Deformis urbs veteribus incendiis ac ruinis erat; vacuas areas occupare et aedificare, si possessores cessarent, cuicumque permisit... Fecit et nova opera templum Pacis foro proximo.
This passage by Suetonius (Vesp. 8), which describes the monuments restored or built by Vespasian, suggests the idea of the urban transformation that has always characterized the interventions of monumentalisation of the Urbe promoted over time by various emperors in their respective fora. This idea, in the historical circumstance mentioned by Suetonius, is linked to the Emperor Vespasian who, because of the serious damage suffered by the city during the civil war of 69 AD, ordered the construction of the third of the imperial forum complex with the Temple of Peace. In more general terms, in urban history and the monumental transformations of Rome, this idea of transformation has been expressed in the construction of large monuments built ex novo on pre-existing sites or areas carefully levelled and regularized to allow the realization of projects in spaces which are consequently reinterpreted according to new public and administrative functions and adapted to revised elaborations of the original program which, for each imperial forum, have proved to be always ideologically biased and /or to involve those celebratory purposes typical of all emperors.
The current archaeological area of the Roman Forum, that extends from Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum and runs along the Roman Forum complex, is the sum of an uninterrupted stratigraphic sequence of interesting and rich testimonies, both imposing and fleeting, tracing back to the proto historic period.
A morphological analysis of the area demonstrates the existence of two different areas related to two main axis each of which reveals its problems and potential:
- the axis of the Imperial Forums;
- the axis of the Colosseum-Temple of Venus and Rome.
Via dei Fori Imperiali and its relationship with the ruins of the Forum.
The area is currently characterized by the strong and pervasive presence of Via dei Fori Imperiali that must be regarded as the result of the Mussolinian idea of generating a road with a majestic view linking the large area of Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum. It must also be regarded as a large urban space that includes the archaeological sites of the ancient Roman Empire thus creating a strong link between the present policy and the ancient political and cultural greatness of the Roman Empire.
To realize this complex cultural political program, set at the current level of the city, the ancient Alessandrina district - that traced back to the Middle Ages - was razed in order to make the most important ruins of the Forum emerge from the archaeological level and become more visible.
In our opinion, today a major paradigm shift takes place. In fact, while at the time of the demolition ruins were perceived as picturesque elements, i.e. objects of the monumentalisation of the city essentially linked to their visibility, nowadays they are perceived mostly through a scientific / philological approach. Therefore, it becomes necessary to highlight as much as possible their path and their original space. Due to its position in relation to the archaeological remains, the level of Via dei Fori Imperiali makes it difficult to detect the right sequence of the various fora. The schematic and linear layout does not follow the morphological characteristics of the ancient forum which are now perceived in an arbitrary and fragmentary way. The level of Via Alexandrina is visible through the Forums of Trajan, of Augustus and of Nerva and makes the morphological and spatial clarity of these forums difficult to be read; since its original context has disappeared it seems to be like a meaningless wreck. With the demolition of the homonymous medieval districts, the old links existing between the forum and the city disappeared too.
Via dei Fori Imperiali like a road axis and a visual axis.
Via dei Fori Imperiali was also conceived in line with a system of urban trails whose aim was to link St. Peterís Basilica to St. Johnís Basilica in Laterano, with a strong symbolic character emphasised during great military parades. These nineteenth-century urban ideas were partly modelled on Haussmannís Paris interventions. Today these urban strategic choices have not completely lost their urban value and symbolic character. Moreover, today due to its full pedestrianisation Via dei Fori Imperiali has also lost its original role as an axis of urban road system. However, the idea of keeping the visual axis of the boulevard between Piazza Venezia and the view on the background of the Colosseum as an integral part of the image of Rome, is still maintained.
The current entrances are rarely accessible to the public, they are confused and partial due to the presence of Via dei Fori Imperiali and also to the logistic problems and lack of adequate paths suitable for the archaeological level. The location of the actual access to the fora from the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina is not a good one in terms of the perception of viability and spatiality. The lack of structures that could help identify the various accesses to the ancient fora also contributes to this perceptual fragmentation of the archaeological remains. A series of interventions have been taken place over time. Their final aim has been the realization of artifacts for the construction of itineraries and access that are completely inappropriate for the needs of the public and each of which with its formal and materical individuality. This situation has made worse the already confused readability of the fragmentary archaeological parts now visible from the fora. The problem of properly contextualizing the ruins of the so-called Auditoria di Adriano, which have been discovered between 2007 and 2011, during the Metro C excavations, depends on two unresolved issues. The first of them is urban and relates to the whole situation of the design of the reservoir of Piazza Venezia; the second of them relates to the failed relationship with the archaeological remains of the Imperial Fora. The current vision shows the existence of an unresolved area in the design of the parterre of the square and, at the same time, expresses the potential relationship that, in archaeological terms, it could interwoven with the other remains that today are separated.
