Past is not but the place of restless forms – prisoners – it is to our concern to procure them life and necessity and provide them with our passions and our values.
With this quote from Paul Valèry we want to express our desire when facing this Project for the Via dei Fori Imperiali in Rome. A conceptual idea where both the desire of being of these prisoner forms – the great Roman ruins – and the continuous rebirth of modern Rome from the Roma Antica, as we see in the scenography that Baldasarre Peruzzi designed for La Calandria of cardinal Bibbiena, where the Colosseo, Trajan´s Column, the Tower of the Militia, the Arch of Argentarius or Castel Sant’Angelo among other ancient monuments, appear together with new palaces and Renaissance temples, legitimate heirs of the former.
This place was precisely the origin – since the end of Middle Ages – of the re-birth, the re-thinking of a classical ideal of Architecture and also of the City. A unique place where we are moved by the remembrance of so many great architects and masters measuring and drawing this ruins, seeking the virtue of the Ancient, their knowledge and their power to build manifests, to build – each one of them – their own work. From Brunelleschi to Bramante, from Francesco di Giorgio to Peruzzi, from Alberti to Giuliano da Sangallo, from Raphael to Vignola, from Palladio to Michelangelo, who we recall in the nearby Vía de Macel dei Corvi in the Borgo Alessandrino where he lived and tirelessly worked in his Roman years. Neither should we forget, after this pioneers, all those which during this time have continued and continue looking to Rome with passion in order to learn its lesson –il bello secreto antico – to equal and even surpass its achievements as Raphael himself or Le Corbusier will say with undisguised ambition.
All of them dreamt together - since these disiecta membra – to resurrect the knowledge of the Ancients: the eternal lesson of the Ruins, the lesson of Rome, always pointing out as an accurate arrow the possibility of the endless rebirth of a certain idea of architecture and city related to them, idea said once and for all, as Adolf Loos remembers us. A tradition, a lesson that does not disappear but changes its face being able to generate new and polyhedral solutions according to times and places. A tradition, a lesson that ties us more to emotions than to laws, using the voice of T.S. Elliot.
This is a unique place to demonstrate not only our profound gratitude to this endless lesson that is born from ruins, but also to make the compassion produced by contemplating their condition spoiled by time and men`s actions the motto of our proposal that wishes no more than paying a meaningful homage to them and also to the city of Rome, now that there is a will of integrating the ruins as another neighbourhood – doubtlessly the principal one – to citizen’s life.
We see this suggestive interwoven of ruins and new architectures as a new opportunity, as a challenge to experiment once again this power of the Ancients. It is all about experimenting on our proposal this attitude towards ruins so fruitful and creative in the past and still always possible. Listening to their lesson with admiration, respect, good judgement and a critical view of today’s reality and its better fitting in this area recovered for the city. Here comes today, if we are ready, the analogical voice of Ruins, and their capacity to inspire, to push us in every new design.
Because a new and balanced relation between what is there today, what it was before and what it will be is the aim of this proposal: a balance between living monuments, dwellings, streets, squares and citizens or accidental tourists that live and move among them. After the disappearing of the Roman Empire the already cited spaces fell in abandonment and similarly to the Roman Forum, their rests were subsequently occupied by the city heir of the former, and their beauties despoiled for centuries. The remembrance of this monumental core of the Roma Antica made itself evident by a series of fragments inserted in this new city built over the old. These fragments were spontaneously integrated in Rome’s daily life; we preserve enough graphic testimonies which show this surprising city that has captivated artists and travellers for centuries.
Nothing better to recover for this forums than the vision that quite a few years ago we had of the cohabitation of the only great Roman monument – the Pantheon – that has always remained fully integrated in Rome’s life, where an odd sensation – mix of astonishment, alarm, blast of vitality and normality – was produced by seeing the ragazzi carelessly playing with a ball, dribbling between the venerable columns of Egyptian granite of the temple. Because malgrè tout, c’est la vie, everyday life, something unthinkable today, with the Pantheon buried in tourists every day. This quotidian tone – the inexorable pass of human life – would be well received in the Imperial Fora. Do not Piranesi’s beautiful engravings of Rome show this same idea? In his drawings the great ruins of the Roman Forum, the so called Campo Vaccino, are shown still half-buried, consumed by dark shadows and boscaglie by the author’s burin – filled however with the bustle of a variety of characters that live their lives in them, among them, carrying out their everyday duties. Analogically we seek this image of an inhabited ruin as one of the aims of our proposal. One should remember the case of Split and the palace built by Diocletian, always inhabited until present. Or Peruzzi himself inhabiting the Theatre of Marcellus through the construction – over its imposing ruins – of Palazzo Savelli.
