Letter from Rome: YAP Opening Night at the MAXXI

International, Newsletter
Thursday, July 7, 2011
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stARTT's illuminated fiberglass flowers (Courtesy James Stevens)

stARTT's illuminated fiberglass flowers (Courtesy James Stevens)

Imagine a warm summer evening in Rome. Then imagine stretching out on a cool, grass lawn underneath giant Jurassic tulips the size of a cherry tree. Their glow softly illuminates conversations over cocktails. Add a backdrop of the serpentine jewel of Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI museum, and you have theater.

Rome is all about theater.

WHATAMI by stARTT. (Cecilia Fiorenza / Courtesy MAXXI)

WHATAMI by stARTT. (Cecilia Fiorenza / Courtesy MAXXI)

So was the scene at the opening of the Young Architects Program installation at Rome’s one year old museum of art and architecture. Five young European firms were chosen as finalists by the MAXXI in collaboration with MoMA PS1′s Young Architect’s Program. The winner in Rome, stARTT Architects, installed 2000 square feet of luscious grass mini-hills inclined perfectly for reclining, so you can sdraiarsi, an untranslatable Roman manner of stretching out. Topping the hills are 20 or so three-foot wide tulips, each atop a six-foot curved stem. Semi-transparent red resin tulip-like flowers–a bit in the style of Avatar–light up in the evening and offer a bit of shade during the day.

Mario Mattia, the resident architect in Rome for Hadid, had suggested a green space for the 12,000 square foot plaza court, drawing inspiration from a visit to the green lawn of Bryant Park beside the grand 42nd Street New York Public Library. But cut concrete paths and organized gravel won out–until now. Given a choice, humans gravitate toward the living and the green. StARTT architects managed to incorporate both elements into this built setting.

So what did the user audience say about the installation on opening night? Papavere gigante! (“giant poppies!” omnipresent in the hills of Rome) and martini rossi! (martini glass-shaped flowers missing only the maraschino cherry). The giant tulips gently tilted your view upward to the rich evening turquoise of the Mediterranean sky, as you lay grounded on the refreshing islands of grass.

A temporary installation? To quote another Roman, the emperor Hadrian: “Be attentive to the temporary, as it often becomes the permanent.”

Magari! (We hope so.)

WHATAMI by stARTT. (Cecilia Fiorenza / Courtesy MAXXI)

WHATAMI by stARTT. (Cecilia Fiorenza / Courtesy MAXXI)

WHATAMI by stARTT. (Cesare Querci / Courtesy MAXXI)

WHATAMI by stARTT. (Cesare Querci / Courtesy MAXXI)

stARTT's illuminated fiberglass flowers (Courtesy James Stevens)

stARTT's illuminated fiberglass flowers (Courtesy James Stevens)

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