Macro: The Road to Contemporary Art

The Road to Contemporary Art: Reuse

The ancient roman philosophy to create something new by using existing spaces, materials and structures has a long history and burned in the past great monuments. It’s amazing, the personality of each of them seems to be borne in this moment. The past is forgot, impossible, to imagine this strong identity in another way. Now this ancient talent fertilized even contemporary art.


It has been a long debate as what to do with this large space ever since the slaughterhouse of Testaccio moved to new structure near via Palmiro Togliatti in 1975.

This ex-slaughterhouse complex was designed by Gioacchino Ersoch between 1888 and 1891. It is located on the east side of the Tiber River in the rione Testaccio. It has a total surface area of 105,000 square meters, including a covered area of some 43,000 square meters.

This complex has an extremely modern organization system and the innovative structures in iron and cast iron. It also has the great pavilions and penthouses with the traditional curtain in tile, elements in travertine. The industrial architecture style of this complex is considered as the transition from Classic to Modern architecture, thus makes this complex as one of the most significant industrial architecture examples of late 19th century. This building is under monumental protection since 1988.

Rome has long history of reusing space and materials. Many historical buildings survived through reusing such as Pantheon and Baths of Diocletian. Today, Rome carries on its tradition one more time to save this industrial architecture example from abandonment and vandalism and to bring a new identity to this place.

However, it is hard to find a solution to reuse this large complex in a sustainable way and save this interesting example of “industrial archaeology” in a conservative way at the same time. Finally, Rome has decided to take the advantage of existing Testaccio urban culture and transform this ex-industrial area into a center of culture, education and art.

The ex-slaughterhouse is divided into several parts and assigned to quite a few big institutes. The 3 dominant institutes are Alternative Economy Town, University of Roma Tre and MACRO. Each institute develops its own plan and has its own design teams with one goal: maximally use this space in a way that best preserves the building structure and architecture style.

Today the economy town occupies of 3,500 square meters of a covered space and approximately 8,000 square meters open space. The covered area houses a Bio-agricultural Market, Conference’s center, exhibition area, ethical finance office, workshops for recycling, tourist office, restaurant, coffee, air trade shops and roofed space. Bio-bar Photovoltaic systems are installed to save the energy and the covered area is transparency.

The project well preserved and restored the existing Ersoch portico with its slender cast-iron columns dating back to the late 1920’s. It is a good example of the combination of historical preservation and innovation.

University of Roma Tre : The Architecture Faculty

As a part of Ostiense Marconi Urban Plan, University of Roma Tre is transforming 16,511 square meters of the space in the ex-slaughterhouse into the architecture facility. The new facility will occupy one external wing of the complex to house three lecture rooms and one auditorium. The main objective of this intervention is to conserve, reuse and display this industrial archaeology building complex in Rome. The university wants to set up a model for the whole world. Part of spaces already put in use for the students a couple of years ago. Many studies about energy saving and architecture innovations of this space have been done by the professors and students.

MACRO Future

In 2003, two great pavilions inside the Slaughterhouse complex was transformed by MACRO (Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome) as MACRO Future to house art exhibitions and encourage an interest in and appreciation for contemporary art. The surface area used by MACRO Future is 2760 square meters. This facility takes advantage of the vanity of Testaccio, and aim at the young audiences. The entrance is free and open from 4.00 pm to midnight every day, except Monday.

MACRO Future has become an Italian and international cultural centre in which the best artists can show their art works and be appreciated by others.
Rome’s long tradition of reusing the abandoned building and material is transforming the ex-slaughterhouse into a center of culture, art and education. After a decade of hardworking by the city and professionals, changes are happening. Spaces are used by the architecture students as studio and classrooms today. A contemporary museum is open to public for free. Organic restaurants and markets are serving people. Most important, the building structure and industrial architecture style are well preserved by innovative designs. However, controversial does exist as what should have done to make this place useful and functioning as this space has been occupied by various minority groups as a culture center for them since 1975. No matter what happen in the future, Rome once again sets another example to the world in preserving historical buildings, conserving energy, and promoting art.

Museum of Contemporary art of Rome, better known as MACRO, a modern museum pride of the City.

The Macro Testaccio is an excellent example how art in all its forms merges with the city around and gains new meanings thanks to new spaces in which it can be expressed. That’s the idea that characterizes the Museum of Contemporary art of Rome, better known as MACRO, a modern museum pride of the City. It comprises 3 independent structures Macro Testaccio, Macro Via Nizza, Macro Pelanda), joined together by the same intent and style to create a sort of “macro-museum”. The face of an eclectic cultural city in which the very best expressions of contemporary art, both Italian and international, can be fully expressed and represented.

MACRO Testaccio e La Pelanda

The old slaughterhouse complex is a lively area for cultural displays and artistic events. MACRO Testaccio in the slaughterhouse is situated in Testaccio, an area not far from the banks of the Tiber, in a perfect place for cultural experimentation.

The pavilions of the slaughterhouse were built between 1888 and 1891 by Giacchino Erosch, and bear witness to the transition from classicism to modernity, providing an important historical example of the monumental and rational nature of industrial architecture at the end of the century. For many years, the Slaughterhouse was considered to be among the most important of industrial buildings, because of its modernity and the simplicity of its structure and internal organisation.

In 2002, two pavilions inside the slaughterhouse complex, an area of 105,000 sq metres (of which 43,000 are built on), were assigned to MACRO to aid the development and diffusion of contemporary art.

In keeping with Testaccio’s dynamic atmosphere, and the youthful crowds that throng there in the evenings, MACRO Testaccio, is open from 16.00 to midnight. The dimensions and layout of the space make it a particularly suitable setting for some of the most significant works of national and international art, which today are redesigning the ‘territory’ of visual culture and of the interaction between different languages.

MACRO is in action and is preparing itself to be, for a vast and diverse public, a cultural magnet of many facets and dimensions through which the value of contemporary artistic expression is affirmed.

Piazza Orazio Giustiniani 4 – 00153 Roma

Opening hours Tuesday-Sunday: 16.00 – 22.00;

Last admission 1/2 hour before closing time;

Closed Monday, December 24, 25 and 31, January 1, May 1.