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Rome mayor aims to tear down Richard Meier museum

ROME (Reuters) - Rome’s new mayor announced his intention on Wednesday to tear down a museum designed by U.S. architect Richard Meier that critics decried as a modernist eyesore when it was unveiled in the historic centre in 2006.

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“Meier’s building is a construction to be scrapped,” said Mayor Gianni Alemanno at a news conference as he outlined his plans for Rome.

“It isn’t the top priority, obviously,” he added, leaving the timing of any future demolition unclear.

A glass, marble and steel structure praised by many as a welcome addition to Rome’s more traditional architecture, the Ara Pacis museum was the first modern building to rise in the ancient centre since dictator Benito Mussolini ruled Italy more than half a century ago.

It was built to house the Ara Pacis, a 2,000-year-old altar commissioned by Roman Emperor Augustus to commemorate the pacification of what is today France and Spain.

Alemanno, who this week became the first right-wing politician elected Rome mayor since Mussolini’s time, is among those critics who thought the classical Ara Pacis should never have been housed in such a modern structure.

One critic compared it to a giant petrol station, while another called it “an indecent cesspit”, when it was unveiled in 2006.

Alemanno, who ran on a security platform targeting illegal immigrants, said the Ara Pacis was not the only architectural project by his left-leaning predecessors he planned to review.

“We’re committed to looking at the constructions carried out in the historic centre, but the top emergencies are others,” he said.

Although Meier’s work was the first building for decades to be built in the ancient centre -- alongside famous landmarks like Piazza Navona and the Spanish steps -- several of his contemporaries have already been busy in Rome’s suburbs.

Award-winning Renzo Piano opened Rome’s Auditorium concert centre in 2002, a building credited with helping change Roman attitudes to contemporary building.

Writing by Phil Stewart; Editing by Stephen Weeks