Museo dell’Ara Pacis

Lungotevere in Augusta corner to via Tomacelli, Rome, Italy

Museum of the Ara Pacis is situated on the bank of the Tiber River, located on the western edge of the Piazza Augusto Imperatore. It is designed as a renewed space by architect Richard Meier to house the Ara Pacis, a sacrificial altar dating to 9 B.C.

The structure consists of a long, single-story glazed loggia elevated above a shallow podium providing a transparent barrier between the embankment of the Tiber and the existing circular perimeter of the mausoleum of Augustus, built circa 28 B.C. The clarity of the volumes and the building’s proportions relate in scale to Rome’s ancient structures. A predominating feature of the new building is a glass curtain wall measuring 150 feet long and 40 feet high. The asymmetrical entry hall, defined by seven slender columns in reinforced concrete finished with white waxed marble plaster, leads to the main hall, which houses the Ara Pacis. The contrast between the subdued lighting of the entrance space and the expansive top-lit and rigorously symmetrical main hall encourages a naturally progressive circulation. The roof over the main hall rests on four columns with skylights to maximize natural lighting and to eliminate “false shadows.” Outside the main structure, a low travertine wall extending from within the main hall traces the ancient shore of the Tiber River. The travertine comes from the same quarry as the stone that was used to build the Piazza of the Emperor Augustus in the Thirties.  

Although housing and protecting the ancient altar was the main focus of this museum, the building also provides space for temporary exhibitions and installations dedicated to archaeological themes and a state-of-the-art digital library of Augustan culture. An outdoor roof terrace above the auditorium functions as an essential part of the circulation of the museum and includes a contiguous bar and café with views over the Mausoleum of Augustus to the east and the Tiber River to the west.

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