RomaCinemaFest owes debt to Auditorium

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Renzo Piano's Auditorium Parco della Musica is such an important part of the two-year-old RomaCinemaFest that the event incorporated the building's hulking, bulbous shape into its inaugural logo.

With three massive, lead-plated structures, the complex is a refreshingly modern set of structures in an ancient city known for its classical and Renaissance buildings.

It is also the facility that made the RomaCinemaFest possible.

"These facilities are our big advantage," says Mario Sesti, one of the festival's co-directors. "Without the Auditorium Parco della Musica, the festival would be decentralized, spread out around the city."

Indeed, the 570,000-square-foot complex on the northern rim of the Italian capital is the festival's heart -- the festival's equivalent to Cannes' Palais, the Berlinale Palast in Berlin or Venice's Palazzo del Cinema.

During the construction of the Auditorium Parco della Musica, the foundations of a Roman villa and olive oil press dating to before the time of Christ were uncovered on the site, which was originally cleared to make way for facilities used in the 1960 Olympics. The discovery delayed the opening a year, as plans were adjusted to incorporate the archeological remains, and a small museum was opened on site to display some of the artifacts that were unearthed.

With the delay, it took seven years of work before the Auditorium Parco della Musica opened its doors in 2002, and today it includes three large auditoriums that seat between 700 and 2,800 spectators each. The auditoriums are connected by a wide lobby gathered around a central plaza that also serves as a Greco-Roman-style outdoor theater, the only significant classical architectural element in the contemporary design that Piano himself has called "both sacred and profane."

The name Piano adds a certain cachet to the complex. The 70-year-old Italian-born architect behind Paris' Georges Pompidou Center, the Shard London Bridge skyscraper, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Atlanta's High Museum of Art and the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland, is the architecture world's equivalent to the A-list film talent set to stroll across Rome's red carpet once the festival gets under way.

"Piano's command of technology is that of a true virtuoso, yet he never allows it to command him," John Carter Brown -- the late director of Washington D.C.'s National Gallery of Art and the head of the jury for the prestigious Pritzker Prize for architecture, which was awarded to Piano in 1988 -- once said. "Imbued with a sense of materials and a craftsman's intuitive feel for what they can do, his architecture embodies what can only be called a rare humanism."


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