—‘The Theaters of Culture: Ephemeral Projects for the Eternal City’ is an exhibition of five projects by five emerging young studios about ephemeral architecture in Rome commissioned by MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts.
It represented Rome at the 2017 Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism.

“It is through the fragility of temporary tools that architecture remembers “the art of wonder”.”

Federica Fava on Renato Nicolini’s ‘Il Meraviglioso Urbano’

Meraviglioso Urbano

Lucia Tahan
Model, two books, exhibition, symposium

Beyond dimension, Meraviglioso Urbano explores ambiguity and disembodiment through a series of abstract stages. Connected and immaterial, an archipelago of cultural commons grows.

The Theaters of Culture: Ephemeral Projects for the Eternal City

Born out of the need to react to the troubled atmosphere suffocating Rome during the 70s, the Estate Romana took cultural initiatives out into the public space. Architecture’s contribution took shape in ephemeral projects, creating proper scenarios for both the events and everyday urban life. On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Estate Romana five practices were invited to design five ephemeral installations at MAXXI that would act as temporary museums devoted to five areas of culture: film, music, literature, theatre and media. 

The project has been realised in partnership with the Municipality of Rome, with the support of Future Architecture Platform and affiliation with the Seoul Biennale. In September the exhibition of the projects together with historical documentation regarding the Estate Romana and the Parco Centrale from the 1970s will be presented at the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism.  


BNGRT (Florian Bengert) – FAKT (Sebastian Ernst, Sebastian Kern, Martin Tessarz, Jonas Tratz) – Lucia TahanMicrocities / Socks Studio (Mariabruna Fabrizi, Fosco Lucarelli) – Studio NO (Magda Szwajcowska, Michał Majewski)


Imminent Commons: Cities ExhibitionSeoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, Seoul, 2 Sep - 14 Nov 2017

The Theaters of Culture: Ephemeral Projects for the Eternal CityMAXXI Museum of 21st Century Arts, Rome, 14 Jul - 30 Jul 2017

The exhibition

MAXXI Museum of 21st Century Arts invited five groups of young architects from different European countries were asked to design five ephemeral installations that will work as temporary museums dedicated to five cultural fields: cinema, music, literature, theatre and media.
These ephemeral museums create a new “Parco Centrale”, and are ideally placed next to five abandoned Roman cinemas, the symbol of a cultural and architectural quality that has been partially lost and is to be retrieved by the city.
The exhibition was held from Jul 14th to Jul 30th.

Microcities/SOCKS Studio
Studio No
Lucia Tahan

Microcities / SOCKS Studio

Studio No

Meraviglioso Urbano

Between 1977 and 1985—the “stagione dell’effimero” (season of the ephemeral) years—the Estate Romana, led by Renato Nicolini, transformed Rome through a series of ephemeral architecture interventions. The term ‘meraviglioso urbano’ described the possibility to amaze and transcend the limitations of physical, permanent architecture. Nicolini believed that the meraviglioso urbano was embodied by the events that take place in ordinary areas, focusing on actions rather than buildings.

The project researches the idea of an urban wonder, a way of seeing ordinary places as extraordinary ones.


The Villa Aldobrandini sits on an elevated plot surrounded by tall walls. Its gardens have a capricious layout, with a winding path around patches of thick foliage. The project imagines the walls as dams and the patches as islands, a kind of wonder where an archipelago emerges tall, each island as a column. Nine islands are chosen for the installation.


The proposed program—readings of literature and poetry—is translated into a set of voices. Nine voices are situated in relation to one another, to their script, and to each of the islands they are placed on. The immaterial and the ephemeral, embodied in a landscape of simultaneous voices, are deployed as the core of the intervention.


The voices are human, but the project wishes for their independence. The voices are subsequently disembodied through the physical architectural intervention on the site. Two types of disembodiment are proposed: the void, and the frame. As a stage, a void acts as a backdrop; a frame, as a foreground. The voids amaze with their formal aloofness; the frames recast the voices to a new form by englufing them within their inner volume.

The process of reading is interpreted as an exercise in dimensional ambiguity: when reading, a two-dimensional text is rendered three-dimensional, while at the same time the voice makes it immaterial and ehpemeral. All these qualities are explored formally. The voids present shapes coated in a special black paint that absorbs almost all light. Although three-dimensional, they are perceived as flat due to the lack of reflection, creating a sense of wonderment at their formal ambiguity. The frames are composed of thin white two-dimensional linear elements that suggest immaterial volumes. Both are alternatively visible and invisible in contrast with the very dark vegetation and Rome’s blinding-white summer sun. When photographed, the intervention appears to be unreal, a drawing overlayed on the landscape.


The idea of a set of interplaying stages for different voices echoes Franco Purini’s idea of defining the points of an imaginary thread linking all interventions in the program. By breaking architecture rules in accordance with the rules of art, the project situates itself at the boundary of the material and the immaterial, the built and the drawn, to pay due tribute to the transformative power of the Estate Romana and to once again amaze the public with an ‘urban wonder’, a ‘meraviglioso urbano’.

The model and silverprints

Made of only one-dimensional materials —black paper and brass thread— the three-piece model appears to float. When seen from the side, it disappears. It was accompanied by silver paper prints that reflected the object, fusing it with the drawings representing the project.

Extremely fragile, the process behind the making required high precision and careful leveling for the structure not to rotate or collapse.

The books

Book #2
This book accompanied the model as a process book and explained the research undertaken into the site, the historical background, the materials and the building of the model.

Book #1
The main book represented the theoretical and experimental aspects of the project, dealing with subjects like disembodiment, contrast and dimensional ambiguity.

See all the drawings 

The workshop

A five day workshop was held at MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts in which the five invited studios visited the different sites in Rome where their research took place, while production for the exhibition took place and new ideas were developed.
Photos by Giovanni Stella for Smilevision, Courtesy Fondazione MAXXI

The symposium

Moderated by Pippo Ciorra and Luca Galofaro, a discussion about the role of ephemeral architecture and a presentation of each studio’s ephemeral projects took place at the partial reconstruction of the Nicolini’s Teatrino Scientifico installed at the MAXXI Museum. The participants were FAKT, No studio, Lucia Tahan, BNGRT and Microcities/ SOCKS-studio accompanied by the Italian studios Fosbury Architecture, La Macchina, Warehouse of Architecture and Research, and Supervoid.

Photos by Giovanni Stella for Smilevision, Courtesy Fondazione MAXXI

More information: 

MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts / The Theaters of Culture: Ephemeral Projects for the Eternal City 

Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism / Common Cities 

Individual projects:

Microcities / Socks Studio (Mariabruna Fabrizi, Fosco Lucarelli) –
Studio NO (Magda Szwajcowska, Michał Majewski)
FAKT (Sebastian Ernst, Sebastian Kern, Martin Tessarz, Jonas Tratz) –
BNGRT (Florian Bengert)  

Lucia Tahan  2017
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