Ara Pacis Museum / Richard Meier & Partners Architects

Courtesy of , © Roland Halbe ARTUR IMAGES

This museum on the bank of the Tiber River has been designed as a renewed setting for the Ara Pacis, a sacrificial altar dating to 9 B.C. and now located on the western edge of the Piazza Augusto Imperatore. Planned as part of an effort to protect ’s cultural legacy, the new structure replaces the monument’s previous enclosure, which was in a state of advanced decay. The structure consists of a long, single-story glazed loggia elevated above a shallow podium providing a transparent barrier between the embankment of the Tiber and the existing circular perimeter of the mausoleum of Augustus, built circa 28 B.C.

Architects: Richard Meier & Partners
Location: Rome, Italy
Project Year: 1995-2006
Photographs: Courtesy of Richard Meier & Partners Architects, Roland Halbe ARTUR IMAGES


The altar was relocated from the Campo Marzio in 1938 during the Mussolini era, and a system of regulating lines was applied to the project to relate the altar’s present position to its original site. Bisecting the distance between the present center of the mausoleum and the original site yielded a four-square urban grid that was used as a proportional frame to reorganize the piazza and its surroundings. An artificial obelisk is used as a historical reference on the north-south axis through the altar.

site plan

The clarity of the volumes and the building’s proportions relate in scale to Rome’s ancient structures. A predominating feature of the new building is a glass curtain wall measuring 150 feet long and 40 feet high. The asymmetrical entry hall, defined by seven slender columns in reinforced concrete finished with white waxed marble plaster, leads to the main hall, which houses the Ara Pacis. The contrast between the subdued lighting of the entrance space and the expansive top-lit and rigorously symmetrical main hall encourages a naturally progressive circulation. The roof over the main hall rests on four columns with skylights to maximize natural lighting and to eliminate “false shadows.” Outside the main structure, a low travertine wall extending from within the main hall traces the ancient shore of the Tiber River. Building materials include glass and concrete and an indigenous fine beige Roman travertine.

ground floor plan

Although housing and protecting the ancient altar was the main focus of this museum, the building also provides space for temporary exhibitions and installations dedicated to archaeological themes and a state-of-the-art digital library of Augustan culture. An outdoor roof terrace above the auditorium functions as an essential part of the circulation of the museum and includes a contiguous bar and café with views over the Mausoleum of Augustus to the east and the Tiber River to the west.

Courtesy of Richard Meier & Partners Architects, © Roland Halbe ARTUR IMAGES
Cite: "Ara Pacis Museum / Richard Meier & Partners Architects" 19 Jan 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 29 May 2015. <>
  • Toba

    ara pacis desrves much more, rome deserves much more. The project is not bad, it Was designed but Meier, but it doesnt makes the ara pacis mor than of what it is, it humble and respectfull design can be erased and a new one inserted, and nobody will miss the pure volumes of boreness.

  • h.a.

    it’s actually very bad. I was there three months ago and I thought it was designed by some comercial architect. Never imagined that i was designed by a star architect. We need to recycle our star system!!

  • aston79

    it’s too big! its facade obscures the XVI sec churches and it’s bad connected with surrounding…
    from via di ripetta e via del corso it appears like a big white box without windows so you can’t see ara pacis from the most crowded pedestrian street of rome.
    before they build it ara pacis was inside a smaller total glass box which was definelly better…

  • Robert

    It looks very dated already because it was designed well before it was ever built. I had a school project across the street in the 90′s and I saw these same drawings then and read about how it was a stalled project. Glad they finally built something, but they should have freshened up the design.
    The paving pattern in the drawings makes it look like it is trying to connect to the churches and Mosoleum across the street, but it faces them at the street with a tall solid wall?
    I thought it was elevated to connect to the river across the busy thoroughfare between, but I feel like it has just further cut it off from the river and the city.

  • ygogolak

    I think there were talks of tearing this down because of so much public outcry. It took forever to get built too.

  • pi A

    I hope that he not come back in rome

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