The city of Rome is a galaxy studded by archaeological sites and monuments that witness to a large stretch of human history. The Temple of Minerva Medica, in the Esquilino district, is one of them. Its 25 mt wide dome - exceeded in size only by the Pantheon and the Baths of Caracalla - inspired Brunelleschi for the construction of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence and influenced the design of the Basilica of Saint Sophia in Istanbul. Yet, by looking at it today, it is hard to grasp the former glory and actual significance of this building. The Temple stands silent in an interstitial plot of land by the Termini railway station, patiently bearing the brunt of the daily transit of trams and trains sweeping around it. Left to its own destiny in a fended lot, the neglected object stands out as out of step with its surroundings.
This is so since the master plan that introduced the Termini station transformed the Horti Linciani area around the Temple into railway land disconnected from the city, implicitly considering the building more as an obstacle to overstep than a site to protect and enhance. Restoring the dignity of the Temple of Minerva Medica, reweaving it into the fabric of the contemporary city, is therefore not only an ethical duty towards one the most important buildings of Rome, but also an indispensable act to promote the reconciliation between the past and modernity.
We believe that it is time to give back to the public a space that has been fenced off and neglected for such a long time. Hence, we demand the enhancement of the Temple of Minerva Medica. But, in contrast with the recent trend to reactivate disused spaces through temporary events which systematically fail to result in lasting rejuvenation - causing the object to return to its previuos condition right after ‘the party is over’ - our solution generates an enduring effect. For, even though we value extraordinary events, we believe that a place is truly reactivated only when it is firmly brought back into the urban everyday. We thus devised an event whose rationale is not the event itself, but virtuous process that is triggered by it. What follows is the strategy of intervention that we envisioned in the Moon Amor project at the Temple of Minerva Medica.
Every place has qualities that make it extraordinary in its own way. A few simple acts can transform an abandoned ruin in the theatre of a great show. Moon Amor is a pun. Moon Amor is a temporary event designed to put the Temple of Minerva Medica under the spotlight, which culminates with the definitive reactivation of the site. It is a circus of performances and workshops that change the space leaving on the ground a series of facilities available for the public use. The devices that trigger this process are two, the balloon and the trench.
In 1971, during the Apollo 14 mission, Stuart Roosa took in orbit around the Moon five hundred seeds of various species, intrigued by eventual alterations that the space trip could cause on them. Once back on Earth, the astronaut immediately made a few sprout: the so-called Moon Trees. Inspired by the astronaut and with the aim to protect Rome’s declining biodiversity, we decided to virtually replicate the experiment.
A large, bright moon floating on the ruins gradually expands to fill the space of the collapsed dome, and eventually occupying the void left by time for one whole day. The moon is made of a balloon filled with seeds of typical roman essences and inflated with helium. The more it grows, the more it takes off, illuminating the surroundings like a beacon. Then, at the end of its life cycle, it explodes in midair. The result of the explosion is a rain of seeds spreading on the entire area which draws a spontaneous garden according to the growth parameters of plants, and defining the possible scenario in which chance (nature and its laws) and the surrounding life will add a pragmatic footprint.
The wall that encloses the plot of Minerva Medica separating it from the railroad tracks symbolises the archaeological resistance of the site to the process of urbanisation around it. It is a boundary dividing the two realms, a key element for the creation of new public space. In the Moon Amor event, the wall becomes the locus of the transition between the Temple and the everyday. Biodegradable bags of soil are positioned as a trench along the wall and used for the construction of urban facilities by the users. The public is given the means to change the built environment in a performance, a real celebration of self-constructed architecture. Over time the trench changes shape and flourishes transforming the wall into millions of flowers, while its function of space stabiliser remains the same. The furniture realised becomes the starting point of a process that sees the citizen as a contemporary bricoleur, a promoter of new architectural and social forms.
Moon Amor is a performance that aims to highlight the dialectic between the artificial and natural making of the world. It explores the dynamic interaction between the human being and the universe. Moon Amor stages the big show of everyday life at the temple of Minerva Medica.