Contemporary City

by Danilo Brunetti

Discover the futuristic architectural marvels createci by today’s great ar­chi-stars, and visit Massimilliano Fuksas’ newly unvieled “Nuvola” conference center. 

Rome is irrevocably linked with the past, its patrimony found in ancient ruins and artwork. Unlike many other European capitals the Eternal City is rarely associated with the present, in part because it’s decidedly challenging to build here: strict laws preserving the historic center make it difficult to break ground. But despite these and other obstacles, Rome in the past decade has-slowly yet steadily­ debuted innovative and dynamic structures, illustrateci in a range of contemporary works of architecture. 

After 20 years of planning, and eight years of stop-and-go work, mostly the result of financial problems, Rome’s Nuovo Centro Congressi “La Nuvola” (literally “the cloud”) has finally been completed. This brand­ new convention center was inaugurateci on 29 October 2016. A beautiful and long-awaited gift to the city, this exciting work was designed by star architect Massimiliano Fuksas, and produced by the construction firm Condotte Spa. 

The Nuvola was constructed with a municipal plan of strategie devel­opment, dubbed “Roma 2010-2020. New models of urban transformation.” In preparation for this ambitious project, the municipal council called on a collection of top architects-both Italian and international-among them the greatest authorities on urban design, such as Santiago Calatrava, Richard Meier, Massimiliano Fuksas, Richard Burdett, and Leon Krier, the neo-traditionalist architect who also works closely with the Prince of Wales. 

The goal for the Nuvola was to find innovative ways to rejuvenate the historic center and the city’s obsolete spaces, as well as to come up with new ways to expand the outskirts of the city. In the extensive period of design and construction, the hope was to regenerate the city in the wake of the many new projects that have cropped up in the Capitai in recent years. These contemporary gems include Renzo Piano’s Auditorium Parco della Musica, a large multifunctional music complex that was inaugurateci in 2002. Composed of a trio of independent concert halls and an open-air cavea remi­niscent of an ancient Roman theater, the structure’s unique aesthetic has earned it the nickname “the beetle.”

Another notable masterpiece is Zaha Hadid’s National Museum of 21 st Century Arts (known as the MAXXI), unveiled in 2010. The design is a virtual sculpture of bend­ing, overlapping, and intersecting oblong tubes.

Ponte della Musica, designed by the Kit Powell-Williams Architects, is an avant-garde pedestrian bridge suspended by steel arches that was opened in 2011. By far the most controversial new building project in the past decade is Richard Meier’s 2006 Ara Pacis Museum, a stark white glass-walled “case” that houses the 2000-year-old altar. It was the fìrst work of modem architecture in the historic center since the time of Mussolini, and received much criticism for being completely out of context in the ancient setting. Meier was unanimously lauded, on the other hand, for his work on the graceful Jubilee Church, also known as the Church of Sails, completed in 2000. Other notable additions include the Ostiense neighborhood, and the Città dei Giovani, developed in a former market. 

Naturally, there have been setbacks in the architectural renewal of the city. Santiago Calatrava’s transformation of La Città dello Sport, for example, homed in on the development of different suburban complexes. Calatrava’s idea for a sports complex was conceived in 2005 for the 2011 World Swimming Championships. The project, however, suffered a stand-­still in construction and sadly remains an unfinished structure to this day. 

Rome is clearly seeking to adapt itself to the role of a modem, European capital, although not always successfully, despite the help of the best architects on the planet. A city particularly rooted in its own historical and cultura! identity, Rome often finds itself in a diatribe of conserva­tive policies and the dynamics of renova­tion. Its newest architectural masterpiece, the Nuvola, locateci in the EUR district, is a project that promises to give the city a more international identity. Designed to hold business meetings and conferences. the Nuvola is a sprawling structure with a volume of 281,000 cubie meters, and can host up to 8,000 people at any given time. 

The center houses three separate sec­tions: an underground area that includes auditoriums, meeting rooms, service an­nexes, and a parking lot; the Teca, which hosts the so-called Nuvola auditorium; and the Lama, a hotel boasting 441 rooms. The Teca is a polygonal space made of glass, steel, and stone, with an insulated, double-walled façade that also provides protection from the sun. Suspended inside, the Nuvola-the clear star of the project-contains an audito­rium with 1,850 seats and related services (foyer, coffee bar, coatroom, restrooms, dressing rooms, translation rooms, and deposits). It is connected to the Teca by means of suspended catwalks that lead through the “hull,” the most important load-bearing structure. The Lama, or hotel, is divided into standard rooms, as well as suites on the top two floors. The entire building is aver 180 feet tall and is composed of 17 floors. 

This exciting project hopes to restore life to EUR, the same neighborhood Fendi chose to relocate its headquarters in 2015, in the iconic Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, also known as the Square Colosseum. Within the year, a new aquarium will be inaugurateci in the area, and the classic nearby LunEur amusement park has already reopened to enthusiastic visitors.