The area subject of intervention contains the forums that once constituted the centre of the city. If the Roman Forum remembered with monuments the key moments of the history of the city, the Imperial Fora did however pay more attention to procure urban spaces suitable to citizens’ life. Two diverse ways of understanding the city if their growth run concurrently for a considerable time during their lifetime.
The Roman Forum, along and around the Via Sacra, from the Tabularium, to the Arch of Titus, is composed as a series of notable architectural episodes dating from different times, uses and aspirations, parked around this Via Triumphalis: from republican temples or imperial ones - Concord, Castor and Pollux, Vespasian, Antoninus and Faustina, Vesta, Venus and Rome…- to civic buildings such as the Curia or the Basilicas Aemilia and Iulia, others such as the House of the Vestals, and also symbolic elements and propaganda like the Arches (those of Septimius Severus, Titus or Constantine), tholos, rostral columns, pulpits, pedestals and statues. All of them linked to the Via Sacra and its itinerary full of presences and notable memories of Rome since its origin that never lost a recognizable and unitary composition.
The Imperial Fora are conceived successively on time, constituting a sequence of great urban complexes formally autonomous, public and articulated through a truly powerful geometry armed with longitudinal and transverse axis, so typical or Roman composition that is animated by porticoes and exedras over an artificial topography built ad hoc. Imperial Fora that achieve – however – an articulation and concatenation of spaces similar to a travelling crossing their enormous public squares that are defined, linked, tied by their porticoes, creating this way a stunning and also unexpected summation of these principal public places, presided all of them by temples of their promotors: Forum of Caesar, Forum of Augustus, Forum of Trajan, Forum of Nerva or Transitional and Forum of Peace or of Vespasian.
Forums that are not but public squares disposed in a broken enfilade that will present in sequence the stone pavement recovered to be stepped on once again, the porticoes of columns now standing, precincts defined as they were by their lifted walls – splendid Roman brickwork of bipedal bricks – newly recovered volumes to be enjoyed – in line with the idea of this Call – by citizens and concerned visitors. The Imperial Fora, an ensemble understood as a great Roman organism of powerful and articulate geometry hierarchically organised. And here the roll that the combined action of archaeological excavation and anastylosis or smart and respectful reconstruction becomes essential to return this monuments to its once imposing figure and presence in our urban proposal.
NEW VIA DEI FORI IMPERIALI
The design for the new Via dei Fori Imperiali – aqueduct, bridge, walkway… or however we may call it - must recover a logic according to that of the trace of the surviving structures – mainly the Imperial Fora – that survived the demolitions ordered by Mussolini. Our proposal for the Via, and therefore for the entire ensemble of the Imperial Fora, must be divided in two different parts in a similar way to the previously stated organic and compositive description of the Forums.
The first stretch of the Via, raised over the Imperial For a, which starts at Piazza Venezia next to the recovered Auditoria of Hadrian and Trajan’s Schola – to the carrefour of the Forum of Vespasian or Forum Pacis where it connects to via Cavour and the second stretch of the Via itself that leads to the Piazza Colosseo. The way will cross over the forums of Caesar, Trajan, Augustus, Nerva and Vespasian, adjusting its geometry to that of the forums – more accurately to the trace of their porticoes, avoiding any disruption or confusion regarding the newly recovered layout of the forums which today is disrupted by the oblique shadow of the existing street. Our design for this raised street seeks the levity of its steel structure and the complete transparency of the structure designed for the Via dei Fori Imperiali with the sole purpose of creating a sense of aerial suspension over the ensemble of anastylosis and restorations/reconstructions proposed for the enclosing walls of the forums. Both porticoes, the Roman and the new one, are to be superimposed and establish an alternate rhythm and comparison between both scales; a monumental Roman order made of marble and a smaller architectural order made of lead-grey steel that runs between the colonnade and the brick walls where both their shadows are projected.
