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Meier approves Rome’s Ara Pacis changes

American architect Richard Meier has approved plans to tear down part of a wall adjoining his modern Ara Pacis Museum complex that was included in his original design.

The wall in question divides the busy Lungotevere Augusta from Piazza Augusto Imperatore and has been criticised for obscuring the baroque façade of the church of S. Rocco all’Augusteo near the Ara Pacis monument.

During a site visit with Rome’s right-wing mayor Gianni Alemanno on 7 April Meier – who also designed the church of Dio Misericordioso in the Tor Tre Teste suburb in east Rome – described the move as a “superb idea” and said he wanted to preserve the view of the church in the original design but believed that a barrier was needed to separate the museum complex from the busy road. The American architect will reportedly be involved in drawing up the new plans.

Completed in 2006 to provide a permanent casing for the first-century BC Altar to Peace, the Ara Pacis museum has long been a source of controversy among local residents and architects, who think it is out of place in the historic centre of Rome.

Before taking office in 2008 Alemanno promised to dismantle the structure completely, although he later conceded that it would be easier to make changes in situ. The city council also plans to create an underpass for traffic next to the Ara Pacis and to pedestrianise the stretch of Lungotevere in Augusta between the museum complex and the river as part of a broader project to reorganise the entire Piazza Augusto Imperatore area.

The Ara Pacis was built by emperor Augustus in 13 BC to celebrate the establishment of peace in the Roman empire. Originally located near the present-day Piazza S. Lorenzo in Lucina, it excavated and moved to its present site on the edge of Piazza Augusto Imperatore in the 1930s as part of Mussolini’s project for urban renewal.

Meier is in Rome for an international conference on urban planning called by the city council on 8-9 April.

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