On view at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London is When in Rome – A Collective Reflection on the Eternal City. The exhibition combines two previous shows, Re-Constructivist Architecture, which was at New York’s Ierimonti Gallery, and Unbuilt Rome, which was on view at CAMPO in Rome. Both shows closed earlier this year, but are re-opened together in this show.
Curated by Jacopo Costanzo, Giulia Leone and Valentino Danilo Matteis, When in Rome exhibits 22 projects from 19 architecture firms and designers from around the world who have all plunged into Rome’s past to reframe an architectural future for the city. As a testament to their united vision, the two previous exhibits’ convergence at RIBA allows two strands of speculative approaches to architectural intervention in Rome to be viewed in unison. It becomes evident that fundamentally they speak the same language—be it an abstraction or adaptation of the past or a reaction to it.
(Courtesy fala atelier)
Fitting in 22 projects is no mean feat. Like Re-constructivist Architecture did at the Ierimonti Gallery, projects fill the three walls. However, RIBA’s “Practice Space,” where the exhibition is located, does so on a larger scale. The extra space means that models—some of which could not be shown in New York—are afforded more room, though they cannot be viewed in the round. While the exhibits in New York and Rome placed the projects’ accompanying texts at eye level, in the RIBA show, sometimes viewers are forced to crouch or craning their necks to read them.
Aside from this, the means of conceptual representation in When in Rome sheds light on emerging trends in architectural representation. Collages and similar graphic methods are favored by most, with the projects from Re-constructivist Architecture using classical motifs or settings to engender a sense of identity and historical connection within new Roman architecture.
(Courtesy False Mirror Office)
In When in Rome, classical art and architecture is often abstracted to reimagine locales, producing artwork that riffs on this classical frame of reference. This can be seen with the work of Portuguese studio fala atelier, French firm jbmn architects, and False Mirror Office from Italy.
Seeing the projects together makes it clear that the two exhibitions this show derives the work from converge well together. Projects such as Supervoid’s adaptation of Adalberto Libera’s never-realized Augustus Mausoleum and Shrine to the Fallen soldiers in East Africa and La Macchina Studio’s Triumphal 17 fit well with the manifesto of Re-constructivist Architecture, despite both originally being for Unbuilt Rome.
Trionfale 17. (Courtesy La Macchina Studio)
Despite the similarities between the works and themes in Re-constructivist Architecture and Unbuilt Rome, the projects are displayed separately, but without any markers separating them. The projects from “Unbuilt Rome” are bound together by Jacopo Valentini’ photographs of the nine sites that never saw the presented projects constructed.
Co-curator Jacopo Costanzo told The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) that both of the exhibitions used Rome “as a theatre.” He believes the array of projects could be seen as a sign of contemporary trends rather than as a unified movement.
“The show at RIBA can present a sort of contemporary map of what it’s going on in the generation of architects born in the 1980s,” Costanzo added, noting that many architecture studios featured in When in Rome are young practices, with many based either in Italy or with experience working in the country.
When in Rome – A Collective Reflection on the Eternal City
RIBA Practice Space
66 Portland Place, London, W1B 1AD
Through October 8.