The Forum Pacis appears now as an elevated carrefour over the restored porticos of this great square, truly spectacular by its fountains, vegetation and statues in the past and that will present now a revisited state with fountains, laurels and cypresses as well as sculpture fragments – where the game between the Roman and steel porticoes will be repeated. In both its levels – the aerial and the earthly – this square will emerge as the true great vestibule of the ensemble of the forums. The most significant spaces of the Temple will be rebuilt to host interpretation facilities and resting areas. This square will be accessed by a great staircase descending from the second stretch of the Via dei Fori Imperiali that comes from the Colosseo. From this square, newly defined connections will arise, linking the square to Via Cavour, the Christian temples of the Forum (San Lorenzo in Miranda and Santi Cosme e Damiano) and also to the second stretch of the Via. These entries are marked by two great gateways made ad hoc that frame the Via dei Fori Imperiali, over the raised walls of the Forum of Vespasian.
The second stretch of the Via resting on the ground – precisely where the excavations of the Colina Velia give the certainty of an absence of any kind of archaeological findings –will go from the raised carrefour of the Forum Pacis to the new square surrounding the Colosseo, this will be understood as a unitary urban system destined to be reception and distribution area for visitors to the Republican and Imperial Forums. This second stretch will run across the south side of the current street, also with a smaller section, and tangent to the retaining walls of the Velia designed by Antonio Muñoz, a beautiful work of brick and travertine that we understand as an exemplary treatment which we wish to prolong and extend to encircle the Coliseum itself, becoming this way the true great reception square for visitors to the forums. The amplitude of this elliptic square will allow the creation of an adequate landing area for public transport in this main access to the forums of Rome.
And which square will be better than this of the Coliseum and which monument better than the Coliseum itself to be the entrance, the reception, the access to this cuore di Roma that are the Roman Forums? The symbolic and emblematic value of the Coliseum – vera icona di Roma – cannot be discussed: never did a city and a monument been so identified forever. This square will integrate the last stretch of the Via dei Fori Imperiali that comes from the Forum Pacis becomes the milestone of the entire system of entries, resting and retail areas for visitors to the monumental ensemble based upon and formed by the arcade and wall previously described. An arcade over a wall, a massive brick structure, contributing to that atmosfera di romanità of the forums and also enabling not only the definition of the topography and diverse entries of the roads that find here their start or ending – Via Labicana, Via Claudia, Via di San Gregorio- but also the different areas destined to be gateways or services as if they were tabernae of the Forum of Trajan giving this way unity to the ensemble.
BASILICA OF MAXENTIUS - TEMPLE OF VENUS AND ROME
From the great square of the Coliseum the visitor will enter the Roman Forum traversing Roman streets according to two alternatives: through the Arch of Titus straight to the Via Sacra or by the Clivus di Venere Felice – parallel to the Temple of Venus and Rome – to the Basilica of Maxentius transformed into the great vestibule for visitors to the Roman Forum. We aim to recover the set of emblems and signs of the ancient basilica and its original volumetry by repositioning the lost pavement, relocating of a copy of the Corinthian column now facing the main façade of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, reconstructing the first section of the canopy vault of the basilica, placing an inspired reintegration of the Colossus of Constantine, and also by elevating every structure of piers or bearing walls that enable the recognition of the geometry of the building.
The recovery of the proanos of the temple of Venus and Rome is hereby proposed as counterpoint to the imposing façade of the Coliseum, this will be achieved by the partial reconstruction of the elevation of the temple and the evocation of the forest of columns of the pronaos by the repositioning of their bases and sections of their shafts. Here is intended the same effect achieved in the temples of Apollo at Dydima or the one of Olympian Zeus in Athens, as it is known one of the possible models Hadrian wanted to evoke in this temple, undoubtedly the most Greek of Roman temples. Inside, the partial reconstruction of the vaulted cella will take place allowing its use as auditorium or hall for visitors that come from the Basilica of Maxentius. We also propose the re-erection of the Colossus of Nero in its original location quoting the renowned project of Carlo Aymonino which we would like to build - simplified - as homage to the architect. The Colossus will become a high tower, a magnificent belvedere confronting the Temple of Venus and Rome and the Coliseum. To reinforce the importance of the square between these monuments we propose also the reconstruction of the Meta Sudans, disappeared with the demolitions of the 20th century.
