Museo Torlonia Roma is the final project of University of Waterloo's Rome Studio. Sited in front of Stazione Termini (Rome's central train station) its objective is to house the Torlonia collection of classical statuary. The existing site is a chaotic amalgam of public space, commerce, mass transit and historical artifact. The result is a gateway to the city that lacks both an identity as well as discernible relationships to other major civic spaces. This project seeks to remedy these issues with a two-fold response: an urban scale intervention to establish clear macroscopic relationships with the of the city and a re-conception of the museum typology that allows the statuary collection to become immanent throughout this urban fabric.

The urban intervention imagines the “completion” of the site by allowing the surrounding street grid and block typology to become continuous across the site. Strategic cuts are then be made into the new urban fabric in order to precisely demarcate public spaces and key visual relationships. The benefits of this process are that new public spaces are well defined by clearly perceptible edge conditions forming habitable spaces, and the intensification of development and programming provides the critical mass of meaningful activity to provide identity and life to these spaces.

The conception of the museum must respond to this immediate urban and social context, but also the abundance of other classical statuary collections that are so prevalent in Rome. Traditionally each collection is housed in discreet museums where each piece is displayed as a pristine object. Although there is no denying that these many of these works are beautiful and significant, the overwhelming ubiquity of this manner of display does little to highlight these qualities. This project proposes a novel alternative wherein the museum is “de-institutionalized” allowing the collection to become immanent through the urban space. The speculative manifestation of this alternative is that of a lightweight, autonomous, adaptive canopy the spatially transforms to respond to continually changing urban conditions. In this way the collection is removed from an inherently meaningless context in traditional museums, one represents neither the contemporary city life nor its original historical context, and instead the artifacts are re-integrated into the urban activity of the city ripe for reinterpretation and the construction of new narratives and relationships.