Piazza Augusto Imperatore

1938 Pavillion

Mussolini's decision to clear all buildings surrounding the Mausoleum, except churches, led to the destruction of large residential blocks surrounding the Mausoleum, including those on the land between the Mausoleum and the avenue beside the Tiber embankment. On this narrow piece of land, Mussolini decided to locate a new pavilion to house the reconstructed Ara Pacis Augustae. Although the architect entrusted with the design of the pavilion, Vittorio Ballio Morpurgo, considered other locations, including some at lower levels nearer the Mausoleum, Mussoline's decision was based on the added prestige that this prominent position would ensure the Ara Pacis.

Murpurgo's design, though compromised by time and budget restrictions, was simple, classical, and elegant. To some extent, the 2 entrance facades of the pavilion reflected the 2 front facades of the Ara Pacis. As a single purpose structure, it provided a dignified setting for the monument, and allowed one to  approach the monument from either of its 2 fronts, as in its original setting on the Campus Martius. 

At the last minute, decisions were turned over to a committee of engineers, who eliminated Morpurgo’s elegant spacing of the piers (see Rossini, 2007, p.114). Originally intended to be built of glass and marble, the pavilion was constructed hurridly and cheaply of glass, concrete and fake porphyry. It provided limited protection from urban polution, the severe temperature changes in Rome, and other environmental factors. The side windows provided generous light but the ceiling was dark and low.

A Sept. 28, 1938  newsreel, from the Instituto Luce - Cinecittà, “L'inaugurazione dell'Ara Pacis nel nuovo assetto urbanistico”, is on the web through YouTube. This shows the official arrival of Mussolini and other officials, accompanied by Moretti, for the rededication of the Ara Pacis Augustae in its new pavilion, as part of the closing ceremony of the Augustan Year, the 2000 year anniversary of Augustus' birth. The newsreel includes exterior and interior views of the pavilion, with details of the newly reconstructed Ara Pacis.

Because of severe deterioration, on the initiative of the Rotary Club Rome, the pavilion was to some extent restored in 1970-1971, largely consisting of the installation of entirely new glass windows. However, the building continued to deteriorate and, during the 1990s, it became clear that major action was needed if the Ara Pacis itself was to be preserved.