Rome: Guide To An Architectural City

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Yesterday, all eyes turned toward Rome for the election of the wold’s first Latin American pope. Indeed, many of the past week’s headlines have focused on the unexpected papal election and the myriad ancient rituals under way in the Eternal City—one thing is certain, no one does pomp and ceremony like the Roman Catholic Church. It’s no surprise that many of the greatest architects, artists, and designers of Western history have worked for the Church, contributing unmatched visual and spatial masterpieces for the world’s longest-surviving institution. But not all great architecture in Rome is religious in nature; Italy’s capital also boasts some fantastic secular design. We’ve gathered 12 projects we’d be visiting if we were Pope Francis!

Photo: Mr G’s Travels via Flickr

126 AD
Commissioned by Emperor Trajan

This amazing space has survived from antiquity and remains the largest unreinforced concrete dome ever built. Architects and artists have flocked to see this wonder for centuries; the tomb of famed Renaissance painter Raphael is located here, alongside several Italian kings’.

Photo: formalfallacy @ Dublin (Victor) via Getty Images

Photo: Sergio (aka the Black Cat) via Flickr

Palace of Italian Civilization (Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana)
1943 AD
Designed by Marcello Piacentini

Perhaps the most iconic building of the fascist period, the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana is a streamlined, modern interpretation of the Colosseum and is a testament to the collusion of architecture and politics in the 20th century.

Photo: czechian via Flickr

Photo: koyaman3422 via Flickr

Saint Peter’s Basilica (San Pietro in Vaticano)
1626 AD
Designed by Michelangelo, Bramante, Sangallo, Giacomo della Porta, Maderno

The current Saint Peter’s Basilica was constructed starting in 1506 AD, and remained one of the largest building projects in the world for centuries after. The dubious methods used to finance the construction of such an immense monument are widely credited for spurring the Protestant Reformation and shattering the religious unity of Western Europe.

Photo: gordon_losangeles via Flickr

Photo: Zaha Hadid Architects

MAXXI: Museum of XXI Century Arts
2009 AD
Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects

Zaha’s MAXXI is one of the few large-scale contemporary projects undertaken in Rome. Sitting to the north of the historic walled city, the Museum of XXI Century Arts is a city unto itself, with striking internal circulation paths and unique exhibition and performance spaces.

Photo: Zaha Hadid Architects

Photo: sandybanks via Getty Images

Theatre of Marcellus
13 BC
Commissioned by Emperor Augustus (existing travertine arched structure)

Originally built as a public theater at the close of the Roman Republic, successive owners of the building have made major modifications over time. The Orsini family of powerful Roman aristocrats built a Renaissance palace atop the former theater’s arcades in the 16th century.

Photo: brunopigi via Flickr

Photo: Richard Meier & Partners Architects

Jubilee Church (Chiesa di Dio Padre Misericordioso)
2000 AD
Designed by Richard Meier & Partners Architects

Built to celebrate the millenium, Meier’s Jubilee Church is formed by a series of nesting shells. Reminiscent of Italian modernism, Meier’s pure white designs are rare contemporary insertions into the historic fabric of Rome.

Photo: Richard Meier & Partners Architects

Photo: Calystee via Flickr

Villa Farnesina
1510 AD
Designed by Baldassarre Peruzzi

Built as a suburban villa for a Renaissance banking family, the Villa Farnesina is a garden oasis in the brutal Roman summers. The interiors are covered in spectacular frescos, including several cycles painted by Raphael.

Photo: Eric.Parker via Getty Images

Photo: patrizia_ferri via Flickr

Auditorium the Parco della Musica
2002 AD
Designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Rome’s Music Park was designed by one of Italy’s most prominent architects, Renzo Piano. Built on the site of the 1960 Summer Olympics, the multi-purpose venue accommodates a wide range of musical performance.

Photo: candido33 via Getty Images

Photo: CyberMacs via Getty-Images

Church of Saint Charles at the Four Fountains (San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane) 
1646 AD
Designed by Francesco Borromini

The Church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane is a celebrated masterpiece of Baroque architecture. The undulating facade is set to the side of a busy intersection and seems to move along with the heavy traffic. The church is capped with an amazing coffered oval dome.

Photo: José-Agustín via Flickr

Photo: sapiamaia via Getty Images

Galleria Borghese (Villa Borghese Pinciana)
Designed by Flaminio Ponzio

Galleria Borghese houses perhaps one of the most famous collections of Baroque art in the world, dominated by the sculptures of Bernini and the paintings of Caravaggio. Set amid the sprawling Villa Borghese Gardens, this jewel of Roman art is a must-see.

Photo: Verbunkos via Flickr

Photo: Uncle Buddha via Flickr

Paul VI Audience Hall
Designed by Pier Luigi Nervi

One of the few modern buildings of note in the Vatican City, the Audience Hall of Paul VI was designed by the Italian engineer Pier Luigi Nervi. The reinforced concrete structure can accomodate more than 6000 pilgrims wishing to see the pope during a General Audience.

Photo: sveneczi via Tumblr

Photo: Lawrence OP via Getty Images 

Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran (Arcibasilica di San Giovanni in Laterano)
1735 AD
Designed by Alessandro Galilei (current Baroque facade)

Originally commissioned by the first Christian Emperor of Rome (Constantine), the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran also has the distinction of being the Cathedral of Rome. While Saint Peter’s Basilica is more closely associated with the pope, Saint John Lateran is his official church as Bishop of Rome.

Photo: Scazon via Flickr


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