Jean Nouvel in Rome-Refined Fusion of the Past and Future

Jean Nouvel in Rome-Refined Fusion of the Past and Future

After the years of construction, the Palazzo Rhinoceros was restored and the Fondazione Alda Fendi – Esperimenti was opened to the public on the 11th October. A historic building was designed and furnished by Jean Nouvel.

Exterior, Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome; Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo : Roland Halbe
Exterior, Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome; Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo : Roland Halbe

The aim of the Fondazione Alda Fendi – Esperimenti is to promote and produce multimedia artistic experiments with a sense of creative freedom and through a multiplicity of language. The name of the palace Rhinoceros is the synthesis of the philosophy of Alda Fendi as symbolize strength, form and unconventionality.

During the first year of the life of the building, the theme of the rhinoceros will be manifested via the visual and performing arts.

Location as inspiration for the architect

Views from the Terraces  , Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome; Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo : Roland Halbe
Views from the Terraces , Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome; Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo : Roland Halbe

The Fondazione Alda Fendi Esperimenti is located in the Palazzo Rhinoceros, in the heart of classical Rome. It is surrounded with monuments of the Roman Forum: the Arch of Janus, the Temple of Vesta and the church of San Giorgio al Velabro (9th century). It also faces the Palatine Hill and has a view over all of Rome, its famous hills and its centuries-old cupolas.

The architect Jean Nouvel was probably inspired by this environment which stimulated awareness that future interventions need to contribute to the history of this building and the whole town.

Architectural approach: Tradition and modernity

Superior Apartment of The Rooms of Rome, Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo from The Rooms of Rome
Superior Apartment of The Rooms of Rome, Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo from The Rooms of Rome

It was a difficult task in front of Jean Nouvel: to renovate the buildings with such historic heritage in line to Alda Fendi vision and Brief. Sometimes it is much easier to build a new building than to restore an object that possesses a certain historical and cultural values. These buildings were once residential and have undergone numerous transformations over the years. The 19th and 20th-century inhabitants have left behind them walled up windows, strange walls, period tiles and twisted cracks.

Interior, Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome; Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo : Roland Halbe
Interior, Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome; Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo : Roland Halbe

In the Palazzo Rhinoceros, Nouvel incorporated new functions with the preservation of everything that could be preserved outside and inside. His design solutions, new items and materials used made a connection between tradition and modernity in the best way, in a refined and simple manner.

Functions: New approach to hospitality

The Fondazione Alda Fendi Esperimenti occupies three historic buildings from the 18th century, with 2.800 m² of the habitable area, newly designed as a mix-used building.

Functional mix includes the head offices of the foundation, spaces devoted exhibitions (through a cultural collaboration agreement with the Hermitage Museum); shops of a cultural nature on street level, cafés and a rooftop restaurant. The Rooms of Rome is the name that identifies 24 apartments and artists residencies as an innovative living space, develops on four floors of the building. The apartments are unique, their area varies from 31 to 83m2.

Apartment of The Rooms of Rome, Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo  from The Rooms of Rome
Apartment of The Rooms of Rome, Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo from The Rooms of Rome

They offer a variety of services including entertainment, museum and city private tours and even art creation, or any type of lessons and training.

The apartments and the gallery restaurant are managed by the successful entrepreneur Kike Sarasola, President and Founder of the Room Mate Group.

The integral part of the Palazzo Rhinoceros is Caviar Kaspia Roma restaurant with views on the historical centre of Rome.

Façade: contribution to the passage of time

North facade, Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome; Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo : Roland Halbe
North facade, Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome; Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo : Roland Halbe

It is difficult to build in Rome having in mind that an architect is obliged to respect the hierarchy of heritage.

Jean Nouvel has preserved everything that could testify to the passage of time, on the facades of the building. There has been no significant modification on the outside of the Palazzo Rhinoceros. The different layers are preserved, visible and emphasize the history of the building. This approach enables the facility the continuation and its place in the future.

Exterior - detail, Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome; Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo : Roland Halbe
Exterior - detail, Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome; Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo : Roland Halbe

Interior: Rooms full of the sensation and contrasts

Jean Novel made the most significant changes in the interior and functional organization.

Twin Apartment of The Rooms of Rome, Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo  from The Rooms of Rome
Twin Apartment of The Rooms of Rome, Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo from The Rooms of Rome

In the apartments, an optimal contrast is created between the objects of modern life and what remains of this ancient world. The walls are with the old tiles preserved, uncovering the different layers from the past with the patina of the walls (different layers of paint, cracks and heterogeneous materials).

In the complete contrast to such walls are the new metal structures for the architraves, the pillars. A new layer is the built-in steel modules hiding behind its doors certain functions of the living area: kitchens, bathrooms or wardrobes. They bring refined modernity into the apartments, especially with the latest domestic technology.

Twin Apartment of The Rooms of Rome with portable lamp My Day designed by Konstantin , Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo  from The Rooms of Rome
Twin Apartment of The Rooms of Rome with portable lamp My Day designed by Konstantin , Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo from The Rooms of Rome

The big mirror panels play important role in the rooms. They have been placed on the walls, reflecting internal surface and create special visual effects.

Twin Apartment of The Rooms of Rome, Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo  from The Rooms of Rome
Twin Apartment of The Rooms of Rome, Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo from The Rooms of Rome

Internal shutters with prints how the apartments looked before the intervention (based on available documentation) are an interesting internal and external detail of the building.

Twin Apartment of The Rooms of Rome with armchair Up Junior designed by Gaetano Pesce , Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo  from The Rooms of Rome
Twin Apartment of The Rooms of Rome with armchair Up Junior designed by Gaetano Pesce , Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo from The Rooms of Rome

The selection of furniture represents anthological examples from the history of design, such as armchair Up Junior designed by Gaetano Pesce for B&B Italia or portable lamp My Day designed by Konstantin Grcic for Flos.

Additional value: View

Apartment of The Rooms of Rome, Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo from The Rooms of Rome
Apartment of The Rooms of Rome, Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo from The Rooms of Rome

Special attention was addressed to the view study and reconsideration how the surrounding landscape is framed through the windows and terraces. The result is that each apartment has unique and different views on the nearby monuments.

Apartment of The Rooms of Rome , Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome; Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo : Roland Halbe
Apartment of The Rooms of Rome , Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome; Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo : Roland Halbe

Cultural events in progress

Rhinoceros proposes an innovative and extraordinary programme with exhibitions, multimedia creations, reactions and artistic interventions involving different experiential areas ranging from visual to performing arts.

In The new Palazzo Rhinoceros is in progress exhibition: MICHELANGELO alla the Fondazione Alda Fendi – Esperimenti from 13 Oct 2018 – 13 Dec 2018, curated by Raffaele Curi. 

Detail, Exterior, Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome; Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo : Roland Halbe
Detail, Exterior, Fondazione Alda Fendi – Espermenti,Rome; Architect: Jean Nouvel; Photo : Roland Halbe

The new Palazzo Rhinoceros became one of the design destinations that should not be missed when you are in Rome.