than a building as signature object. The campus is organised and navigated on the basis of directional drifts and the distribution of densities rather than key points. This is indicative of the character of the MAXXI as a whole: porous, immersive, a field space. An inferred mass is subverted by vectors of circulation. The external as well as internal circulation follows the overall drift of the geometry. Vertical and oblique circulation elements are located at areas of confluence, interference and turbulence.
The move from object to field is critical in understanding the relationship the architecture will have to the content of the artwork it will house. Whilst this is further expounded by the contributions of our Gallery and Exhibitions experts, it is important here to state that the premise of the architectural design promotes a disinheriting of the ‘object’ orientated gallery space. Instead, the notion of a ‘drift’ takes on an embodied form. The drifting emerges, therefore, as both architectural motif, and also as a way to navigate experientially through the museum. It is an argument that, for art practice is well understood, but in architectural hegemony has remained alien. We take this opportunity, in the adventure of designing such a forward looking institution, to confront the material and conceptual dissonance evoked by art practice since the late 1960’s.
The path led away from the ‘object’ and its correlative sanctifying, towards fields of multiple associations that are anticipative of the necessity to change.
As such, it is deemed significant that in configuring the possible identity of this newly established institution (housing both Art and Architecture), with its aspiration towards the polyvalent density of the 21st century, conceptions of space and indeed temporality are reworked. Modernist Utopian space fuelled the white ‘neutrality’ of most 20th century museums.
Now, this disposition must be challenged, not simply out of wilful negation, but by the necessity for architecture to continue its critical relationship with contemporary social and aesthetic categories. Since absolutism has been indefinitely suspended from current thought on the issue of art presentation, it is towards the idea of the ‘maximising exhibition’ that we gravitate. In this scenario, the MAXXI makes primary the manifold possibilities for the divergence in showing art and architecture as well as catalysing the discourse on its future. Again, the ‘signature’ aspect of an institution of this calibre is sublimated into a more pliable and porous organism that promotes several forms of identification at once.
Walls/Not-Walls: Towards a Contemporary Spatiality
In architectural terms, this is most virulently executed by the figure of the ‘wall’. Against the traditional coding of the ‘wall’ in the museum as the privileged and immutable vertical armature for the display of paintings, or delineating discrete spaces to construct ‘order’ and linear ‘narrative’, we have created a critique of it through its emancipation. The ‘wall’ becomes the versatile engine for the staging of exhibition effects. In its various guises - solid wall, projection screen, canvas, window to the city - the exhibition wall is the primary space-making device.
By running extensively across the site, cursively and gestural, the lines traverse inside and out. Urban space is coincidental with gallery space, exchanging pavilion and court in a continuous oscillation under the same operation. And further deviations from the Classical composition of the wall emerge as incidents where the walls become floor, or twist to become ceiling, or are voided to become a large window looking out. By constantly changing dimension and geometry, they adapt themselves to whatever curatorial role is needed. By setting within the gallery spaces a series of potential partitions that hang from the ceiling ribs, a versatile exhibition system is created. Organisational and spatial invention are thus dealt with simultaneously amidst a rhythm found in the echo of the walls to the structural ribs in the ceiling that also filter the light in varying intensities.
Stage for Thought/Art as Drama
It is in this way that the architecture performs the ‘staging’ of art, with moveable elements that allow for the drama to change. ‘Sets’ can be constructed from the notional elements of the gallery spaces. These are attuned to the particularities of the exhibition in question, materialising or dematerialising accordingly.
The drift through the MAXXI is a trajectory through varied ambiences, filtered spectacles and differentiated luminosity. Whilst offering a new freedom in the curators’ palette, this in turn digests and recomposes the experience of art spectatorship as liberated dialogue with artefact and environment.
Total site area: 29,000 m2
Exterior spaces: 19,640 m2
Interior spaces: 21,200 m2
Exhibition spaces: 10,000 m2
Facilities (auditorium, library and media center, coffee shop, restaurant, admin.): 6,000 m2
MAXXI Arte: 4,077 m2
MAXXI Architecture: 1,935 m2
Maximum height: 22.90 m
Cost: EUR 150 Million
Visitors forecast: between 200,000 and 400,000 per year
To this date, MAXXI’s permanent collection consists of more than 350 contemporary works of art and 75 thousand architectural drawings.
Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities
Minister Sandro Bondi
President Pio Baldi
Director MAXXI architecture Margherita Guccione
Director MAXXI art Anna Mattirolo
Architects: Zaha Hadid Architects
Design: Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher
Project Architect: Gianluca Racana
Design Team: Anja Simons, Paolo Matteuzzi, Fabio Ceci, Mario Mattia, Maurizio Meossi, Paolo Zilli, Luca Peralta, Maria Velceva, Matteo Grimaldi, Ana M.Cajiao, Barbara Pfenningstorff, Dillon Lin, Kenneth Bostock, Raza Zahid, Lars Teichmann, Adriano De Gioannis, Amin Taha, Caroline Voet, Gianluca Ruggeri, Luca Segarelli
Competition Team: Ali Mangera, Oliver Domeisen, Christos Passas, Sonia Villaseca, Jee-Eun Lee, James Lim, Julia Hansel, Sara Klomps, Shumon Basar, Bergendy Cooke, Jorge Ortega, Stephane Hof, Marcus Dochantschi, Woody Yao, Graham Modlen, Jim Heverin, Barbara Kuit, Ana Sotrel, Hemendra Kothari, Zahira El Nazel, Florian Migsch, Kathy Wright, Jin Wananabe, Helmut Kinzer, Thomas Knuvener, Sara Kamalvand
Local Architect: ABT (Rome)
Contractor (Executive Project and Execution)
MAXXI 2006 consortium
Proxy team leader ITALIANA COSTRUZIONI S.p.A. (Navarra Group)
Principal: S.A.C. Società Appalti Costruzioni S.p.A. (Cerasi Group)
Head of Contract: Marco Odoardi
Structural Project: Studio S.P.C. S.r.l., Giorgio Croci, Aymen Herzalla
Photographers for this article (as mentioned on photographs):