Rome wasn’t built in a day. With a history spanning more than 2,000 years, the city is one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Europe. Considered by some to be the first ever metropolis, Rome has become a global capital of art, culture and religion. Shaping Western Civilization and major historical movements throughout the world, the Eternal City houses monumental works of architecture and design. While Rome is synonymous with iconic edifices like the Pantheon, Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Colosseum, contemporary building projects are now taking shape throughout the city.
Sidestepping Rome’s historic buildings to focus on more recent projects, we’ve drawn together the city’s new architecture across various programs and scales. Formed as part of a contemporary travel guide to the Eternal City, the projects showcase dynamic cultural centers and an emerging design culture. They are buildings which establish themselves as new public and civic landmarks. Whether you’re a long-standing citizen or traveling to the city for the first time, the following guide will help orient you to the latest architecture Rome has to offer.
For those enjoying a jaunt along the famous Tiber River, be sure to stop and take in Richard Meier’s Ara Pacis Museum. Built to enclose a sacrificial alter, the project is located on the western edge of the Piazza Augusto Imperatore. Designed with a long, single-story glazed loggia above a shallow podium, the project’s proportions were made to relate to Rome’s ancient structures. Don’t forget to check out the outdoor roof terrace with views to the Mausoleum of Augustus and the Tiber River.
If you are interested in music and the performing arts, check out Renzo Piano’s Parco della Musica. Sited between the Stadio Flamioni, the Olympic Village and the Pariol Quarter, the project consists of three concert halls hosting performances by the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. The design also includes an open-air amphitheater and public space that was made to embrace the life of Rome’s Flaminio district.
Odile Decq’s design for Rome’s Museum of Contemporary Art links the old Peroni brewery and surrounding late 19th-century buildings. Allowing visitors to see Rome through a new perspective, the project was made as a contemporary public space that embraces everyday life and the streetscape. Featuring a roof terrace and dramatic interior exhibition spaces, the design includes balconies, walkways and multiple viewpoints to encourage exploration and discovery.
Paul VI Audience Hall by Pier Luigi Nervi, Rome, Italy
After enjoying Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, be sure to make your way to the Paul VI Audience Hall. Built as a major modern building between Italy and Vatican City, the project features a huge, double curving parabolic vault and La Resurrezione. The reinforced concrete structure was made to house pilgrims wishing to see the Pope, but anyone can enjoy the dramatic space and its expansive interior.
Designed within a historic residential and business district known as EUR, this new convention center is being made to host congresses and exhibition events. Centered around an auditorium structure made with steel ribs and a 161,500-square-foot transparent curtain called the “Cloud,” this project will link hotel space and gathering areas. The large project is still ongoing, but is scheduled to be opened to the public this year.
Another design by Richard Meier, the Jubilee Church was created as part of Pope John Paul II’s initiative to rejuvenate parish life throughout Italy. Embracing the nearby housing complex through a paved sagrato, the project forms an open plaza for public assembly and community space. With a layout based around four circles and a series of squares, the project also uses materials that reference the adjacent residential area. The project centers on three shells that recall the Holy Trinity.
Built to redefine the traditional landscape along Rome’s city center, the “Ex Unione Militare” project is located between the Via Tomacelli and Via del Corso. Reinterpreting the context and historic building forms, the intervention includes the renovation of both the build’s roof and interiors. Don’t forget to check out the terrace and its panoramic views of San Carlo al Corso and the Basilica of Saint Ambrose.
Visitors cannot leave Rome without experiencing Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI. Established as one of the greatest architectural works in all of the Eternal City, the museum explores confluent lines that intersect and separate to create both exterior and interior space. Completed after 10 years as the first national museum of contemporary art in Italy, the project features multiple perspective points and fluidity that challenges the “static” identity and classical heritage of Rome.