Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Ex-slaughterhouse in Testaccio: Survival through Reuse

Arial Map of the Ex-slaughterhouse

It has been a long debate as what to do with this large space ever since the slaughterhouse of Testaccio moved to new structure near via Palmiro Togliatti in 1975.

This ex-slaughterhouse complex was designed by Gioacchino Ersoch between 1888 and 1891. It is located on the east side of the Tiber River in the rione Testaccio. It has a total surface area of 105,000 square meters, including a covered area of some 43,000 square meters.

The Ex-slaughterhouse Complex

This complex has an extremely modern organization system and the innovative structures in iron and cast iron. It also has the great pavilions and penthouses with the traditional curtain in tile, elements in travertine. The industrial architecture style of this complex is considered as the transition from Classic to Modern architecture, thus makes this complex as one of the most significant industrial architecture examples of late 19th century. This building is under monumental protection since 1988.

Rome has long history of reusing space and materials. Many historical buildings survived through reusing such as Pantheon and Baths of Diocletian. Today, Rome carries on its tradition one more time to save this industrial architecture example from abandonment and vandalism and to bring a new identity to this place.

However, it is hard to find a solution to reuse this large complex in a sustainable way and save this interesting example of “industrial archaeology” in a conservative way at the same time. Finally, Rome has decided to take the advantage of existing Testaccio urban culture and transform this ex-industrial area into a center of culture, education and art.

The ex-slaughterhouse is divided into several parts and assigned to quite a few big institutes. The 3 dominant institutes are Alternative Economy Town, University of Roma Tre and MACRO. Each institute develops its own plan and has its own design teams with one goal: maximally use this space in a way that best preserves the building structure and architecture style.

Alternative Economy Town (Città dell’Altra Economia)
An area where was the livestock market in the ex-slaughterhouse was turned into Alternative Economy Town (Città dell’Altra Economia). A team leading by architect Luciano Cupelloni developed a plan that combines the restoration of the space with many sustainable aspects such as bio-agriculture market and energy saving. The team won Gold prize in Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction in 2005.

Plan and Perspective of Alternative Economy Town

Today the economy town occupies of 3,500 square meters of a covered space and approximately 8,000 square meters open space. The covered area houses a Bio-agricultural Market, Conference’s center, exhibition area, ethical finance office, workshops for recycling, tourist office, restaurant, coffee, air trade shops and roofed space. Bio-bar Photovoltaic systems are installed to save the energy and the covered area is transparency.

The project well preserved and restored the existing Ersoch portico with its slender cast-iron columns dating back to the late 1920’s. It is a good example of the combination of historical preservation and innovation.

View under the Covered Area in Alternative Economy Town

University of Roma Tre : The Architecture Faculty
As a part of Ostiense Marconi Urban Plan, University of Roma Tre is transforming 16,511 square meters of the space in the ex-slaughterhouse into the architecture facility. The new facility will occupy one external wing of the complex to house three lecture rooms and one auditorium. The main objective of this intervention is to conserve, reuse and display this industrial archaeology building complex in Rome. The university wants to set up a model for the whole world. Part of spaces already put in use for the students a couple of years ago. Many studies about energy saving and architecture innovations of this space have been done by the professors and students.

The building did not require extensive alteration, rebuilding or extensions, the project is still expensive. The university estimated that the cost will be 40 million euro and already 14 million euro has been spent.

Perspective of Space Used by Architecture Facalty

MACRO Future
In 2003, two great pavilions inside the Slaughterhouse complex was transformed by MACRO (Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome) as MACRO Future to house art exhibitions and encourage an interest in and appreciation for contemporary art. The surface area used by MACRO Future is 2760 square meters. This facility takes advantage of the vanity of Testaccio, and aim at the young audiences. The entrance is free and open from 4.00 pm to midnight every day, except Monday.

MACRO Future has become an Italian and international cultural centre in which the best artists can show their art works and be appreciated by others.

Exhibition Space of MACRO Future

Outside of MACRO Future

Other Institutes
The Center of Cultural Productions will use 5117 square meters for productive market and has started since 2007. Academy of Fine Arts will use 5639 square meters to house the cultural and artistic production.

Different Voice
Stalker, a group of interdisciplinary collective people from architecture, landscape architecture, art and other fields, has different view as to what is the right intervention for this place. The ex-slaughterhouse has been occupied by various groups ever since it was officially abandoned since1975. Kurdish immigrants and other groups have been using a part of the space as their cultural center since 1999. A homosexual group has been organized at least 3 culture events in the complex since 2002. Stalker views the ex-slaughterhouse as occupied and used efficiently, it has never be abandoned by people. The space is used productively and has valid and diverse culture. When big interventions happen, the people used to occupy the space will be force to move out. Stalker argues that this type of spaces should be left as it is and continue to serve people on the margins of society and grow in its own way.

Spaces used by Minority Groups

Rome’s long tradition of reusing the abandoned building and material is transforming the ex-slaughterhouse into a center of culture, art and education. After a decade of hardworking by the city and professionals, changes are happening. Spaces are used by the architecture students as studio and classrooms today. A contemporary museum is open to public for free. Organic restaurants and markets are serving people. Most important, the building structure and industrial architecture style are well preserved by innovative designs. However, controversial does exist as what should have done to make this place useful and functioning as this space has been occupied by various minority groups as a culture center for them since 1975. No matter what happen in the future, Rome once again sets another example to the world in preserving historical buildings, conserving energy, and promoting art.


“Alternative Economy City in the ex Slaughterhouse in Rome.” Holcim Foundation. 2009
14 May 2009 <>

“Città dell’Altra Economia (Alternative Economy Town).” 2009.
14 May 14, 2009 <> 2006. MACRO
14 May 14, 2009 <>

“Retrofit of a university building in Rome, Italy.”Annex36.Com. 2009.
14 May 14, 2009 <>

“The Historical Heritage Map of the Ostiense Marconi Urban Project.”
14 May 14, 2009 <> March 2003. Templace.
14 May 2009 <>

1 comment: