architect: Zaha Hadid
location: Rome, Italy
MAXXI – Museum of the arts of the XXI century – is the result of ideas and reflections which have developed in the last years of the 20th century within the Ministry of cultural heritages and activities, in a close dialogue with the experiences and most advanced milieus of contemporary art and architecture. It has not been a matter of a mere debate between innovators and conservatives, or between advocates of academicism and of experiments. The discussion on what the MAXXI was to become has centred on the need to widen the field of activity of the Ministry, to include the promotion of present and future creativity. The intuition was well motivated, and backed by leading figures within the Ministry in charge of the cultural heritage. One thus highlighted the concept of the continuity of history and the refusal of dualism of antique versus modern, for purposes of assigning a value. One stressed the existence of an ideal continuity in the itinerary of works of art over the century, and the fact that, for instance, notwithstanding the great differences in terms of form and materials, the grandiose spatiality of the Gio Ponti’s Pirelli skyscraper in Milan or Luigi Moretti’s Fencing House in Rome do not fear comparison to the Maschio Angioino in Naples or the Palazzo Barberini in Rome. We may therefore say that, within the Ministry for cultural heritages and activities, the interest in art and architecture of the past, understood as essential element of the cultural heritage, has today been extended to the art and architecture which will represent the cultural heritage of the future. In this sense the MAXXI aims to be multicultural and multidisciplinary. It must become a kind of factory: not just exhibitions of 21st century art, but also the stage of cultural innovation, a venue where languages may be superimposed, a workshop of artistic experimentation, a machine for the production of the aesthetic contents of our time.
And in fact, the importance of contemporary creativity can also be witnessed by its role in terms of experimental research, which it has played in every age. Art and architecture, in their most innovative forms, have always anticipated ways to act and think, premonitory intuitions, experimentation and innovation of languages and messages which have then influenced other creative and productive sectors. The forms, the lines and the products of artistic and architectural research often become utilitarian objects through industrial design and production, or they are repeated and reproduced in the parallel worlds of fashion, the movie industry, advertising, graphic design. The manufacturing sector often imitates art, following in its footsteps: advertising images, design, movies often reuse and metabolize ideas, forms and ways which have originally been artistic expressions. From this viewpoint the MAXXI aims to be a venue presenting the very highest achievements, an interactive junction where the most different forms of expression, production and creation may converge, blend and be reproduced. Not only: art and architecture are essential components of a country’s image and the way it is seen abroad, it has always been a vehicle of the image of a country in the world. They bear witness to the cultural vivacity, the ability to innovate, the inclination towards creative and original research. Italian art and architecture, therefore, express and tell the story about Italy. Not only are they able to communicate Italian style and products, but something ampler and comprehensive which we may call the Italian way of life. This is even more true today, when the process of internationalization and mixing between the markets and cultures of the planet have been so much intense and rapid. From this point of view the MAXXI will act as a kind of antenna transmitting the contents of Italy to the world beyond, and which in its turn receives the flows of international culture. It will be projected towards the world, and at the same time it will strongly express the spirit of representation of the unique culture which has been born in this country.
Il MAXXI: a project for the future
MAXXI Art has been created as the Italian link in the international chain of elite contemporary art venues. The collection and exhibitions, which aim to keep abreast with the latest developments of art within an ample range, make it a prestigious international showcase for contemporary Italian art. Italian art will therefore represent a priority, and will be interpreted within the framework of international references, as the fulcrum of a coordinated activity and exchanges with Italian and foreign museum institutions. The vocation of MAXXI is to preserve and enhance its participation in a cultural and geographic context which may be considered unique in view of the history it is part of and the influence it wields. This is the reason why the institution has bought works of artists from various generations since the Sixties, who investigate, analyze and continue some of the lines of research specifically linked to the Italian situation: Maurizio Cattelan, Adrian Paci, Alfredo Jaar, Micol Assael, Grazia Toderi, Francesco Clemente, Atelier Van Lisehout in addition to more historicized personalities as Mario Merz, Andy Warhol, Gibert & George, Giovanni Anselmo, Alighiero Boetti. At the same time the curators have focused on the generation of artists who, during the Nineties, have interpreted a poetics linked to everyday life, to ordinary materials and aspects of life: Stefano Arienti, Bruna Esposito, Liliana Moro, Paola Pivi, Massimo Bartolini, Mario Airò, Eva Marisaldi. These works have naturally been flanked by works by international artists as William Kentridge, Anish Kapoor, Francis Alÿs. With the opening scheduled for late May in view, a three-year program has been defined which will see the museum conducting a cultural, artistic and thematic project characterized by an interdisciplinary approach. But the complementary nature these projects must feature will make it possible to define a unitary and organic programmatic line. The multifaceted languages which the museum aims to diffuse therefore makes it necessary to cooperate with researchers, art historians, specialized curators, who may contribute with their specific expertise.
