For years I have been following the vicissitudes of Massimiliano Fuksas’ EUR project, dubbed “the Cloud” and it has now officially been completed. Rather, it has been inaugurated, which in Italy is not always the same thing as completion. In fact, multiple inaugurations are common, getting maximum mileage out of any big project, which makes perfect sense.
I saw the projected inaugurated with the groundbreaking in around 2000. I have since visited the construction site with students on several occasions, climbing amidst the steel frame and watching the first white cladding applied to the cloud-shaped auditorium.
On Saturday night 29 October the structure was finally open to a limited public and I got my first look at the completed building. As expected, the night-time effect is dramatic, the cloud appearing to float like a luminescent jelly fish in the glass cage, although in reality its massive steel skeleton is supported from beneath by three massive steel supports.
After descending the wide staircase into the sunken lobby, I was immediately invited to ascend towards the auditorium on a series of long escalators which opened up fantastic views across the strangely darkened space. When I finally reached a door that said “auditorium” and opened it, I found myself at the top of a large bean-shaped hall, finished much like Renzo Piano’s auditoria with cherry wood (I think), red velvet armchairs, and suspended down-lights. On stage was actor Cesare Bocci, performing as master of ceremonies for an event that tactfully segued from dance to video to the obligatory institutional speeches including Mayor Raggi and Prime-Minister Renzi. Intriguingly, and ever-more commonly, massive high-definition video monitors took center stage, the gigantic images of performers and speakers dwarfing their actually little bodies on stage.
Like the architecture that contained the event, the audience was given a spectacle that could be easily consumed and discarded, a big, simple idea. A cloud in a box. A ballet of businessmen in suits. High finance booing the mayor for her inappropriate remarks. The most sincere words came from Doriana Mandrelli, Fuksas’ partner, who announced in maternal tones that it was time to hand over the project to the city since, after 18 years of construction, it had “come of age”.
The building may be finished enough to inaugurate, but outside its shell the surrounding city fabric remains unresolved. There is no acceptable way to walk from the Metro stations to the building, the sidewalks are nonexistent or bomb-ridden, and nothing has been done to protect the public from the traffic whizzing by in front of the building. We can only anticipate future inaugurations which address this embarrassing situation and provide an overall urban experience worthy of such an imposing and impressive project.