Methodological Approach and Urban Design
The area of the Fori Imperiali is the result of actions over time, of restorative interests and archaeological observations in their most variable facets.
The current situation represents the summary of numerous artificial contexts as epilogues of architectural postmortem investigations.
The operated excavations have eliminated almost all of the post-classical stratifications but the monumentalities resulting from the adaptations of ancient remnants for religious purposes.
The scenography focused on the Colosseo – introduced by Muñoz from 1931 – has changed the modalities of perception of the monuments, reducing the impact of the out-of-scale elements and modifying orientations, but updating the set of components with an extraordinary setting.
Almost a kilometer long, the axis of the Via dei Fori Imperiali is an integral part of the urban landscape and maintains the role of an essential crossing for the most important archaeological area of the center of Rome.
The place is an archaeological site with a sharp character of modern invention, where the archaeological details are exhibited to the wide public with a memorial aim through their perceptual interconnection.
Over the years, complexitiy and a certain provisionality in the spatial structure have arisen; the consistence of the arboreal presences which mediated the relationship between the archaeological “voids” and the density of the city has impoverished.
The site is nowadays open to a revelatory project that, following a culture that is conscious of the non-bridgeable differences between historical periods, and thus of the importance of restoring differentiated moments of memory, can clarify the meanings of the remnants, and propose their re-composition.
Due to the fragmentation of the excavated areas and to the divisions produced by the margins of the traffic arrangement, it is necessary to redefine the limits of the various excavated zones, as well as the relationship between open and covered spaces.
In a similar reconciliatory way, the environmental condition can be rethought through the reinforcement of the arboreal presence, with the aim of reconnecting the trace of Via dei Fori Imperiali with the green system of Via Appia Antica.
The straight road running through the area remains the structuring element, a path with the double value of axis between two symbolic landmarks, and of “linear square” with multiple transversal landings, perceptible through sequences to re-articulate.
The operational approach is intended to regain the meaning of the figure of the place proceeding from the arrangement of diverse monumental cores along a path which dialogues implicitly with the surrounding citiy.
Each core poses its own valorisation theme and, together with the archaeological remnants, supports the idea of a route immersed within a "cultural landscape" of urban scale.
The dialogue with the Ancient turns different artefacts – fragments of architecture, buildings, urban fabrics – into active presences through multiscalar connections composed of new exhibition, service and support spaces, consistent with the various places and with the sediments of their own images.
Via dei Fori Imperiali, semi-pedestrian and cycleable, partially reduced in its passable section, is an essential prerequisite of this new condition of fruition.
Redesigned on its grounds and its adjacent sides, this path can become part of the ring road that connects the Vittoriano, the Colosseo and the Circo Massimo, allowing the transit of small, electric means of public transport, taxis, as well as logistic and emergency vehicles.
Architectural and Landscape Design
With a coherent design grammar characterized by a constant communicative focus, the intention of the design proposal is to provide visitors with an effective perception of the spaces, encouraging them to respect and to care for the remnants, to understand the formal complexity of the material workmanship and of the intangible characters of the cultures they witness.
The project is conceived as a unitary action that takes into account all the coordinated forces among architecture, archeology and museography. The focus on conservation is understood within the context of a contemporary design action, in which "the scenography of the Ancient" is updated.
The valorisation of Via dei Fori Imperiali allows to give coherence and recognition to the proposed design interventions. The opportunities for other, new and measured volumes derive from the pre-existing traces, or obtained through the integration of spaces and buildings of major importance – yet no longer used – into the urban system.
Their formal definition is based on the guiding principles of distinctiveness and reversibility. “To distinguish” means to individualize and to enrich the historical stratification by ordering the physical and perceptual sequences. “Reversibility” stands for equipping each new part with the prevailing character of addiction, with respect to the pre-existing, without any forcing.
