The Topographical Discontinuity Between Ancient and Modern City

Winner of Piranesi Prix de Rome 2016 XIV Edition, competition for via dei Fori Imperiali in Rome.

Luigi Franciosini, 2tr architettura · The Topographical Discontinuity Between Ancient and Modern City
Luigi Franciosini, 2tr Architettura

The system between Piazza Venezia and Valle del Colosseo:
a new shape for the public space

Today, the AACR is a place that fulfils only touristic purposes. The new development is planned to include more than one use: a public space where services and activities for both tourists and citizens will take place. The plan is to transform the historical city in a cultural heritage that could be used by everyone.
Many urban functions now spread around the city will be ordered in a spatial arrangement that will be able to include more functions. This spatial arrangement will be developed taking care of how the users perceive, comprehend, use and move in the space.
The aim is to answer to the problem regarding the discontinuity between the different layers on which the city developed through the ages. It will be molded along the borders to give an identity to the spaces that lay among the levels and to guarantee a connection between them. In addition, the flows descending from the neighbourhood and the passages linking to the metropolitan lines will take part to outline the plan.
Where today is Via dei Fori Imperiali a new surface will be placed. It won’t be stretched in one direction, but branches will extend it towards east and west.
The design strategy will offer a solution to three systems:

  • the archaeological system, composed by paths and ruins, elements spread around, dense and rarefied;
  • the modern and contemporary system, a mix of directions and destinations, physical and visual axis and monumental architectures;
  • the vegetation system, organized in rows, masses and grass carpets in order to mold and give a clear shape and identity to the landscape and to guide the observation.
Luigi Franciosini, 2tr architettura · The Topographical Discontinuity Between Ancient and Modern City
Luigi Franciosini, 2tr Architettura

The operation on the archaeological system: communication, use, protection
Archaeology will be no more a scenography background, but will actively join the urban landscape, as a part of the public space.
The monumental borders, that now lay alongside Via dei Fori Imperiali and Via Alessandrina, will acquire unity thanks to the project that, removing the physical obstructions, will redefine the restricted spaces and will offer spatial and visual continuity. At the archaeological level, paths crossing both open and protected places will provide a new experience made of freedom of movement, following to ancient spatiality, now hidden.
The new archaeological site is conceived as a sequence of public and unbound spaces, where touristic services are mixed to daily life activities, in continuity with contemporary city.

Luigi Franciosini, 2tr architettura · The Topographical Discontinuity Between Ancient and Modern City
Luigi Franciosini, 2tr Architettura

The operation on the modern and contemporary city:
recover of transversal urban paths and views

The scenario of the ruins, crossed by paths for slow-paced strolls, blends into the urban landscape and its fast and relentless pace.
The physical and visual relationship between Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum is reinterpreted and insert in a new network, where the urban transversal axis are recovered after being obstructed by the archaeological fences. The street descending from the Argiletum, Colle Oppio and the Esquilin will meet the ridge made up by the new surface in Via dei Fori Imperiali, and they will proceed across the Velabrum towards the Foro Boarium and Lungotevere.
The spatial continuity between Via Bonella and Valle dei Fori will be restored through Arco dei Pantani, while Via Madonna dei Monti will proceed its path along the Augustian wall, running along the Torre dei Conti in order to enter to Foro della Pace, at the modern level. The connection between SS. Luca e Martina and SS. Cosma e Damiano churches will be realized. A pedestrian from the garden of Villa Rivaldi will renew the access to Basilica di Massenzio. Based on the ancient route, the access to Via Sacra in the Roman Forum will be reactivated, going through Via delle Carine and under Arco del Latrone, beyond the Basilica di Massenzio. Via Alessandrina is preserved to guarantee the continuity with the urban context.
In the intersections with the archaeological sites, this new public area is conceived as a covered surface that gives permeability between the Roman and the Imperial Fori. The structure will be placed where the pre-existence allow, providing a direct interaction.
The surface will be outlined following the borders and the lines along the gaps between the urban layers. It will connect places now apart and with alignments and new spatial relationships, it will give legibility to the bounded areas and to the historic traces left by the transformations succeeded through the ages, as in Sant’Urbano area. Between the archeological and the modern layers visual and physical interactions will be defined.