LUDUS MAGNUS MUSEUM
The use of the remaining structures of the Ludus Magnus to place the new Antiquarium or Museum of the Roman Forums is sensible not only to enable the rescue from its pitiful state – still half-buried by anodyne dwellings – but also to form a functional unity with the Coliseum, to which it was linked through a subterranean passage. Its position on the south-eastern end of the axis of the Via dei Fori Imperiali is propitious to link the public archaeological area of the Forums to the Domus Aurea of Nero and the future park. A museum understood as a great architectural and visual ending for the entire proposal and revealing itself as a fundamental part of the great reception square of the Coliseum dominating this elliptical space and emphatically rising over the new brick arcade for services and shops.
A museum conceived as a great aerial prism, articulated by three wings and standing over a powerful structure that lifts the building one floor over the rescued ruins of the Ludus Magnus and that will have a replica of the Forma Urbis Severiana incised on marble in its façade facing the Coliseum, a replica reproduced to its integrity and on its true scale while its original fragments will be kept inside.
The three mentioned bodies have an open courtyard with three levels of galleries made of marble and glass being the first of them placed over the portico around the elliptical amphitheatre – where gladiators used to train – carefully reconstructed on brick and marble. This C-shaped courtyard opens towards the so called Augusteum, a square room where the scale model of ancient Rome in the age of Constantine by Italo Gismondi – now at the Museo della Civiltà Romana – will be kept under a great wooden pyramidal structure covered once more with white Carrara marble.
This building for the museum – as it seems – pays tribute to a period and a group of architects that exemplified here their finest projects: we refer to Giuseppe Terragni and Adalberto Libera – among others – who in this very place dreamt about so many projects in the 1930’s. In other words, the entire proposal wants to pay tribute to all those architects and architectures, ancient or modern, we do love and which we feel closer to, precisely being here, in Rome.
AUX ACCORDS D’AMPHION
Aux accords d’Amphion
les pierres se mouvaient,
Et sur les murs thébains en ordre s’élevaient.
L'harmonie en naissant produisit ces miracles
See, look and reconstruct with the sight at once – as analogy to the way Amphion produced the most harmonious accords playing his flute – as an integral part of the unitary process so characteristic of this constructive vision born from the Ruins, an attitude that we share as basis of our proposal for the whole area of the Imperial Fora. Geometry of light, geometry of the sights of Roman citizens, of visitors that during their tour through the renovated ruins will achieve by changing the focus of their eyesight rebuild the space of the Imperial Fora.
Because here at the Imperial Fora where everything which is not made of stone is made of light or shadow, recalling – both of them – that which was absent before. Materials which are transformed into light: light that spreads from walls to columns and that not always seems to come from the outside but from the inner self of each fragment. Precious fragments that shine: their light is not an accident but the substance that supports reality, the typological presence of this forums now recovered, turning everyday life again under the light. It could be said that architecture and light reinvent these spaces, masonry made of light, paraphrasing Octavio Paz.
It is quite true that in the forums, when light precipitates, columns awake and, without moving, dance, using once again the voice of Octavio Paz. Shadows, which light and time move over walls and pavement, and somehow accompany columns that –under the sun – seem to dance while we enjoy – through this poetic intercession – the rhythmic spectacle orchestrated by their porticoes and their large exedras, which restore the spatial splendour of the squares of the Imperial Fora. Therefore it is time for a renewed architecture for this forums, defined by that light of architecture.
And we share Alberto Savinio´s idea that a subtle affinity runs from town to town, a friendship of stone, an Albertian friendship of colours and material, of streets and squares that we want to recreate between the Roma Antica and the Contemporary Rome, always looking for each other for centuries willing to become a one and only Rome, both for its citizens and its visitors. A lasting dream that now could become a happy reality. Thus the marvellous will become real – and the other way round – the real will be marvellous, like Ariosto when he found himself walking on the streets of Ferrara and, at a time, walking on the moon, as Jorge Luis Borges poetically remembers.
Aritz Diez Oronoz
Imanol Iparraguirre Barbero
Iñigo Peñalba Arribas
Ignacio-Santiago Arce García
Iñaki Galarraga Aldanondo
Santiago Sanchez Beitia
Ana Azpiri Albistegui