The author of the project is the American architect Richard Mayer, known for his minimalist buildings in the spirit of early modernism. The museum is the first new building within the historic borders of Rome in the post-war period. Therefore, this initiative provoked active opposition from many residents of the city and representatives of the cultural community. Also opposed were politicians representing parties competing with the current mayor of the city Walter Veltroni. They were not satisfied not only with the project itself, restrained, but far from the classics, but also with the fact that the architect is a foreigner. According to many Italians, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, J. M. Pei is no better than local architects, and, moreover, they have a poor idea of the unique cultural and urban development situation in the city.
Mayer himself is satisfied with his construction and considers all criticism to be a temporary phenomenon, more related to politics than architecture. Indeed, the altar itself since its inception has been more than a work of art. Emperor Octavian Augustus erected it in 13 - 8 years. BC e. on the Champ de Mars as a symbol of the peace he obtained by force after the end of the wars in Gaul and Iberia. The square volume, inside which the altar itself was located, is completely covered with reliefs. They depict the emperor himself and his family making sacrifices to the goddess of peace, as well as priests and ordinary believers.
Over the years after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the altar collapsed, and, with the beginning of targeted excavations from the Renaissance, some parts of its reliefs fell into the hands of private collectors, and from there - to various museums in Italy and the world. At the beginning of the 20th century, its fragments were discovered in situ during excavations. Benito Mussolini, who considered himself the heir to Augustus, decided to restore the altar next to the tomb of the first Roman emperor. For this, a museum building was built on the banks of the Tiber by the favorite architect of the dictator Vittorio Morpurgo. By the 1990s, it began to deteriorate, thereby endangering the preservation of the ancient Roman monument.
In 1995, the then mayor of Rome, Francesco Rutelli, approached Mayer with a proposal to replace the building of the 1930s with a modern museum complex, including halls for temporary exhibitions, a lecture hall with 300 seats, administrative premises, etc. In 2000, the Morpurgo pavilion was demolished, and In 2003 alone, construction began on a new $ 24 million glass, concrete and travertine complex. The grand opening took place on April 21 this year, the 2759th birthday of Rome and a month before the mayoral election. In reality, both the lower-level galleries and the auditorium may not be completed until autumn.
The elongated building is located in a small area below street level. Its main exterior surfaces are glass curtain walls. The spacious lobby, 7.5 m high, is cut along by a wall of raw travertine blocks that protrudes beyond the museum. Behind it is the altar hall itself (height 13 m), completely glazed. This not only allows you to illuminate it with bright sunlight, but also opens the monument to the view from the outside, especially at night. A lecture room is planned behind the main hall. The underground galleries are illuminated through glazed holes in the ground floor. There will be an exposition of archaeological finds associated with the "Altar of Peace", a digital library and halls of temporary exhibitions. The only surviving wall of the Morpurgo pavilion, on which the "Acts" of Augustus [Res Gestae] is carved, is also available for inspection.
There is a cafe on the roof of the museum with views of the Tiber and the surrounding monuments of architecture - Roman and Baroque.
Thus, Richard Mayer, having built the Museum of the "Altar of Peace", despite numerous obstacles, inscribed his name among the architects who have decorated the Eternal City with their buildings since its legendary foundation almost 2800 years ago.