On the 9th of January, the MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts launched the international ideas competition "Grande MAXXI" with the ambition of laying the foundations for the future of the renown cultural institution originally designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. Following the transformations, evolution, research undertaken within the first 10 years of its life, the idea behind the competition was that of propelling the National Museum into the realms of sustainability, innovation and inclusion. In this interview we spoke with the team composed of Supervoid, RSL Rebediani Scaccabarozzi Landscapes and Plan Común to discuss their entry to the competition which, although did not secure the podium, envelopes compelling and thought provoking ideas around the role that such a cultural institution should play today, the importance of re-establishing a connection to the city and the synergies which can be created by a design which is tailored around a society in continuous flux.
Our proposal aims to repair, reinforce, and promote a lively urban experience at a human scale.
KOOZ The competition “Grande MAXXI” envisions an extension for the MAXXI Museum designed by Zaha Hadid and completed in 2009. How does the project respond to Zaha’s heritage and the context of the Flaminio district?
DESIGN TEAM The project is contextual in both space and time. Our proposal aims to repair, reinforce, and promote a lively urban experience at a human scale. It achieves this by, on the one hand integrating and extending the “public spaces” strategy developed through Paola Vigano’s Flaminio masterplan, whilst, on the other, learning from and extending the attitude of the original project by Hadid. Whilst the former is achieved by creating a new open ground towards Via Masaccio in the northern part of the plot and consolidating the pedestrian connections the latter is enabled by reinforcing a sequence of urban voids shaped by the architecture of the place. In tune with the ‘force lines’ of the original project, a new open ground is carefully framed in between the new building and the existing one. The diagonal gesture which characterises Zaha Hadid’s project, and several street axes of this portion of the Flaminio district, are mirrored to define the east side of Piazza Alighiero Boetti.
Our proposal is an urban project founded upon the dialogue between architecture and landscape at different scales: a strategic transformation towards the renewed life of MAXXI and creating a network of spaces for the neighbourhood.
KOOZ Through your proposal you aim to “contribute directly to the production of an active city.” How does the project understand and challenge the value and role of a museum today and in the coming future?
DESIGN TEAM Since the early stages, the proposal has always been understood as a weaving of five different systems which dialogue between interior and exterior open-air spaces which include: a) urban voids, b) ground continuity, c) lightning, d) platforms and e) performative infrastructure.
By inserting a new building which seeks to establish interesting and intense relations with the surroundings, the project wants to reframe and re-contextualise Hadid’s existing sculptural artefact, enabling the co-existence of both museum and city.
In this sense, our proposal is an urban project founded upon the dialogue between architecture and landscape at different scales: a strategic transformation towards the renewed life of MAXXI as a rich field enhancing informal encounters and creating a network of semi-public, public, and performative spaces for the neighbourhood.
KOOZ An important part of the project revolves around the integration of the building with the existing and newly designed surrounding public space – how is this reflected in the programmatic distribution of the building and spaces of the ground floor?
DESIGN TEAM The project is designed so that both the public ground and garden enter the new building in both its horizontal and vertical dimensions. To this end, the building is connected via the integration of a central light wooden staircase which leaves just enough space around itself for the integration of vegetation, informal meetings, and encounters whilst enabling privileged views towards the MAXXI square and the museum. Understood as a buffer zone, this in-between space introduces passive behaviours in the functioning of the building such as the natural renovation of air and the definition of a peaceful environment throughout all the year.
KOOZ How does the façade act as a threshold and connection between the institution and the city?
DESIGN TEAM The main facade of the new multi-functional building exists contemporarily as both frame for the square and as display of the building’s everyday life.
The new building profits from its proximity to Via Masaccio and offers a transparent frame for the MAXXI square. The main façade, which measures 35m x 19m, is an elegant glass envelope that exposes the life and cultural activity of the new building, transforming these into an open agent towards the surroundings. A transparent LED screen frieze further reinforces the role of the façade as a conveyor of content.
KOOZ What is the added value of programs as the “accessible storage”? How do such spaces address the contemporary issue faced by numerous museums in terms of inaccessible collections which at times account for more than 90% of the actual collections?
