'The Missing Link' at MAXXI

 John Hill
14. December 2018
Photo © Musacchio Ianniello, courtesy Fondazione MAXXI
Michele De Lucchi's L'Anello Mancante ("The Missing Link") is a site-specific installation inside Zaha Hadid's MAXXI, the National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome. On display until March 2019, the accessible object made from Solid Surface HI-MACS® shingles is meant to express the architectural research of the famous Italian architect and designer.
Project: L'Anello Mancante (The Missing Link), 2018
Location: MAXXI, Rome
Designer: Michele De Lucchi
MaterialHI-MACS® Alpine White
Distributor: M.A.D.E. srl
Production and Installation: Unifor
Photo © Musacchio Ianniello, courtesy Fondazione MAXXI
The Missing Link is the sixth in MAXXI's NATURE series, following previous iterations by Francesco Venezia, Alberto Campo Baeza, West8, UNStudio, and Álvaro Siza. Each monographic exhibition asked the architects to design a site-specific installation that "summarizes their own architectural research" and then becomes part of MAXXI's permanent architecture collection.

Michele De Lucchi, who was born in Ferrara and went to architecture school in Florence, is an architect of buildings and interiors, but he is also a designer of furniture and products. In fact, he was director of design at Olivetti for ten years and has designed pieces for Alessi, Artemide, Olivetti, and numerous other companies. Although De Lucchi sees all objects in a similar way regardless of scale, The Missing Link finds him in a more architectural frame of mind, having created a thickened wall that allows people to enter and be embraced by it, and which in turn curls around a central space with some of his Astrati cedarwood stools.
Photo © Musacchio Ianniello, courtesy Fondazione MAXXI
The Missing Link is located in the Claudia Gian Ferrari Gallery at the far end of Level 1, reached by a flight of steps. It sits below the parallel lines of skylights, one of the most distinctive aspects of Hadid's linear, undulating design for MAXXI. De Lucchi's curling design seems to reference Hadid's design, reimagining it in miniature and giving visitors another way of experiencing the museum's architecture.

​Margherita Guccione, director of MAXXI Architettura and co-curator of The Missing Link describes De Lucchi's installation as "a hand-to-hand encounter [with Hadid's building] and an occasion to present himself, his project history, the latest research and achievements ... a small project for an architect used to dealing with great dimensions, however, extremely dense in content and meanings, concentrated in [a] few square meters ..."

Her co-curator Pippo Ciorra, senior curator of MAXXI Architettura, sees The Missing Link as "a project that would work on all scales, from bracelet to city walls; it is a space but also a conceptual topology, the open/closed; it is a wall that encloses a place but which is itself a liveable, walkable place."
Photo © Musacchio Ianniello, courtesy Fondazione MAXXI
The Missing Link is made up of three main components: a tubular structure, LED strip lights integrated into the structure, and more than 800 shingles in HI-MACS® Alpine White. The three work together to create an undulating object that is ethereal, inviting, and not without scale. In regards to the last, following from De Lucchi's plastic model (visible at bottom), the HI-MACS® shingles come in two sizes: large at the two rows along the bottom, and small in the five rows above head height. With each shingle "floating" independently and not touching any others, the installation takes on the character of a creature, all the while allowing light to filter out and draw people into its narrow interior.
Photo © Musacchio Ianniello, courtesy Fondazione MAXXI
HI-MACS®, a solid surface material that it is highly resistant to damage and easy to work and clean, seems like a logical choice for The Missing Link, as much for the fact it will be part of MAXXI's permanent collection than for its four-month display, when people will be rubbing against it as they squeeze inside the narrow space and, in the words of the MAXXI curators, "find the new concatenations that we more or less consciously lack in the fabric of our civil and productive relationships as well as our moral vision of society."
Photo © Musacchio Ianniello, courtesy Fondazione MAXXI
Michele De Lucchi. L’Anello Mancante is on display at MAXXI from 7 December 2018 to 3 March 2019.
Photo © Musacchio Ianniello, courtesy Fondazione MAXXI
Sketch by Michele De Lucchi
Model by Michele De Lucchi (Photo: Tom Vack, courtesy Fondazione MAXXI)
Model by Michele De Lucchi (Photo: Tom Vack, courtesy Fondazione MAXXI)

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