Friday, April 21, 2006

Ara Pacis

Today, the 2,759th anniversary of the founding of Rome, was the opening of Richard Meier's museum to house the Ara Pacis, Augustus's monument to himself and his victories in Spain and Gaul. It is the first modernist building to be erected in the centre of Rome since the days of Mussolini.

From the photos I've seen, it seems a fairly characterless building designed to ensure a bright interior and not to offend the Baroque sensibilities of Romans. It's had more success in the first than in the second aim.

Vittorio Sgarbi, art critic, ex-Minister of Culture and skilled at creating a spectacle, burned a model of the building in a nearby square and called on art students to bomb it. It's been likened to a petrol station, a phone box and a 'cesso', a not-very-nice way of saying 'loo'. Gianni Alemanno, who's running for mayor, has promised that as soon as he's elected he'll have it pulled down.

The Ara Pacis (Altar of Peace), inaugurated in 9BC to commemorate campaigns in Spain and Gaul. To forestall any sarcastic comments about the use of the word 'peace' there, I should point out that, for the Romans, the word did not mean 'absence of war' but the settlement to conclude a war, which, by definition, they had won.

Photos from the architect's site.

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