MAXXI_National Museum of the XXI Century Arts by Zaha Hadid


Photographer Luke Hayes has sent us a selection of photos of the MAXXI_National Museum of the XXI Century Arts in Rome by architect Zaha Hadid.


The 27,000 square metre centre is Italy's first national public museum of comtemporary arts and features two museums - MAXXI Art and MAXXI Architecture.

All photos here are copyright Luke Hayes and used with permission. Please see our copyright notice.

See photos of the construction of MAXXI by architectural photographer Hélène Binet in our story from April 2007.

See all our stories about Zaha Hadid in our special category.

Here's some text from Zaha Hadid Architects followed by a description from MAXXI:


In the words of Zaha Hadid

‘An interesting thing about the museum in Rome is that it is no longer an object, but rather a field, which implies that many programs could be attached to the museum. It’s no longer a museum, but a centre.

Here we are weaving a dense texture of interior and exterior spaces. It’s an intriguing mixture of permanent, temporary and commercial galleries, irrigating a large urban field with linear display surfaces. It could be a library; there are so many buildings that are not standing next to, but are intertwined and superimposed over one another.

This means that, through the organizational diagram, you could weave other programs into the whole idea of gallery spaces. You can make connections between architecture and art - the bridges can connect them and make them into one exhibition.

That gives you the interesting possibility of having an exhibition across the field. You can walk through a whole segment of a city to view spaces. In Rome, the organization will allow you to have exhibitions across the field, but they can also be very compressed, so you have a great variety.’

- Zaha Hadid

The Project by Zaha Hadid Architects

The MAXXI relates to the urban context in which it is inserted by re-proposing the horizontal development of the former military barracks, in opposition to the taller residential buildings that surround the site. The geometric structure of the project is aligned along the two grids that regulate the urban structure of this part of the city.

The reinterpretation of these two geometric structures within the proposal generates the surprising geometric complexity of the campus. Sinuous lines harmonise the overall scheme and facilitate flows across the site, mediating between the two urban axes.

The pedestrian path that crosses the campus follows the soft lines of the museum, slipping under its cantilevered volumes. The interior of the building presents visitors with a glimpse of numerous views and openings that cross the structure: on the one hand protecting its contents between its solid walls, on the other inviting visitors to enter through its large glazed surfaces on the ground floor.


The main idea behind the project is directly related to the objective of creating a building for the presentation of the visual arts. The site is “furrowed” by exhibition spaces, the walls that cross its spaces, their intersections defining interior and exterior space. This system works on three levels, the second of which is the most complex and richest, with it various bridges that connect the building and the galleries. Visitors are invited to dive into a dense, continuous space instead of confronting the compact volume of an isolated building.


The interior space, defined by the walls of the display galleries, are covered by a glass roof that floods the spaces with natural light, filtered between the roof trusses. These latter reinforce the linearity of the spatial system and assist the articulation of the various directions, overlappings and bifurcations of the system of gallery spaces. The honed linearity of the walls facilitates circulation through the campus, inside the galleries and between the objects on display.


MAXXI: A Campus for Culture

The MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts, instituted by the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities, is Italy’s first national public museum dedicated to contemporary creativity. The definitive home of the museum, designed by Zaha Hadid (winner of the 1999 international design competition) is currently nearing completion in Rome’s Flaminio neighbourhood, on the site of the former Montello Barracks. Since 2003 an experimental and innovative construction site has been working to complete this new, ultramodern museum.

The complex is home to two distinct institutions: MAXXI Art (directed by Anna Mattirolo) and MAXXI Architecture (directed by Margherita Guccione), focused on promoting the arts and architecture through the collection, conservation, study and dissemination of the most current movements. To date, the MAXXI Art collection contains over 300 works by such artists as Boetti, Clemente, Kapoor, Kentridge, Merz, Penone, Pintaldi, Richter, Warhol and others of equal fame.

