Ara Pacis Museum

The first modern building to be erected in central Rome for half a century provides a stunning new setting for a precious ancient monument.

Located on the bank of the Tiber River, this museum provides a renewed setting for the Ara Pacis, a sacrificial altar dating to 9 B.C. Planned as part of an effort to protect Rome’s cultural legacy, the new structure replaced the monument’s previous enclosure, which was in a state of advanced decay. The new 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.

The new building strives on all levels to be highly respectful of its context. The clarity of its volumes, proportions, and scale are directly inspired by Rome’s ancient structures. The asymmetrical entry hall, defined by seven slender columns of reinforced concrete finished with white waxed marble plaster, leads to the main hall, which houses the Ara Pacis. Here 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. Outside the main structure, a low travertine wall traces the ancient shore of the Tiber River. Although housing and protecting the ancient altar is the main focus of the 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.

In an impressive technical feat, the roof over the main hall rests on only four columns while also integrating generous skylights. This design maximizes natural lighting in the museum’s interior and eliminates false shadows, creating the most natural viewing environment possible for the ancient altar.