The new volumes are realized in steel frames with outer facings in subtle elements of dark rough-surfaced peperino stone, and inner lining of steel slabs varnished with epoxy powder. The roofs introduce grass surfaces. The underlying intention of the project is to restore clarity and legibility for each monumental core along Via dei Fori Imperiali, deleting the material and imaginative degradation of the present condition. The road embankment is re-dimensioned through a re-modulation of the limits according to the arrangement planes of each single Foro. In this new urban system – partly in embankment and partly in viaduct – the vehicular and pedestrian lanes are inserted in a unique flooring, but made adequately distinguishable by means of discrete integrated graphical limits within the continuity of the surfaces.
The variability of depth of the edges and the available elevation heights allow for the accommodation of panoramic terraces on the top, descent devices, spaces for rest, refreshment and service areas at the intermediate levels, interspersed with each other and covered with grass parterres and planted arrangements. The redesigned architecture of the road becomes the device that allows visitors to closely appreciate the uniqueness, the complexity and the exceptionality of the site. Through the implementation and reconnection of the tree masses of Pinus Pinea, the green arrangement constitutes an element of mediation between the archaeological excavations and the city.
The partial redesign of the surroundings of the Vittoriano, which constitutes the starting point of the new system, reconsiders the original plan by Raffaele De Vico who had originated a unitary arrangement ordered by flower beds and trees converging on the monument.
Proceeding from Piazza Venezia towards the Colosseo, the cores of the Auditoria di Adriano, the Monastero of Sant’Urbano in the Foro di Traiano, and the Foro della Pace, and the complex cores of the Palazzo Silvestri Rivaldi-Basilica di Massenzio e del Colosseo-Ludus Magnus are identified.
The Auditoria di Adriano, leaning to the northern sector of the Foro di Traiano, are integrated into the overall urban design in order not to further undermine the perception of Piazza Venezia, and – protected by a green sloping roof – will be made accessible from the nearby Archaeological Museum in the Palazzo delle Assicurazioni Generali, that shares the same history. The ruins of the Monastero di Sant’Urbano-Ospedale dei Cavalieri di Rodi in the Foro di Traiano – one of the few post-classical remnants which survived the demolition of the Quartiere Alessandrino – are used to define volumetrically new exhibition spaces. The route that makes them accessible is one of the opportunities to achieve cross-connections between the Fori and the archaeological dimension. A similar intervention, aimed at reuse, is proposed for the remnants situated behind the Chiesa dei Santi Luca e Martina, near the Foro di Cesare.
The completion of the excavations of the Foro della Pace becomes an occasion for enhancing open spaces, with the transformation of Largo Corrado Ricci, and the realisation of new built parts. At the archaeological level the revival of the ancient public garden with pools of water and roses is proposed. The need to adopt specific conservation methods for the remnants and the precious floors of the Templum Pacis – recently unearthed – pushes toward the creation of a large "protective showcase" furrowed by the route of Via dei Fori Imperiali which enables a direct view on the archaeological ground through large glass openings.
The Palazzo Silvestri Rivaldi-Basilica di Massenzio monumental core is configured as a system that integrates modern urban artefacts, Renaissance architectures, ancient monumental pieces. The main access occurs through the reception and support spaces for the visitors, divided into two levels, placed under the Belvedere Cederna and behind the surrounding wall conceived by Muñoz for the Velia, and eventually connected to the Metropolitana C. A system of connections allows to link Palazzo Silvestri Rivalidi and the Basilica di Massenzio through the new volume of the Templum Pacis. The reuse of the Palazzo for exhibition purposes refers to the historical presence of the Cardinal Silvestri art collection; the introduction of two new volumes near the Basilica, located at the corner of the medieval porch overlooking the Via Sacra and on the side of the Church of Santa Francesca Romana, fulfil the requirements of accessibility, service and restaurant for visitors.
The organic nature of the "Colosseo-Ludus Magnus" core is highlighted by the re-design of the surfaces and edges around the arena, integrating the ongoing excavations in a more regular configuration through the reproposition of the basement of the Apollo Elio neronian colossus and of a veil of water on the place of the Meta Sudans – the oldest fountain in Rome. The spatial relationships with the Arco di Costantino and the axial correspondences Tempio di Venere e Roma – whose accesses and affinity to the archaeological landscape are improved – are reinforced.