The MAXXI Architecture collection features the personal archives of Carlo Scarpa, Aldo Rossi, Pierluigi Nervi and others, as well as projects by contemporary architects such as Toyo Ito, Italo Rota and Giancarlo De Carlo, together with the photographic collections of the Atlante italiano and Cantiere d’autore projects.

Designed as a campus of arts and culture, the multi-disciplinary and multi-functional MAXXI is also a new urban space open to the entire city. The MAXXI’s 27,000 m2 contain – in addition to the two museums – an auditorium, a library and media library, a bookshop, a cafeteria, temporary exhibition spaces, various open spaces for live events, commercial activities, workshops and spaces of study and recreation.

Open to the city and the world, the MAXXI aims to become a point of reference for public and private institutions in Italy and abroad, for artists, architects and the general public. The integration of Zaha Hadid’s project within the fabric of the city is made possible by an architectural solution that develops the idea of an urban campus. In fact, the MAXXI casts aside the idea of the “closed” building in favour of a broader dimension that extends the interior spaces into the exterior spaces around the building, open to the entire neighbourhood.


The two museums – MAXXI Art and MAXXI Architecture – rotate around a large, double storey atrium, the point of connection with the permanent collection galleries and temporary exhibition spaces, the auditorium, reception area, cafeteria and bookshop. Outside, a pedestrian path follows the shape of the building, slipping under its cantilevered volumes and restoring an urban connection interrupted for almost a century by the former military structure.

In opposition to the decisive architectural sign that dominates the exterior spaces and the atrium, a more sober spatial quality characterises the exhibition halls that host the collections of the two museums. A combination of glass (roof), steel (stairs and columns) and concrete (walls) defines the neutral appearance of the display spaces, while moveable panels ensure the flexibility of their use.

The fluid and sinuous forms and the variation and interweaving of different levels– assisted by the modulated use of natural light – combine to create a highly complex spatial and functional experience that offers continuously different and unexpected views, from the interior towards the open spaces. The project is characterised by two primary architectural elements: the exposed concrete walls that delimit the exhibition halls and determine the intertwining of volumes, and the transparent roof that modulates and filters natural light. Finally, the roofing system contains all of the various equipment required by the museum’s functions: it integrates operable glazing, natural light filtering devices, artificial illumination and environmental control systems.

MAXXI Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo - via Guido Reni, 2f 00196 Roma

Posted on Thursday November 12th 2009 at 9:15 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • It actually doesn’t open this week, it’s a preview opening (the museum is still empty) as the actual opening will be in Spring 2010. :)

  • Manu

    As I believe (not know!) this is one of their last projects that was designed before they decided working models are for cavemen and Zaha’s pencils were eaten by a Rhino.* And in my opinion, it shows (in a good way).

    *(citation needed, correct me if I’m wrong)

  • Great shape! But too much useless space (lot for flow)

  • js

    there is way too much art in that museum!

  • aeolus

    Somehow it reminded me of the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuelle II.

  • C

    this is the first building in years that looks like the aa protegé pre-shumacher zaha, more space oriented, less maya-rhino driven.
    this building looks more like it came from a painting than from a script

  • rsantosfernandes

    One of the best things about Zaha Hadid it´s the flowing aspect of all her works…they are really awesome for museums …
    but in other programs you always feel like there is no place to rest, to relax…to stay for a while. You always feel that you have to keep on moving, because everything around you flows. it might be very stressing to dwell such places, like for exemple the vitra fire station where the fireman refused to reside in that place.
    But this is a museum so … its fine…

  • ntulnz

    It looks like the perfect museum: the architecture as a neutral beckground for the arts to shine…plenty of natural light cleverly controlled…high ceilings to make room for important pieces…
    …will anyone be brave enough to stop Zaha and go back to intelligence in Architecture?
    beyond the waste of public money that this building clearly is the firm is not even creative anymore as they are replicating endlessy the same design whether they design sofas, factories…unfortunately this project looked much better as a factory for BMW than as a Museum

  • Lee Corbusier

    Well done to Zaha Hadid Architects, if it’s okay to use her full name.