In fact, MAXXI aims to become a cultural, artistic and scientific landmark, not only for established professionals but also for emerging critics and researchers who want to face the challenge of a venue dedicated to experimentation and innovation. The exhibition lines feature three different orientations: an exhaustive and in-depth examination of the collection, large individual and theme exhibitions of the latest experimental realities. MAXXI Art will in late May present three parallel exhibitions. The fulcrum of the opening will be the exhibition titled Space, which fully interprets the interdisciplinary character of the museum. In fact, Space is a path which winds through the collections of MAXXI Art and MAXXI Architecture and the works of leading contemporary artists and architects. The exhibition will be large, occupying the entire first floor, without regard to the spatial subdivision of the two sections of the museum. As to large individual exhibitions, a retrospective will be dedicated to Gino De Dominicis, an artist who has been very influential for contemporary Italian art and served as model for later generations. The exhibition, curated by Achille Bonito Oliva, will feature works exploring all the principal thematic and iconographic nodes tackled by the artist. The publication which will accompany this retrospective will not be just an exhibition catalogue, but a true exhaustive monograph. It is a matter of an important novelty, because it is the first scientifically complete retrospective dedicated to one of the Italian artists who has wielded the greatest influence in the country between 1960 and 1990. The more strictly contemporary reality will on the contrary be represented by Mesopotamian Dramaturgies by Kutlug Ataman. This project, of which every part is included in the show, centres on the relationship between East and West, between modernization and tradition, globalization and persistence of local cultures and consists of eight video works, most of them recorded in Turkish villages. The project fully interprets some of the guidelines which the MAXXI intends to promote, or in other words an interdisciplinary approach and the confluence of themes and cultures.
The story of the building site of the MAXXI in images
The building site of the MAXXI, a project distinguished by a completely new design language, opened in Rome and remained in operation for more than six years, has itself become a place of research and experimentation. To turn the idea presented for the competition by Zaha Hadid, and chosen for its quality and innovative character, into reality has called for an accurate analysis of the materials and their use, the technologies and the organization of the building site, organized into five independent sectors due to the arrangement of the building. Also the management has been complex. The development of the final plans by the companies which won the final tender and the program of the construction has been effectuated in full agreement and cooperation with the customer – the Ministry of Culture –, the contractor and supervisor of the work – the Ministry of Public Works –, and the Hadid firm which has been responsible for the artistic direction of the work. The problems associated with respecting the formal idea, considered as an absolute priority, have mainly concerned the realization of the large surfaces in untreated concrete characterizing the project. But every phase of the building site has entailed technical and procedural problems. From the engineering of the casting, and thus the design of the mixture, the identification of the best formwork, the definition of the casting method and the removal of the formwork, to the planning of the aggregate of roof materials. In fact, the roof of the MAXXI plays a very important role, both in terms of design and technical-constructive aspects, and because this single complex device contains structural elements and casings, means of controlling the daylight, lamps for artificial lighting, apparatuses for thermohygrometric control and supports for the mobile panels. Opened in March 2003, when the official ceremony with the laying of the first stone was held, the building site of the MAXXI has over the years featured significant and very different motives of interest, and has been the subject of one of the first projects launched by the curators of the Architecture Museum, which has centred precisely on the building site and its many and transitory meanings. The building site is a “constructive” and technological reality, and at the same time a workplace. The team of concrete reinforcers, crane drivers and cement layers have worked in perfect synchronization, as if they were parts of one big organism where the single elements only apparently seem to proceed autonomously, but where a very careful coordination has on the contrary been provided by building site directors, works supervisors, managers and, even if from a distance, the architects. The building site as such has created a new townscape: a continuously changing scenery has been produced in the neighbourhood, that did not exist before and that would soon disappear, replaced by the finished building. This transitory nature is one of the reasons why the curators have launched this photographic project on behalf of the MAXXI, titled “building site images by masters” to ‘immortalize’, with images taken by great photographers, the nature of a place that is changing but at the same time concrete and in progress, the scenario of the construction of the Museum. The photographers invited to participate in “building site images by masters” have been invited to photograph the construction works at various points in time.
They have been asked to capture the building site from their own individual point of view, and with the greatest possible freedom of choice and interpretation, seeking to reveal a glimpse and
a multifaceted vision of the continuously changing site, beyond a systematic documentation of the different phases of work. The result is a collection that bears witness to a great variety of viewpoints: the building site as place of experimentation, because of the use of innovative techniques and materials; as a workplace where workers and technicians contribute every day with their energy, experience and expertise; as a “public” space because it is subject of media attention and didactic activity. Today all that remains of the building site, by now finished and disassembled, is a story by fragments and suggestions, which replaces an “epic” representation of the construction with images of a contemporary, complex, fast, unstable and energetic place. A place characterized by the fascinating sight of action, intriguing but at the same time a myriad of problems, delays, interruptions, dangers and risks, even of abandonment. The building site images by masters” is one of a series of projects commissioned by the Project since 2003 to enrich the photography collection of MAXXI architecture. The following authors have participated in the project: Olivo Barbieri, Gabriele Basilico, Antonio Biasiucci, Gianni Berengo Gardin, Patrizia Bonanzinga, Luca Campigotto, Giancarlo Ceraudo, Giovanni Chiaramonte, Paola De Pietri, Ramak Fazel, Vittore Fossati, Moreno Gentili, Claudio Gobbi, Guido Guidi, Andrea Jemolo, Martino Marangoni, Raffaela Mariniello, Luciano Romano, Angela Rosati.
Zaha Hadid is an architect who consistently pushes the boundaries of architecture and urban design. Her work experiments with new spatial concepts intensifying existing urban landscapes in the pursuit of a visionary aesthetic that encompasses all fields of design, ranging from urban scale through to products, interiors and furniture. Best known for her seminal built works (Vitra Fire Station, Land Formation-One, Bergisel Ski Jump, Strasbourg Tram Station and Rosenthal Centre for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati) her central concerns involve a simultaneous engagement in practice, teaching and research. Zaha Hadid's built work has won her much academic and public acclaim. Her best known projects to date are the Vitra Fire Station and the LFone pavilion in Weil am Rhein, Germany (1993/1999), a housing project for IBA-Block 2 in Berlin, Germany (1993), the Mind Zone at the Millennium Dome, Greenwich, London, UK (1999), a Tram Station and Car Park in Strasbourg, France (2001), a Ski Jump in Innsbruck, Austria (2002) and the Contemporary Arts Centre, Cincinnati, US (2003).