Visitors to the main piazza outside the Zaha Hadid–designed National Museum of XXI Century Arts (MAXXI) in Rome this summer will notice that the ground has been painted with swirling designs. It is not until they get to the upper level galleries in the museum, however, that they gain enough perspective to see that the swirls are not random, but spell out “unire” and “unite” in sprawling script.
Unire/Unite is the winning installation in this year’s YAP_MAXXI Young Architects Program (YAP), and the painted title—which, in a whimsical twist, glows in the dark—is merely the beginning. In the adjacent park, a walkway made from ground, recycled rubber leads to the Infinity System, a 40-meter- (131-foot-) long ribbon of seating. Made from ribs of marine plywood, with sections cushioned by a concrete canvas material, the sinuous form of the bench allows visitors to sit and enjoy the Roman summer and supports a variety of body positions—even yoga poses. Some ribs extend first vertically to form a trellis for vines that provide shade, and then reach out horizontally over the benches below, forming a canopy. Like its American cousin Wendy, the YAP-winning installation designed by HWKN and installed at MoMA PS1 in Queens, N.Y., Unire/Unite is also outfitted with misters that spray water to help combat the summer heat.
This is only the second YAP_MAXXI installation. (The program, which is a collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA PS1, and Constructo, debuted last year.) Unire/Unite showcases the varied talents of it designers, Urban Movement Design co-founders Sarah Gluck and Robyne Kassen, who are trained not only in architecture, but also in yogic therapy, harmonyum, and a variety of other movement techniques. In fact, their work, as the name of their firm suggests, often focuses on active and interactive design. Recent work includes a cool-down room for stretching after gaming at the ExerBlast 3D gaming gym in New York and a series of benches, bus shelters, and other urban infrastructure at the 2010 Olympic Village in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada.
Unire/Unite will be on display at MAXXI until Sept. 23, and the museum has scheduled a series of events—yes, including yoga classes—to take place in the piazza over the course of the summer. After that, the museum continues to run YAP events through Nov. 4, but the fate of the installation and Infinity System have yet to be decided: There is the possibility that elements of Unire/Unite will be disassembled and reinstalled elsewhere, though the specifics have yet to be released.