Maxxi National Museum of XXI Century Arts


ma:design SRL

Practice Area


ma:design SRL


Project Vision

MAXXI, the Zaha Hadid-designed national museum of contemporary art in Rome, opened in May 2010. Hadid created a building characterized by sinuous and geometric shapes, volumes that separate from the main building to overlook the city, exposed cement, modulation of natural light, and the use of white in all its shades.

The MAXXI Foundation wanted the signage system to provide essential information in a clear, visible, but non-invasive way. Ma:design conceived the signage system to reflect the architectural concepts of using light/shadow, full/empty, and rigid/organic shapes.

The museum exterior needed to be identified without touching the cement skin. An overscaled version of the MAXXI logo was painted on the perimeter gates in black and white, indicating the beginning of a path visitors take from the street to the inner square and then to the entrance.

The building’s perimeter windows, marked for security reasons, became communicative surfaces, decorated with aphorisms and quotes stolen from modern art and architecture. The letters and words are cut in their original silhouette in such a way as to reflect the stark lines of the building and intrigue the visitor.

Inside the hall, a large, full-color, indoor LED display follows the curved contours of the wall and provides real-time information, images, and suggestions relevant to the current exhibitions, meetings, and initiatives scheduled in the museum.

Modular interior signage elements mark the macro areas (MAXXI Art and MAXXI Architecture), galleries, exhibition halls, and services. The signs feature wave-cut shapes, embossed arrows, and cuts in the structure. Aluminum and MDF, molded into soft and sinuous shapes or into angular structures, were manipulated with clean cuts and overlapping thicknesses. The sign elements, white on white walls, are perceived through shadows and volumes. Placed either distanced from or attached to the wall depending on the specific function, they seem to spring from the wall, becoming one with the building.

The museum’s five exhibition galleries, spread over three “fluid” levels, are identified by three-dimensional maps and by corresponding progressive numbers. On the white enameled-MDF maps, the shape of the corresponding gallery is embossed and painted black. Gallery numbers are simple white volumes in strong overhang, their surfaces ridged with bold, thick lines oriented in the direction of the gallery ceiling tracks. As route indications, the numbers are scaled and accompanied by directional arrows.

Project Details
Extremely well integrated wayfinding program. Uniquely appropriate and complementary to the architecture. It just works!
Juror 1
The strength of this award winner is the idea of not letting the wayfinding graphics overpower the clean lines of the space. Simple changes to arrows and service symbols make for very intelligent design. There is a subtle hierarchy of the signs that range from painted graphics on a wall to dimensional letters and letting the gallery numbers become three-dimensional, sculptural pieces. Simple is better, which this project portrays exceptionally well.
Juror 2
Elegantly integrated signage and wayfinding system. Unique and appropriate for the site, subtle and fresh!
Juror 3
Design Team

Massimiliano Patrignani, Monica Zaffini (principals in charge); Doretta Rinaldi (designer); Giovanni Salerno (production coordination/material research)

Design Firm

ma:design SRL


Arpa pubblicità srl (wayfinding structures, videowall), G2 (gate painting)