MAXXI Museum / Zaha Hadid Architects

© Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan

Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects
Location: Rome, Flaminio,
Client: Ministero Beni e Attività Culturali – Fondazione MAXXI
Structural engineers: Anthony Hunts Associates OK Design Group
Lights and illumination: Equation Lighting
Year of enchargement: 1999
Year of completion: 2009
Constructed area: 27,000 sqm
Photographs: Iwan Baan

© Iwan Baan © Iwan Baan © Iwan Baan © Iwan Baan

Opening the website of , the home page shows the various links of the practice on a schematic plan; it is the plan of MAXXI, Museum of Arts of the XXI century, in Rome. This side-fact indicates the importance of MAXXI among the projects made by Zaha Hadid. The museum was recently completed, after ten years, and opened on preview to the public.

© Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan

Archdaily was invited to the preview, so it was possible to experience the spaces while empty – the art collection will be installed during winter, the official opening will take place on April 2010 – and have a direct impression of the building. As declared by the architect, the museum is ‘not a object-container, but rather a campus for art’, where flows and pathways overlap and connect in order to create a dynamic and interactive space. Although the program is clear and organized in plan, flexibility of use is the main goal of the project. Continuity of spaces makes it a suitable place for any kind of moving and temporary exhibition, without redundant wall divisions or interruptions. Entering the atrium, the main elements of the project are evident: concrete curved walls, suspended black staircases, open ceiling catching natural light. By these elements Zaha Hadid intended ‘a new fluid kind of spatiality of multiple perspective points and fragmented geometry, designed to embody the chaotic fluidity of modern life’.

© Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan

This statement of the architect, as usual of hers, brought out the question if the concept of de-constructed fluidity matched with the identity of a “static” city as Rome, and with its classical heritage. The response of critics and public has been positive. Especially in this context, in the relation with the existing fabrics, the curved smooth walls dialogue with the neo-classical symmetrical facades. The new organism includes in its developing the front- side building, by clean and blind surfaces at the side, thus declaring the feasibility and the need of coexistence. The museum is well inserted in the urban block situation, taking from it its guidelines, and opening its cut-end wings as panoramic viewpoints.

section 02

Particular attention has been given to the natural lighting, by the thin concrete beams on the ceiling, together with glass covering and filtering systems. The same beams have a bottom rail from which art pieces are going to be suspended. The beams, the staircases and the linear lighting system guide the visitors through the interior walkway, which ends in the large space on third level. From here, a large window offers a view back to the city, though obstructed by a massive core.

© Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan

The museum participates actively to the location – Rome, and its first outskirt, not a part of the old centre, but still central. The Flaminio neighbourhood has been interested in the last years by a renovation program of public attraction, the latest being the Auditorium by Renzo Piano. The long MAXXI construction process completes the idea of a renewed city. Moreover, MAXXI is the first national museum of contemporary art in Italy. It will bring a lot of attentions, by public and media, together with economical activities, rendering this museum a central point for Rome, which is in constant look for its contemporary identity.

- Andrea Giannotti

Cite: "MAXXI Museum / Zaha Hadid Architects" 16 Dec 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>
  • Anonymous

    Disappointing…considering how the plans and concept drawings looked….

    Probably be better if all the fluid lines are accentuated with more colors as per concept sketches….

    instead feels like a tortured/twisted Ando with black intestines….

    …..Zaha should stay away from concrete in general…none of her concrete works are satisfactorily… probably run of money too quickly to finished them properly…

    stick to Prefab! Babe!

    • korbanzo

      i have a hard time believing a zaha project would run short on cash to finish details…

    • fl!p

      you sound like you can do a better one.. i hope..

      • mike


        I assure you… Most of these guys will never have their ideas a reality. Sad… =/

        Lets appreciate architecture for what it is, shall we? Criticism is important in architecture, but it is just as important to find good aspects to it as well.

    • public eye

      I don’t know about that, anonymous. But Iwan Baan’s photos are fantastic. I saw the Maxxi at before. I have not been impressed by this Hadid’s work. But when the photographer shows us the right angle with the right lighting and composition, the project comes alive to me. I began to see the qualities of this project like spatial composition,the rhythm of the floors and ceilings, wading through the space in harmony. Beautiful.

  • hoosteen

    anonymous…are you kidding me?
    Doesnt do concrete?
    finished properly?
    You want more colors?

    I’ve touched it…its smooth as silk.
    Vitra fire station, beautiful finish…her pavilion, not so much…but I’d be curious to see a building you would consider ‘finished properly’.

    • p4Ko

      Cincinnati !!! Awesome… Wha

  • archilocus

    I’m disappointed in general about all those fluid stuff… They may work from a distance, but the scale is too big to be able to completely get this feeling of dynamics and fluids once you’re close by or in the building. Perhaps it is different in real, but from the pictures I see curves rather than motion dynamics.

    The feeling of Annonymous is probably right, but the question is rather is heavy, monolithic concrete appropriate to express movement?

    • fl!p

      you need to see the “thing” first.. you are expecting movement and dynamics from a static picture..

      • oso

        zaha lover :)

    • marcial

      Pathetic coment,
      I went to the inagurattion, its incredible, really nice.
      you can not make opinions by pictures, this is the first thing that you must learn in the university.
      I dont like so much this “style” but this is a great project.

      • Mike

        Finally, a REAL architect practitioner.

        How can one judge a structure merely by looking at images & reading its program?



    The architects we have to be prudent and conscious of the reality in any sense. The architecture looked in photos is like an intermittent music. It’s ingenuous to pretend forceful judgements over some few photos. Anyway, she takes the risks about her works… and she is the one who will always make the mistakes. What about you all, anonymous architects?

