The seeds for MAAM were planted in 2009, when a group of two hundred immigrants, occasional workers, and homeless families found their way to an abandoned sausage factory outside of Rome. They cleaned the buildings and turned them into homes, naming their community “Metropoliz” in honor of the new city they were building. When anthropologist, filmmaker, and artist Giorgio de Finis discovered the site in 2011, the residents had just begun painting murals on the walls.
Previously, de Finis and collaborator Fabrizio Boni worked to document emergency housing in city slums. After joking that there was no space in Rome for the residents to live, they began work on a film with a sci-fi premise: the residents of Metropoliz build themselves a rocket and take off for the moon.
The film “Space Metropoliz” enlisted the residents at all stages of development like building sets, acting as extras, etc. The completed film became a catalyst for ongoing work in Metropoliz, giving rise to the ‘museum.’
Today, MAAM has attracted installations from numerous notable artists and become a gathering point for scholars and activists interested in housing, eviction, and how to find peaceful coexistence in contemporary urbanism. An unused elevator is covered in gold by artist Michele Welke, commenting on both the Midas touch of art and the role of money in self-elevation. A room once used for stripping carcasses is now home to a giant mural featuring pigs strung up for slaughter, concluding with two happily scampering away. Other areas include a vegetable garden and a nursery where volunteer teachers provide tutoring for the residents’ children.
In the last decade, MAAM has become a cultural phenomenon in Rome, recognized and celebrated by the city administration in 2017 as a virtuous example of the social and cultural growth of the city. However, while the notoriety of the factory has afforded the residents at least some protection against the threat of eviction and the violence that often comes with being undocumented and untitled, unfortunately, the residents still live under the constant threat that officials will make them leave.