In April 2006, the new Ara Pacis Museum in Rome, designed by Richard Meier & Partners, is scheduled to officially open. But as I found on my recent visit, there's still a bit of work left to be done, and much of the museum is still under wraps.
Facing the Tiber River to the west on a site near the Ponte Cavour, the museum features a long glass curtain wall that stretches 150 feet (46 meters) and is 40 feet (12 meters) high. The glass wall will play off a very ancient Roman material, travertine, a rustic rendition of which is visible in the photos. The museum will house in its skylit Great Hall the ancient marble Ara Pacis (Altar of Peace) commissioned by the Roman Senate in 13 B.C.E. — to commemorate the peace throughout the empire secured by Emperor Augustus — and completed in 9 B.C.E.
The altar will be visible from three sides through the museum's expansive glass walls. According to the architect, this 42,000-square-foot (3,900-square-meter) museum, which will also contain a library, auditorium, and exhibition space, is the first work of modern architecture to be constructed in the city's historic center since before World War II. Meier received the commission to design the museum in 1995.
On the road in Rome,
Michael J. Crosbie