  • student101

    i dont usually like Zaha Hadid, but this design is quite successful. just wouldnt want to be wearing a skirt climbing those stairs

  • luxor

    no blobs, the raw zaha is back! yeah!

  • BD

    Material, texture and color for a subway station. Makes me want to move through it and exit as quickly as possible. Do museums need so much sterility?

  • 42studio
  • arnulfo alamil

    @rsantosfernandes— why is it the firemen refuses to reside in the vitra fire station?

    000—-by the way great building Zaha…

  • recon::decon

    seems messy. i’m not a fan of the stairs that seem to have no logic and order and just bend around at a random radius. it doesn’t construct well as you can see in the photos with the stairs that show all the imperfections in the construction and details.

    for a gallery it seems like there is just too much building. although better than the liebskind mess in denver, i wonder if there will be as many difficulties with the art having to accommodate the architecture.

    i think zaha’s best work will always be the vitra fire station.

  • ste

    i’m really happy to see such a beautiful AND intelligent space made by zaha hadid archtiects! this one is generating great spatial qualities with (in comparison to her recent projects) a small effort! i hope some of her recent designs gets built very fast (and paid by someone who doesnt care anyway) and one is able to compare the architectural qualities!

    i guess script-driven architecture is very important… and the office of zaha hadid architects is one of the most elaborated offices in working with all these new technologies… but if even they are not able to do projects which are at least in the same league with the pre-script-era works… we are far away from the first script-driven projects which takes archtiecture some steps forward! its a long way to go and we have to learn how to use the given tools in an appropriate way before we poke out another million of projects which lacks quality and try to impress with complexity!

  • Manu

    @C: “this building looks more like it came from a painting than from a script” … that’s because it is. as I said, last one, I believe.

  • Nice to see Zaha moving back into a simpler designs, and even though it is simpler, I think it ends up being far more powerfull than some of her ‘our-there’ works.

  • reborn?

    great jobs, masters.

    Black Friday is a meaningful day, it’s a landmark of long-term struggles with ‘them’.
    Today, once again, I got the core meaning of a Chinese saying,its translation is like this: when you do or say something, the related people who is away 1000 miles from you could know it.

    this morning, birds brought me the information, 3 times, that you’re struggling with’ them’ ( perhaps they’re the ones working for goverment). The information says the process was difficurt, it’s just like only could be happened in a movie.

    And after i took a snap in the noon, around 1:00pm i made a forecast about the struggles via I Ching( YI JING), it says we won the fighting and SOMEONE will be transported to the destination via a big vehicle. The good news of time will be the brightest moment of the day. I was so glad. ( of course I was not very sure about it cause I am not a professional fortune teller. Anyway, I am waiting.)

    Thanks much for your great efforts!

  • Rob

    exterior reminds me of chillfactore in manchester and in parts the fashion block at huddersfield uni.. very cool…

  • anel

    this museum is made to be art work for itself!..cong.,,,!-that is great and very difficult to make it, but sometimes it’s not neccessery, becouse other art works can’t be important as they are inside of that.:)

  • tanya telford – T

    initially i thought this building sounded far too imposing and quite harsh, almost heavy, way to calculated in theory, but from these photos it looks much much better (not what I thought), like a real treat to be in, surprising and very exciting.

  • BH

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t really open until spring next year, when I understand there will be a Scarpa exhibition – imagine that a Scarpa exhibition in a Zaha building!!!

    Anyway, I live in Rome and I am very glad that we have now got a new museum of art (and architecture). Not being a huge fan of Zaha’s recent work, I am so so glad that it represents the good old Zaha prior to her going on safari and being attached by rhino’s…… Warning to all fledgling architects out there to steer clear of salt licks!!!

  • BH

    erm… attacked by rhino’s maybe???

  • rsantosfernandes

    @ arnulfo alamil
    “In less than a year the fireman were removed from their station; complaining of vertigo induced by the canting walls and an inability to run indoors due to the slight grade on all floors. It eventually housed the Vitra chair collection, but less than archival conditions (it was built as a fire station….not a museum) forced that collection into storage. Right now it waits for architecture geeks and Eames fanatics (the Eames exhibit was awesome!) to wander through.”