    • fl!p

      nice one!

    • archilocus

      You think discussing the architecture some commentators are doing make their point weaker? This is a thing coming back often in the comments, and I still don’t get it. What do you know about the work of those commenting ?
      I agree otherwise about debating from pictures only, but I’m forced to say I’ve visited other buildings from Zaha and I’ve always been deceived compared to the pictures. Pictures can look worse, but also better than reality…

  • Em

    I’m always been skeptical about the quality of Hadid’s spaces, but I must admit that the entrance hall, some sections of the galleries and some exteriors of the MAXXI museum are really impressive seen in person.

    For those interested in more pictures, you can find our images of the construction site and of the November opening here:

  • hj

    great to see more detailed drawings of this project. it’s easy to draw curvy stuff in todays/yesterdays software but to bring it to execution is a totally different story.

  • Andrew Geber


    i want her to design some homes now

  • mario bijou

    Bonne et pertinante réponse sur une parcelle somme toute assez difficile…

  • Me

    Some of you don’t seem to understend!! It’s al flash, it’s object design an a grand scale. It shouldnt even be called architecture in my opinion. This being said I think it’s a great design :)

  • Cesar Castro

    Some of the pictures remind me a liquified version of Liebeskind’s Jewish Museum. I am not a huge fan of Zaha’s work, but I find this one quite interesting. Would have loved to see more pictures showing the way the building faces the surrounds.

  • tos

    Zaha is my Daddy!

  • Wuxus

    I really like this Zaha proyect, I think when she works with concrete and more orthogonal compositions it’s more much better compared to her work with covered completely with corian!!

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  • astounded

    I am shocked!
    This is a seriously beautiful and refined construction…
    look at the open tread staircase that wraps the atrium without ever once needing a column for support!
    The lighting design!!! my god!
    And the skylight detail! It work exactly as zaha has been describing for ten years: tying all of the museum spaces into a continuous three dimensional field condition.
    This is not a simple object building, just look at the interior pictures!
    It’s far more spatially rich than any of the drawings/renderings/models that I have seen for this project have ever been able to convey.

    And for those who anonymously express disappointment with what they are seeing on this page remember:

    You are looking a building,
    not a rendering!

    Have some respect.

  • shadi osyli

    the aerial view looks magnificent , the smooth fluid shapes between the classic buildings it’s really look so great , but the problem of the scale when you get closer i find it annoying , i think if the whole building where in some kind of different level of the surrounding ( -1 or -2 m ) would solve the problem somehow , anyway still a piece of art & i love it :)

  • critique

    The lighting details are great and I love how the staircase seems to float through the space without support. The interiors seem like very nice spaces to display art, however, the exterior is a bit cold, clinical, and monolithic. Perhaps some warmer materials and more appropriate human scaled details would make it more inviting at the street level.

    This is much better than I would have expected from Zaha, who of late has been vomiting up an endless selection of fluid renders for dubai, all without a sense of place or design. I thought she couldn’t sink any lower when I saw her horrible shoe designs, but this project is a rather elegant expression and its good to see a built project rather than a render.

  • Dag God

    I can’t say I’ll take a side regarding the usual Zaha’s fans and critics. They both prove a point on this one.

    I’ll comment other aspects of the building and that is sustainability and functionality. How about the sound spreading or heating during winter in these wast open spaces?

  • tseug

    Nice work, it seems like “Playing in space”

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  • daniel

    all coments refer to the buildings shapes and forms and details . isn’t the most important question to be asked “does it work ? does it serve it’s needs ? ” . the remarks people tend to make are ” is it nice – amazing – wonderfull ”
    to me it seems less important – looking at all these steps – beautiful as they are – and so many of them, seems like you have to be a prety dam good athlete to run these stpes up and down i belive using the lifts will be more popular . and the “snaky” scheme leeding the visitor to dead ends , and we all now how tyring
    a visit to a museum can get . to be honest i haven’t been there yet but seems to me the architect makes a very hard efort to build a building that makes people take nice pictures of . is this the true meaning of architecture ? . beacuse all the “philosophical” ideas behind this design , which are unclear to me , will turn out to be very shalow down the road of time . Fashionable
    architecture in – Practical out . but very nice looking Bravo . i think the true perpose of this one is “Zaha Hadid – Museum “

  • jsx

    Real big challenge this project be built in Rome. typical of zaha’s geometry, but the better of her others, I think. Personally, I like the concrete exterior. It’s very well done, and the building fits the site quite well. However, quite a long stairs. is it on purpose?
    anyway, want to see it myself.

  • NCS_beige

    classic Zaha geometry..building shape,especially interior so nice.!i found video also:

  • Motsa Blufellen

    Not always a fan of the swooping, fluid form making by Zaha, but this project looks to be a step above 3d “formal studies”. The articulation in the interiors,the ceiling and circulation especially, helps carry Zaha’s imperative to movement and exploration inside the building. The scale and treatment of the spaces looks appropriate for modern gallery and performance spaces – and they’re also more than a blank box, more active participant in the activities.

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  • domy

    i really like zis architecture …. zaha always has zis point of view her own style … it is really nice 2 c zis beautifull architecture … it is dynamic :D:D

  • mr gaga

    congratulations zaha: a new master piece. what beautifull exterior volumetry, full of vitality. and the floor plans! exquisito.

  • PT

    it’s the plans that are disappointing; the spaces are what are compelling. as somebody who thinks hadid is an out of control clown whose proposals are deeply laughable, even i’m impressed. it just goes to show that only really, really good hadid gets built.

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