Rome Modernizes Amid Controversy

Rome, a city steeped in history, is struggling to retain and protect its historical identity as the city modernizes and expands.

This article from The New York Times explores how the city is changing, and how new design ideas are both easing the transition and challenging the city's sensibilities.

"Change is never easy here. When a museum designed by Richard Meier, a glass and marble building to house the Ara Pacis, opened a few years ago, Romans howled. But then, it resembles a clunky, fascist mausoleum. Maxxi, whose style presents a whole other set of problems, has fared much better in terms of public approval, attracting some 74,000 visitors in its first month and accelerating talk by leaders like Mr. Alemanno about Rome in the 21st century.

But it's one thing for politicians to support a new headline-grabbing museum. The art crowd rolls into town, bestows its blessing, then rolls out. It's another to take on grittier challenges like immigration, transportation and sprawl."

Full Story: As Rome Modernizes, Its Past Quietly Crumbles
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Rome crumbles as it brings in starchitects

The situation is far more complicated than is reported by the biased US press, which again turns to the same starchitects for their comments on the situation. In fact, the Urbanist Convention in Rome was hotly contested, and the starchitects' proposals were deemed unimpressive. The only two participants who made sense were the two New Urbanists: Léon Krier and Peter Calthorpe (curiously, they are not mentioned in the article!).

My friends in Italy protested the tactic of bringing in starchitects who seem to know little or nothing about traditional urbanism, which we judge Rome needs to keep functioning. The contemporary fashion-and-art crowd that swoons over some "high-tech" monstrosity is not going to replace tourists who stay home because they are afraid of being crushed by ruins falling on their head.

Il Covile, CONVEGNO SULLO SVILUPPO URBANO DI ROMA 8-9 APRILE 2010

Just to prove a point, a recent video showcasing Italy as a tourist destination, and narrated by the Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, does not show any contemporary art museum or brutalist bunker so beloved by the supporters of the cult of Geometrical Fundamentalism. It wisely sticks to Greek and Roman architecture, going up to the 18C. Any new interventions need to be coherent with that architectural and urban patrimony.

Promotional Video, Ministro del Turismo

That's exactly what we are telling the Italian Government.

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