The modern Rome is growing, great architects are almost competing in a big effort to combine ancient tradition, natural environment and new design… among unfailing debates and controversies!
Anyway, little by little the face of the Eternal City is changing: the MAXXI Museum by Zaha Hadid finally inaugurating next May 30th, the 'sailing'church in Tor Tre Teste by Meier and his Ara Pacis 'container', Renzo Piano's Auditorium, the "cloud" by Fuksas…
I think the big project by Portoghesi for the Great Mosque just came too early (ended in 1995) to be listed with honour in this "hall of fame". But it was definitely a hard job and I personally believe the outcome is impressive and full of interest. Just consider the pressure he probably suffered from both sides: the catholic world was not happy to see a big mosque, the biggest in a Western country, being erected in the capital of Christianity; the Muslims didn't trust an Italian architect who never "used" a mosque to be able to build one. In fact this mosque is very different from any other you might visit in the rest of the world, so modern, so bright, so "roman"!
This was the goal and it was well achieved: the mosque in Rome should not be a foreign body in a town full of bell-towers and domes, but a part of it. Same colours, same cotto bricks and travertine, and above all, same light and water.
If I had to explain the essence of Rome in a couple of words to someone who had never been here, I would just say "water and light". In the mosque the water is symbol of purification before the worship, but also the symbol of life, especially for a religion born in the desert. The light is filtering into the interior from everywhere, symbol of God Himself as He is compared in the Sura 24th of Quran. The Christian religion is not so far… isn't it?
Water to become part of the community of the believers, light symbolizing God but also Jesus' resurrection, the fire of Holy Spirit…
Go and visit the Great Mosque (open for visitors every Wednesday and Saturday mornings), you'll see there are many "common denominators" among the monotheistic faiths. And knowing each other is the first step for a real dialogue.
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