Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

Colossal Ambition

Photo by Serena Eller Vainicher.

When designing an apartment with a view of the Colosseum, the first rule of architecture should be: Get out of the way. But that was not what the previous owners of this top-floor, two-story Roman apartment had done. The ceiling was low, the room was filled with columns, and there was a big box in the middle of the floor covering the mechanical equipment for the building’s elevator. “From the first moment, it wasn’t only an interior project,” says Massimo Alvisi, who with his wife and partner, Junko Kirimoto, took on the two-year renovation, completed just before the pandemic.

To make matters even more complicated, the apartment needed a new roof, a challenging maneuver in the center of a historic city like Rome, where, he notes, “everything you do has to be approved by the heritage board,” from the color of the outside stucco to window shapes and sizes.

But Alvisi Kirimoto prevailed, managing the complex process of getting stone, wood, glass, and steel up from the narrow streets to the penthouse, where a pitched roof now presides over a wide-open living space, with a raised stage that both covers that equipment and improves the angle on the Roman ruins from the blocky Gaetano Pesce sofas.