DESIGN TEAM The space of the depot takes advantage of the structural logic of the building, a large central space of 15m x 30m built in reinforced concrete, where the larger items of the art collections can be easily stored, rearranged, and exhibited by the overhead ceiling gantry. Around the perimeter of this main space, the timber structure creates envelopes defining smaller scale spaces which host the architecture and photography collections. The simplicity and modularity of the structural system allows for all the spaces to be climatically confined according to the conservation needs of each item. Mobile sliding panels provide for the separation of the spaces in the depot. The openness of the storage spaces and its direct connection to the atrium allows it to be easily accessible to the public for guided tours. A safe and open box within the building.
The MAXXI field and new extension embrace high environmental demands with common sense and natural pragmatism.
KOOZ Beyond the single artefact, the project also develops as a significant landscaping endeavour both at ground level and when looking at the Terrazza and the food forest. How does this weave into the double agenda of the design and specifically the ambition of proposing an “environmentally conscious, qualitative, and performative extension”?
DESIGN TEAM The MAXXI field and new extension embrace high environmental demands with common sense and natural pragmatism. At this stage, the project follows a strategic attitude towards material and immaterial conditions that can ensure good behaviour and management of the available resources on-site.
Both square and gardens are ecological devices that contribute to the well-being and enhancement of existing habitats and ecological corridors. The project establishes integrated management of the paved surfaces and low-water consumption vegetation that make the site a proper organism in facing climate changes.
The landscape proposal is defined by a chronotopic approach which develops according to paramters of space and time. The strategy unfolds over a period of twenty years treasuring the existing tree heritage, planning a careful integration with the new trees, and designing the space under the arboreal vaults as a concatenation of gardens. The intervention is stratified dynamically on the existing, triggering a process within the network already in place.
We like the balance in between a straightforward approach -in dealing with the context and structure- and a sensitive one -trying to find specific conditions in both interiors and open-air spaces.
KOOZ Although the proposal did not win the “Grande MAXXI” competition, it undoubtedly explores significant architectural, engineering and landscape solutions to our contemporary built environment and ideas on the role played by cultural institutions today. How and in what ways do you imagine this competition informing your approach to other future designs and projects?
DESIGN TEAM Thank you for your reading. The shared attitude by all the team was quite inspiring and we look forward to continuing collaborating in these terms. Regarding the project, we like the balance in between a straightforward approach -in dealing with the context and structure- and a sensitive one -trying to find specific conditions in both interiors and open-air spaces.
RSL is a landscape architecture practice founded by Lorenzo Rebediani and Vera Scaccabarozzi in Milan. The studio works on the complex entanglement of the processes that define a landscape. Their gardens aim to be living systems capable of growing and evolving with the people who live with them. RSL’s projects range from private gardens, community environments, experimental cultural projects, to museum landscapes. Recent projects include the gardens of Z33 House for Contemporary art, Design and Architecture in Hasselt (Belgium), Fondazione Sandretto Landscape for Art in Guarene (Italy), Cloud Seven - Frédéric de Goldsmith Collection, Brussels (Belgium). They are lecturers at Politecnico di Milano, Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio, Technical University of Munich, Triennale di Milano amongst others.
Plan Común is a Chilean-French architecture practice, founded in 2012, that offers strategic thinking to reinforce and highlight both collective space and use. Throughout the projects developed, the studio looks for both the common good as well as for clarity and common sense at a time of blurred time full of opportunities and misunderstandings and of political and ecological urgencies. With a firm belief in collaboration and collective intelligence, the studio operates through a diverse palette of formats which include design, building, research, teaching and curatorial activities. Plan Común looks for briefs, commissions and self-initiatives that open new possibilities for both architecture and commons, far away from the radical economisation in a context of global accelerated capitalism.
Supervoid is an architecture office based in Rome. It was established in 2016 by Benjamin Gallegos Gabilondo (Santiago CL, 1988) and Marco Provinciali (Rome, 1988) after they graduated from IUAV. At a variety of scales, the duo have realised projects in Italy, France, Chile, and the US whilst also having participated in both the 2014 and 2016 Venice Biennale as well as having taken part in The State of the Art of Architecture exhibition and symposium at the Triennale di Milano in 2020. The office has published projects and essays on international magazines and books such as SANROCCO, L’Architecture d’ajourd’hui, Domus, Baumeister, Elements of Venice, The Real Review, Vesper among others.
Images: Alessandro Rossi and Riccardo Ceccarelli