New services and spaces for visitors are provided in the southern border of the Piazza del Colosseo near the Sperone designed by Stern, with the realization of a linear volume excavated in the road embankment surmounted by an arboreal row. In this same front and in the adjacent one on the East, the opening of two underground pathways that pass below the existing road embankments has been foreseen, connecting the square both with the future excavations of the Terme di Tito, and with the Ludus Magnus. From the archaeological portion of the latter, a mechanized connection leads to the plan of the city and to a new architecture suspended on pilotis, the volume of which completes a clear absence in an otherwise dense urban fabric. In this new architecture, rooms for temporary exhibitions, an archaeological thematic library, an auditorium and a restaurant find space.
The peculiarities of the site suggest the opportunity of not proceeding with the concentration of the remnants into a big, single Antiquarium, but to articulate their exhibition through new spaces and itineraries.
The design solution proposes to bring back to Fori Imperiali the artifacts kept in the Mercati Traianei, in the pole of the Centrale Montemartini and in the storages of the Musei di Roma in order to set up meaningful narrations through the location of sequences of spaces and exhibition routes at the proximity of the digging sites, equipping them with storage rooms. This gives rise to the possibility of multiple types of experience of the sites and their history in accordance with the interests of visitors, allowing to understand, through the direct relation between archaeological remnants and site, the value of those otherwise de-contextualised fragments.
Constant traits of the project are the detectable definition of volumes and the treatment of the facades with wide windows cut into the perimeter surfaces of discreet and stereometric volumes, thus allowing a deep introspection between inside and outside, and establishing a visual connection among diverse historical periods and ground heights.
A first visiting path is located at Piazza Venezia where the musealized excavation of the Auditoria di Adriano is given fruition and integrated in a system of interconnected exhibition spaces which, starting from the Museo Archeologico delle Assicurazioni Generali, and passing through these sites, reaches the Biblioteca dei Mercati Traianei and subsequently the Domus at Palazzo Valentini.
At the Foro di Traiano the presence of remnants of the Monastero di Sant’Urbano-Ospedale dei Cavalieri di Rodi constitutes the chance for the realization of a path which describes the diachrony among post-classical parts of the city, and for the configuration of new exhibition spaces to shelter the archaeological fragments discovered in this Foro and in the adjacent Foro di Augusto.
In a similar way the archaeological discoveries from the Foro di Cesare are exhibited in a space nearby the Chiesa dei Santi Luca e Martina which is integrated in a route that, from the complex of Sant'Urbano, reaches Foro di Nerva – where remains of late-medieval houses are preserved – for ending into Foro della Pace which is reconfigured in order to evoke its ancient character of wide-scale public garden.
At Palazzo Silvestri Rivaldi – that originally also hosted the collection of cardinal Eurialo Silvestri – the arrangement of the sculptural portraits currently preserved at Mercati Traianei and discovered here in a Domus during the construction of Via dei Fiori, is proposed. Behind the supporting wall by Muñoz, a system of welcoming and communication spaces with plastic models, multimedia workstations, multisensorial black boxes, is obtained, and connects the Palace to the archaeological ground. From here the new volumes sheltering the precious pavings of the worship room of the Templum Pacis can be reached. In this place, that in ancient times was where it was originally displayed, the fragments of the Forma Urbis Severiana and their re-composition are exhibited.
Further on, the path gets to the level of the Basilica di Massenzio where new mechanized connections permit to arrive at the roof level of the terrace, an exceptional viewpoint over the landscape of Palatino and of the Fori Repubblicani.
A further space for temporary exhibitions is provided and fully integrated in the new volume above the remnants of the Ludus Magnus, functionally enriching this new polarity while freeing the arcade of the Colosseo from this use.