Luigi Franciosini, 2tr architettura · The Topographical Discontinuity Between Ancient and Modern City
Luigi Franciosini, 2tr Architettura

Vegetation new system: observation and structure
As Raffaele De Vico already did along the borders of Piazza Venezia and Via dei Fori Imperiali, the vegetation will be used as an architectural instrument, shaping empty spaces and perception for a full transformation of this area to a public space.
The new system will have a direct connection with the traditional giardino all’italiana: it will include topiary works and it will take advantage of Giacomo Boni experience with the use of vegetation in archaeological contexts.
Three categories define the operations:

  • vertical fences, composed by trees (carpinus) or vines (rosa canina, wisteria, hop) on metal scaffolds;
  • horizontal area, short shrubs will composed carpets to highlight significant spaces;
  • rows or scrubs of trees, will mark the places. These vegetal backgrounds and rows of trees have two functions: to be a protection for the sun-drenched area, providing shadow and protection, and to define the perception, broadening and shrinking the views, identifying visual orientations and relating the architecture – ancient and modern - to the space.
Luigi Franciosini, 2tr architettura · The Topographical Discontinuity Between Ancient and Modern City
Luigi Franciosini, 2tr Architettura

Urban spaces and museum organization
The aim of the project is to open the archaeological area, as a public space, free, accessible, that takes part to the daily citizens’life.
Three typologies of spaces are imagined:

  • public spaces completely open to pedestrians and, occasionally, emergency vehicles;
  • protected and controlled public space, with opening hours for pedestrians (h 7.00 am – 11.00 pm), as parks, historical villas and other archaeological urban areas (Colle Oppio, Domus Aurea);
  • specific external view-points and museums, accessible only with a ticket (such as antiquaria, informative facilities addressed to study and research). The existing museum system will be completed by new poles and restored historical buildings. A requalification of Villa Rivaldi will create new spaces, as well the reactivation of Torre dei Conti, and the Ludus Magnus, which will be made into a museum; also a new hall dedicated to the reorganization of the Forma Urbis will be built. All of them, together, will produce a whole system with the Colosseum, Mercati di Traiano and the Capitoline Museums. A new publica area, dedicated to touristic services and facilities, is planned where today is the underground public square at the Colosseum station. It will be a point of access to: Villa Rivaldi, the Colosseum, the Tempio di Venere and the Republican Fori though Foro della Pace.
Luigi Franciosini, 2tr architettura · The Topographical Discontinuity Between Ancient and Modern City
Luigi Franciosini, 2tr Architettura

Facilities for the citizenship and the tourism
The new AACR will allow to create a space for the community, not only for tourism. It will be able to provide services for the city, assembling an urban system connected to the surroundings.
Besides the touristic facilities (information points, ticket offices, personal services and bookshops), also public services will be provided: a civic centre, a senior centre, a library, didactic and research areas, conference halls and cultural services to enliven the new squares in Via dei Fori Imperiali.

Luigi Franciosini, 2tr architettura · The Topographical Discontinuity Between Ancient and Modern City
Luigi Franciosini, 2tr Architettura

The mobility system
Planning the new AACR has to pay attention to general urban context and how it works. This important part of the city needs policies regarding decentralization, renewal and sustainability. In this background the mobility has is own strategic role. The plan of the new underground lines are important features of our project, the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia C-line stations, and the tramway Casaletto-Venezia to Termini through Via Nazionale. Via dei Fori Imperiali is now accessible only to pedestrian and emergency vehicles. This supports the sustainable policies in the new PGTU: the extension and the redefinition of the ZTL will bring gradually to a functional restoration of the historical centre.
This operation, intercepting the incoming private vehicles in strategic points of the street network around the railway ring, will filter the traffic and will functionally enhance the historical centre.
This system will benefit also the touristic flows, which will find specific services around the AACR to proceed with suitable public transport. The benefits will be:

  • new transport infrastructures to cross the city centre (express buses, tramways and subway);
  • the internal distribution with a new network of electrical minibuses, suitable for the pedestrian areas. In the future, the new minibuses network could gain a major identity with a system of linked circuits for a more developed distribution in the historical centre. The system of accesses to the AACR, considered of priority importance, will outline the various components of the mobility. Six public “gates” will guide the pedestrian flows from different parts of the city: Porta Capena, Ludus Magnus, Villa Silvestri-Rivaldi and Basilica di Massenzio, Foro della Pace, Piazza Venezia, Velabro. Other remarkable pedestrian flows are collected with Colosseum and Piazza Venezia stations, which will also be an access to the underground level, archaeological spaces and the whole system of Imperial and Republican Fora.
Luigi Franciosini, 2tr architettura · The Topographical Discontinuity Between Ancient and Modern City
Luigi Franciosini, 2tr Architettura

Intervention areas
A. Largo Corrado Ricci and the access to the Republican and Imperial Fora
A new entrance to the archaeological level follows the monumental fence that once surrounded the Foro della Pace.
This is a strategic area to collect and direct the flows towards the Argiletum at east, the Imperial fora at north, the Republican Forum at south, the exit of the underground C-line at west.
A system of stairs and ramps will lead to the ancient level, while the wall at the border of the Foro di Nerva will reacquire thickness and depth.
Torre dei Conti is functionally requalified with the insertion of learning and informative facilities.

Luigi Franciosini, 2tr architettura · The Topographical Discontinuity Between Ancient and Modern City
Luigi Franciosini, 2tr Architettura

B. Antiquarium of the Severian Forma Urbis
The place chosen for the new Museum of the Forma Urbis is the oriental hall of Foro della Pace, rebuilt accordingly to the original one.
The volume from the archaeological to the modern level will raise above the new urban surface, managing to obtain:
A visual contrast with Basilica di SS. Cosma e Damiano wall, where in the past Forma Urbis was placed;
Legibility of the extension of the monumental fence of Foro della Pace;
A presentation of the fragments in their original placement, offering two perceptions: a close one, with the original plates, and a distant one, with a copy arranged for the presentation in the urban scene.

C. Villa Silvestri Rivaldi, the garden on the Velian Hill and the entrance to Basilica di Massenzio
In the area will be established a learning-informative centre, through the restoration of the historical building and the garden on the existing remains of the Velian Hill.
The Villa Rivaldi-Basilica di Massenzio system will be enhanced as a new access to the archaeological area, with flows coming from Colle Oppio across San Pietro in Vincoli:
At the historical garden level, a pedestrian bridge will connect the new structure of Villa Rivaldi and the parterres of Basilica di Massenzio and Tempio di Venere, restoring the spatial continuity that has been lost in the 1930s;
At the urban level, the ancient path on Via del Tempio della Pace (the old Via delle Carine) that descends from the Esquiline to Imperial Fora following the east-west direction will be enhanced. As a consequence, the passageway, running beyond Arco del Latrone and under Basilica di Massenzio, is recovered, linking the eastern neighbourhoods with Via Sacra;
In the midst of these two historical layers, the paved road between the eastern wall of Basilica di Massenzio and the Velian retaining wall is reopened.
As in past ages, the Basilica di Massenzio will regain its own role of link of topographic discrepancy.

D. Ludus Magnus and the connection to the Colosseum
This is a strategic area for a direct connection from San Giovanni to the archaeological system: it is possible to cross Via Labicana, Parco del Colle Oppio and the Domus Aurea and to overcome at the underground level the vehicular flows in Via Celio Vibenna.
The restoration of Ludus Magnus allows:
A new access to the central area, with a direct connection at the Colosseum level;
A direct entrance to the Colosseum, planning an underground connection to the ground level, through a system of ramps, ticket offices and cultural facilities.
In order to protect and to control natural light, a cloth will cover the ruins in Ludus Magnus at the level of Via Labicana. Along the border of Via Celio Vibenna, a wide terrace will face the Colosseum, hosting at the archeological level, public functions.