Rome Travel Guide

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Monday, October 17, 2016

The Egyptian Academy: A Breath of Modernism in Valle Giulia

High modernist buildings are rare in Rome, and when we saw that the Egyptian Academy of Fine Arts was on the lists of sites for the annual OpenHouseRoma event, we couldn't resist.  We had been there once before, for an evening film screening, but had not seen much except for an interior stairway and the auditorium.  This would be different.

And it was, and wasn't.

The Academy, as it looked in the mid-1960s
The Egyptian Academy was founded in 1929, and for most of the following 30 years was located in one of the Emperor Nero's palaces on the Oppian Hill (Colle Oppio), across from the Coliseum.  In 1966 the Academy moved to its current location, at via Omero 4, in Valle Giulia, onto what one might call "academy row."  At the time it was the only Arab-African Academy in Europe.

Berlusconi (left) and Mubarak at opening of the remodeled
Academy, 2010

Little information is available about that building, except that it was subject to an extensive
remodeling under Egyptian architect Hatem Said early in the new century, reopening in 2010 to guests that included Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his Italian counterpart, Silvio Berlusconi.

We had parked our scooter down the hill and walked up, negotiating still another Rome stairway filled with trash.

The Academy facade, after an $8 million renovation.
Worth every cent.

The tour was scheduled to begin more than a half hour later, so we busied ourselves looking at a display of Egyptian modern art on the first floor.

The courtyard, from the interior

The remainder of our wait was spent in the superb, simple, square courtyard at the back of the building: grass, sculptures, places to sit, the frame of  rectilinear modernism recalling the Kennedy Center (1971) architecture of an earlier era.

As it turned out, the "tour" was of the Egyptian art we had already seen, as well as a subterranean museum of ancient Egyptian artifacts--not our fancy--not, at least, on this day.  We bailed out, headed for another venue.  And pleased to have experienced the pleasures of the Academy courtyard.



Anonymous said...

Kind of a remix of Moretti's Casa delle Armi at the Foro Italico, on the first glance...

Dianne Bennett and William Graebner said...

I hadn't thought of that--an interesting comparison. A post on Casa delle Armi will appear within the next couple of months (written before your comment on the Egyptian Academy. Thanks. Bill