It was 1998 when Zaha Hadid, out of 273 candidates, won the international competition to design the publicly funded, ambitious MAXXI.The concrete structure with glass roof will cover a surface of of 30,000 sq m in the Flaminio District, on a site that was originally occupied by a car factory and subsequently by army barracks that were turned into the first site of the museum.
Zaha Hadid explained the thinking process that lead to the current design:”It was important to decide that we would keep some of the buildings but not all of the buildings. And once that was decided we made certain studies where the geometry which replaces the existing one should be octagonal, parallel, should be diagonal. What began to appear was that a confluence of lines of many different geometries was operating on the site. What was initiated was the idea of a very fluid formal interpretation of the programme.”
The way the space intersects and intertwines allows for curatorial decisions leading to different connections with exhibits and to create fields of multiple association and juxtaposition. Hadid’s proposal offers a quasi-urban field, a "world” to dive into rather than a building as a signature object.
Long winding walls are a prominent feature of the new site. In the architect’s words: ”the curving walls I designed are not only on the interior to be exhibited on, but on the exterior too. So you can have murals, projections, installations: it is all about an interior-exterior existence.”
Notably the museum’s planning and construction spanned the ruling of three different Mayors and suffered a string of torturous stop and starts due to funding issues and, in 2001, the sudden classification of Rome as a seismic area which lead to a considerable amount of replanning and rebudgeting. But alas the site known as the “eternal building site” is scheduled to close and the museum will be opening its doors in 2009.