And yet, many of today’s ‘starchitects’ have undertaken major projects here in the Eternal City.
Renzo Piano built Rome’s Auditorium, Zaha Hadid the MAXXI Museum (Both in Rome’s Flaminio neighborhood). Massimiliano Fuksas’ ‘Cloud’ Roman Congress Center is currently being built in Rome’s EUR neighborhood.
And Richard Meier has overseen two high-profile projects: the controversial building that houses the Ancient Roman Ara Pacis (I side with the naysayers on this, not because the building is not beautiful, but because it is so out of place in its surroundings – Rome’s historical center).
I do love Meier’s other Roman project, Chiesa di Dio Padre Misericordioso, otherwise known as the Jubilee Church. It was originally to be completed in the Jubilee year – 2000- but work ran over and it was inaugurated on 26 October 2003, in the Roman suburb of TorTreTeste.
When my son competed in a running race at a neighboring park, I knew this was a good time to (finally) visit the church.
The project for this church began as an open competition in 1995. Tadao Ando, Günter Behnisch, Santiago Calatrava, Peter Eisenman, and Frank Gehry also participated in the competition, and the commission was awarded to Meier in 1996. Construction began in 1998.
“With the Jubilee Church, we have worked to create a new Roman Catholic church for the 21st century – a landmark that upholds and builds upon the city’s rich architectural tradition,” said Richard Meier. “I am honored to have this wonderful opportunity to be a part of history and a partner in the Arch Diocese of Rome’s Jubilee celebrations.”
The first thing a visitor notices as he enters the church is a sense of space and light. According to Meier, light was the crucial element to his creation: “Light is the means by which we are able to experience what we call sacred. Light is at the origins of this building. I am reminded of H.G. Gadamer’s words in The Relevance of the Beautiful: “We only have to think of certain expressions like the ‘play of light’ and the ‘play of the waves’ where we have such a constant coming and going, back and forth, a movement that is not tied down to any goal. That the sense of freedom and movement – both in human festivities, and also in natural phenomena as the play of light – may be seen as fundamentally theological.”
The church also serves as a community center for the TorTreTeste neighborhood, and the church has done much to revitalize the area. It may not be on the regular tourist itinerary, but why not stop by to see the sweeping white sails of the modern Jubilee church on your next visit to Rome? Details and hours can be found on its web site.