The axis of the Colosseum-Temple of Venus and Rome
Almost pedestrianised, the area around the Colosseum is characterized by a series of inhomogeneous interventions without a unified image of the reservoir. As a result, the link between this area and the rest of the archaeological sites, such as the ruins hill of the Trajan Baths of Titus and the colle Oppio with the remains of the Domus Aurea, is no longer perceptible. The ruins of the Ludus Magnus also lie semi-abandoned; they are not included in the area of the Colosseum and are separated from the surrounding urban context so that the situation is similar to that of the Auditoria di Adriano. Only on rare occasions the public can visit the excavations which are visible only from the urban perimeter from a small metal ladder. The original relationship between the Colosseum and the Temple of Venus and Rome is now compromised by the loss of integrity of the basement that lies in ruins with its large arches at sight. The upper part of the basement has also been conceived as a green area that diminishes its original grandeur and contributes to the loss of its fundamental relationship with the Colosseum. Opposite the Basilica of Maxentius stands the twentieth-century arrangement of Muñozís wall which has been recently altered by the demolition of the ramp that previously connected Via dei Fori Imperiali to the gardens of Silvestri-Rivaldi Palace. This demolition, due to the building works for the construction of a new Metro line, leaves open the question of the architectural definition of this connection.
Finally, there is a real confusion of constructive solutions and architectural elements arising from the subsequent archaeological excavations which have not been subjected to a general architectural plan of the whole arrangement.
Architectural and landscaping project
The Imperial Fora complex is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world, our aim is to create a large integrated archaeological park in the metropolitan park system of the city of Rome.Within the contemporary urban context of Rome, the intelligibility of the Imperial Fora complex must be recovered and be accessible to everyone, to the city inhabitants, to scholars and to tourists. It must become again the important Urban Forum of the city of Rome it used to be.
Recover the geometric and spatial clarity of the Imperial Fora
The question before us concerns, therefore, the morphological reconstruction of the ancient fora in close relation with contemporary Romeís urban structure and the design of a network of new paths and squares linked in continuity to the rest of the city. It involves the replacement of Via dei Fori Imperiali and Via Alexandrina with a network of new paths at the same level as the ancient porticoes of the Fora. From this upper level the ruins of the various fora would be perceived as a void or cavity in comparison with the horizontal plane of the contemporary city, as a kind of large window to the past. From the existing paths, the current view on the archaeological ruins does not follow the shape of the ancient city and this makes the spatial sequence of fora unreadable. In contrast to the current confused situation, our project proposal allows a very clear re-reading of the ruins of the fora made visible through some gaps in the new paths that are in line with the ancient cityís layout. Currently, on the lower level, archaeological spaces are visible only in fragmentary forms enclosed by roads and embankments that do not correspond to the old urban spatial units of the various fora. As a result, the crossing of this archaeological level is irregular and fragmented; it is, in a sense, impermeable, thus making it difficult to distinguish between the areas that have been covered and those that have been discovered. In our project proposal the elevated paths lie above the ancient arcades level thus reconfiguring them, allowing visitors to perceive the limits of the ruins of each forum from the archaeological or low level and making each forum spatially returning to its original shape. The areas covered by the new paths are thus in line with the covered areas of the old Roman Forum. In synthesis, through a contemporary vision and purpose, the historical layout of the ancient Forum with its full and empty spaces is brought to light. Then, we design new arcades whose top surface constitutes the path and the surface of the contemporary city. These new arcades will not be based on the ancient marble floor, but their structure will rest on the foundations of the old columns which were expressly designed to sustain heavy loads. The upper part of the portico, at the path level, has a section that allows the presence of a seat recessed in its thickness that make visitors enjoy a panoramic view of the ruins and avoids the realization of the parapets or railings.
Maintenance of Via dei Fori Imperiali as a visual axis
The elimination of the stretch of Via dei Fori Imperiali does not mean the disappearance of the important visual axis between Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum. Instead, it means the generation of a great unobstructed visual axis whose focal point is the Colosseum, flanked by columns reconstructed by anastylosis that emerge to a height above the contemporary city level.
Recover the link between the Forum and the existing city
Thanks to the construction of new paths, the extrusion of the foraís morphology to the urban level allows the reconnection of the forum area with the neighbouring parts of the contemporary city and mainly with the area of the old Suburra, with the area of the Curia and the Church of Santi Luca e Martina. One of the most interesting aspects is that connections with parts of the modern city, that already existed between the fora and the ancient city, are now recovered, for example the connections between the Forum of Augustus and Piazza del Grillo and Via Tor de Conti.
New, defined, representative and adequate entrances to the Fora
We designed two new entrances identified in relation to pedestrian and urban vehicular mobility and to the new Metro network, the former in the area of the Colosseum and the latter at the Temple of Peace.