  • big bird

    I tend to agree with BD above: good architecture. wrong building typology. maybe ms. hadid could look into getting away from concrete all the time?…which i know is the only material that can pull off her trix.

  • vibenade

    i have to agree this ol one look more sensible..

  • poster

    what i actually like more is the ceilng structure and how it accompanies the circulation. Also the first pictures remind me of Steven Holl’s museums, the curved slopes and stairs in the walls, I guess
    anyway I liked it, not for being simplier than other pieces from Zaha but for actually generate a strcucture which goes specifically for the building and not sketching a blob and then struggle to design the structure….i guess

  • LOW


  • Sander

    nobody is mentioning the dancers!
    they are the same group inaugurating the empty “neues museum” in berlin last march. and they are fine!

  • Fernando, Esperanto

    This probably is the last ‘zaha’ zaha hadid building. Actually designed by her through paintings and models and not designed by a team of fresh faced AA grads under the remote supervision of herr doktor schumacher. It appears to us now after an unusually long time in gestation due to funding problems and, one suspects, monumental efforts on behalf of the structural engineers.

    I agree with comments above: it is a typology much more suited to a car factory or an airport building – hard to see how this will be successful as a space in which to exhibit art, a place of reflection and repose. But I guess that’s not the point of it.

    I can’t help feeling this building’s time has already past: it existed on paper long before bmw and the Cinicinnati museum, a building completed almost a decade ago, which demonstrated a more refined and elegant expression of the same ideas .

  • Saber Abbaszadeh

    Great Project !

  • Sam

    It looks so banal (especially the exterior).

  • marinus

    @ rsantosfernandes who said:

    “One of the best things about Zaha Hadid it´s the flowing aspect of all her works…they are really awesome for museums …
    but in other programs you always feel like there is no place to rest, to relax…to stay for a while. You always feel that you have to keep on moving, because everything around you flows. it might be very stressing to dwell such places (…) But this is a museum so … its fine…”

    IS IT???
    Compared to any other buildingtype, ESPECIALLY the museum is a place where i want ‘places to rest’, ‘to stay a while’, and NOT have the feeling that I have to ‘keep on moving’ !
    How can you stand still for a moment in this building, (as long as you like) and look at art, think about art, look at it again, sit down in front of it…

    I know why they shot these photo’s in an empty museum with just some dynamic figures inside; can you imagine paintings hanging on the wall?
    I can’t.

    So I must again come to the conclusion that this is another great dynamic Hadid building, indeed like one of her impressing paintings have come to life, but that it would only fit a collection of Italian sports cars. Even a Zaha Hadid painting would be to static to hang on these walls.

    Compare this to the Nottingham Contemporary museum (Caruso St. John Architects): a lot less WOW-effect, but it actually suits the SITE and the PROGRAM.

  • 3D

    This is the last pre Rhino Zaha Hadid building, so enjoy it. The last one where they actuality did some models. Now it’s all Rhino and Maya stuff.

  • Pierre Sinsua

    marinus, sometimes a square looks perfect surrounded by swirls and a circle standing out among straight lines, the paintings can blend into the design. further more, i believe the bland concrete grey colour is to compliment the art work that is going to be placed there

  • Zhaleh

    I love the material palette in this project!

  • Em

    Especially for controversial buildings like the MAXXI museum, spaces should be experienced in person before expressing strong statements.

    For those wanting to see more of the museum, check the series of posts at our blog concerning the construction site, the entrance hall, the exterior and the galleries:

  • As someone from a city that could have had a Zaha Hadid gallery (Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada), I feel that these pictures give me a sense of what we missed out on. I think that the MAXXI is a wonderful building.

  • Brad

    I actually saw this building from the outside in its context… I do not dislike Zaha, but it looked really stupid. Granted, I did not see the inside until this article, and it somewhat validates the shapes, but from the main street that you see this building from, it looks like a monstrosity.