Renzo Piano's Parco della Musica & Zaha Hadid's MAXXI Museum

March 3, 2015
Renzo Piano's Parco della Musica

After traversing most of Rome already studying Ancient, Renaissance and Baroque styles we finally made our way into the neighborhood called Flamino to study Contemporary Architecture and two of the biggest giants in Architecture today. The two Contemporary buildings that we studied were the Parco della Musica and the Maxxi Museum, designed by Renzo Piano and Zaha Hadid Respectively, both of whom have been awarded the Pritzker Prize, which is the highest honor an architect can receive. The first of which, Renzo Piano’s Parco della Musica was commissioned in the 1990’s to serve as the City of Rome’s home for the “Orchestra e Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia”. this was essential because before the Parco della Musica, the was no space for any orchestra in the whole of the city and were forced to cam into spaces such as Teatro Argentina.
To solve this, Piano designed a whole “city of Music” on top of the “black whole” that he called the remains of the 1960 Olympic games. Piano calls the project the “City of Music” because the nature of the project itself can be very confusing. Is it three separate structures connected by an intricate service system? Is it one single structure with three powerful forms growing from it? Piano plays with this line masterfully, inn his words he says, “It was designed as a city, not just a place where you go and listen to music.”
We entered Piano’s City of music coming from the tram to the west, walking though the colonnade, parallel to the building, designed to hide the shape of the park itself until one arrives at the center of the city, or the Piazza della Musica, where one is confronted by all three auditoriums in decreasing order and instantly one is overwhelmed standing perfectly in the middle of these three massive forms. It is here that we quickly paced out the dimensions of the Piazza della Musica, sketched it into our catalogue of spaces and then headed off into the smallest auditorium to begin our tour.

Inside the first auditorium we discovered the distinct language that Piano repeated in all three auditoriums of specifically treated brick and beautiful American cherry wood. The bricks faced a specific challenge for Piano, normally being very poor in helping the acoustics of the room however Piano worked with engineers and had bricks specifically made to fit the space he designed so he could keep his connection to the buildings of Ancient Rome without sacrificing quality of sound. After leaving the first auditorium we ventured through the unique circulation of the Park and went directly to the middle auditorium which proved to be very similar to the first with the same materials and incredibly similar form, however larger to fit a very different program.  

After traveling through the halls of the Park again we arrived at the largest of the auditoriums and as our professional tour-guide Marina told us, “If you see the all the rest of the complex, you haven’t seen anything until you enter the Grand Auditorium.” As soon as we entered the space, we all unanimously agreed she was right. All twenty-sex of stood in the middle of the 2,800 person auditorium looked around, amazed at how a space could be so large and yet still feel so intimate and personal. Piano is able to achieve this feeling by his masterful play of the terraces that over look the stage, all formed by a very organic and natural shape, once again to not sacrifice acoustic quality for the design Piano envisioned.  
Just before leaving the complex, we were able to enter the offices of the park, a service building hidden away from the rest of the public structures but yet still right in the middle of the city. It is here where we went upstairs and saw Piano’s massive sectional model of the park, showing us just how the whole system of circulation and space work together to achieve the “City of Music”.

Zaha Hadid's MAXXI Museum

After exploring the halls of Piano, we ventured westward in the region of Flaminio. There we approached the Maxxi Museum, one of Zaha Hadid's most notable works in Europe. Zaha is known for her dramatic public spaces and expressive forms; needless to say our group was expecting to experience something "crazy." The view from the street Via Guido Reni depicted the original building as a white, rational mass, whereas the addition by Zaha encapsulated the back of the building. To access the museum, we entered through a courtyard on the side of the new addition. ­Light penetrates through the courtyard and bends around the curved concrete with encloses the exterior of the structure. One concrete tube peels away atop the entrance, forming a shaded area. This piece is supported by series of silver cylindrical columns, which stand upright or are positioned on a diagonal.  Another concrete volume pierces outward from the facade, which cantilevers across the courtyard. From the outside, one can see the relationship between the strands of concrete: they all seem to be interconnected in some way or another, twisting and spiraling upward.  

We enter the museum and discover the interior material palette-- we see the raw concrete walls again, but others are now smooth pure white. The spaces flow into one another with ease, as the long curved walls guided our path through the exhibits. Through the main public spaces, black staircases zigzag and crisscross. Artificial light gives an aura from the bottom of this capillary-like tissue. Light filters through the roof by means of thin steel strips which follow the contour of our path. Eventually we are elevated to the highest point of the museum, which turned out to be the large cantilever over the courtyard. The large opening where our path terminated framed a spectacular view of the brightly colored surroundings. We start to descend through the connective tissue once again. It is Sofia's decision to analyze the space by means of observation and drawing. The goal is to highlight a particular experience within the architecture in sequences of lines. The drawing is built upon four series of five, eight, thirteen, and twenty-one lines. Many of us chose to highlight how space was formed by the walls and staircases. In 45 minutes we all boarded Sofia's trademarked "sketching train" and proceeded to review our peers' drawings. Afterward, we exited the space and the evening began.

-Colin & Matthias


Just over a month after our first trip to the Parco della Musica, we returned on a spring Monday night, this time not for a tour but rather concert. Stepping back into the grand auditorium was just as amazing as the first time.  The symphony was performed by the “Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia”. The concert was a much-needed break and a great night off before diving into the last week of work before the final review.