Richard Meier has taken some heat for his design of the museum which surrounds the Ara Pacis. Without getting into it too much, the controversy seems to revolve around the juxtaposition of contemporary and ancient, and the naysayers have been kind of nasty. Julian Schnabel hated it; one of Rome's mayors threatened to tear it down. There have been defenders of the work too, and plenty of them.
It's a tricky thing, putting up a building around an altar dedicted to peace over 2,000 years ago. Trickier still, replacing a structure that was erected by one of Mussolini's designers. Even yet still trickier, being the first work of modern architecture to go up in Rome's Historic Center since the 1930s.
The museum is situated on the banks of the Tiber, very near Augustus' tomb. Meier found the lines and light to frame the arches and panels of this celebration of the Pax Augusta.
The surviving panels (from the altar originally built in 9 B.C.) are in various states of preservation.
Some are astoundingly well-preserved.
Others needed some reconstructive help, in the form of best-guess line drawings.
Myself, I was very impressed. I thought some of the track lighting instruments may have been on the cheesy side, though I wasn't there when they were illuminated, so I don't know how they affect the experience. The natural light in this glass-and-travertine museum was brilliant, and provided a clear landscape for this incredible ancient altar, and its amazing details.
Meier's building went up in 2006, and the entryway included this minimal take on the tradition of Rome's fountains. I guess someone who's predisposed to resist contemporary design in a city justly renouned for ancient architecture is not going to be persuaded, but this was a clear and illuminating frame for this significant ruin.
By the way - you've probably figured this out already, but you can get a lot more detail from these photos if you click on the images. Knock yourself out.