Intervention in the Temple of Peace
Due to its position at the end of Via Cavour and at the centre of the future archaeological park, the Temple of Peace is considered a suitable position to locate a covered space, at the contemporary city level, which would generate a hypostyle hall at the ruins level. A large central void with a flight of steps and a stairway access would connect both levels.
Intervention in the Auditoria di Adriano
The project idea for the covering of the archaeological excavations of the ruins of the so-called Auditoria di Adriano consists in the creation of two constructions that emerge from the road surface to restore the spatial character of the old building made of a translucent material. The access would be realized through an underground path that connects these archaeological remains to the Forum of Trajan.
Intervention in the basement of the Temple of Venus and Rome and new access to the Forum
The theme of the project of the new access to the fora from the Basilica of Maxentius and the theme of the spatial reconfiguration of the ruins of the Temple of Venus and Rome and of its axis that runs to the Colosseum, found their synthesis in a unique solution. A wall surrounding the perimeter of the Temple restores the geometric recognisability of the basement setting of its ruins. This fence wall contains the new entry/exit system from the fora, just near the Colosseum metro station that is under construction. From the entrance, the wall runs parallel to the front of the Temple of Venus and Rome which faces the Colosseum, thus becoming an open path toward the ruins of the basement and a closed path toward the amphitheatre area. This path provides the use of the existing stairs that lead to the peristyle of the temple, at the top of it. The path then goes ahead in the direction of Via di San Bonaventura which is an axis whose backdrop frames the Arch of Titus and which constitutes the natural entrance to the fora from the Colosseum. The wall, a continuous concrete curtain wall, has a corner solution with Via di San Bonaventura: a great hole. A large fixed window allows the view of the axis of via San Bonaventura culminating in the backdrop of the Arch of Titus; it maintains the physical separation of the wall between the public space of the Colosseum area and the fora area, which is only accessible on payment of a fee. The crowning of the entry-wall is an artificial horizon that brings to light the ruins of the Temple of Venus and Rome in all their monumentality. For those who look at the Colosseum from the portico of the temple, the measure of the wall-path is such that it does not interfere with the view of the Colosseum and of its frontal relationship emphasized by the axis of the temple. The proposed solution for the new entrance to the fora from the Temple of Venus and Rome allows the maintenance of the upward path at the existing level of the Basilica of Maxentius, it is a possible path of exit only from the fora which allows to maintain free access to square of the Basilica of Santa Francesca Romana.
Arrangement of the Maxentius area and Muñoz wall
For this area we choose to maintain the current arrangement realized by Antonio Muñoz and the redesign of the ramp; on the other side instead we create a new green solution for the ground which links the street level to the basement of the Basilica of Maxentius, including the wall and the climb to the square of the Basilica of Santa Francesca Romana. This new design allows to highlight the axis of Via dei Fori Imperiali simultaneously solving urban redesign problems posed by a fundamental area of the axis Piazza Venezia - Colosseum.
The reservoir of the Colosseum and the Trajan Baths of Titus
Around the Colosseum we want to realize a modelling of the soil making use of the green area that surrounds the monument and cleanly separate the vehicular system from the archaeological area. This new arrangement encompasses a new access to the new museum of Ludus Magnus and through a system of stairs, arranged in a radial pattern, it allows to reach the level of the overlying road and the ruins of the Trajan Baths of Titus.
Museological and museographical project (Antiquarium)
Construction of a new antiquarium and arrangement of the Forma Urbis
The basic project idea is to unify into a single urban museum system, the antiquarium and the exhibition space of the Forma Urbis, placed over the archaeological ruins of the Ludus Magnus.This solution solves the problem of the isolation of the Ludus Magnus from the surrounding urban context and to create a direct relationship with the Colosseum area. The building consists of two large constructions suspended over a square-basement looking at the Colosseum. A double body is inserted between the two constructions, it encloses the exhibition structure of the Forma Urbis and the connection between the two lateral buildings. Almost extruded, the pure architectural form emerges from the plane of the square tracing the remains of the Ludus Magnus which are thus protected and valued.It consists of a tall and narrow wall excavated by an extruded section of the auditorium of the amphitheatre, from whose roof-lucernario the natural light penetrates and reaches the archaeological remains of the Ludus. The paths mainly constist of ramps that easily link the different parts of the structure. The entrances are placed in the two short sides. The most important entrance is the one that directly links the Colosseum area to the museum through an underpass that arrives inside the excavations. From this archaeological level visitors can go back and get up to the level of the Antiquarium where they can enjoy the view of the large panel of the Forma Urbis. From this height visitors can reach the other side of the antiquarium realized in the cavity wall of the semi-elliptical structure and then go back down to the level of the elevated square. Itís a syncretic structure designed in its shape and size in close relation with the Colosseum from which the idea of a single material that visually characterizes it comes from.