From Ancient Background to Architectonic Opportunity
Sara D’Abate, Adriano Tasso_ Final thesis project of Master degree in Architecture, Università degli Studi Roma Tre (2015)
Project: The Aurelian Walls in the contemporary Rome after the Italian unification (XIX-XXI cc.). The urban development and the enhancement project of the section between San Giovanni in Laterano and Santa Croce in Jerusalem
Olinda is certainly not the only city that grows in concentric circles, like tree trunks which each year add one more ring. But in other cities there remains, in the center, the old narrow girlde of the walls from which the withered spires rise, the towers, the tiled roofs, the domes, while the new quarters sprawl around them like a loosened belt. Not Olinda: the old walls expand bearing the old quarters with them, enlarged but maintaining their proportions an a broader horizon at the edges of the city; they surround the slightly newer quarters, which also grew up on the margins and became thinner to make room for still more recent ones pressing from inside; and so, on and on, to the heart of the city, a totally new Olinda which, in its reduced dimensions retains the features and the flow of lymph of the first Olinda and of all the Olindas that have blossomed one from the other; and within this innermost circle there are always blossoming–though it is hard to discern them–the next Olinda and those that will grow after it.
-Calvino, Invisible cities
The Aurelian Walls are one of the most important ancient monument still standing, whose perception is obscured by an unresolved dialectic with the contemporary city. The study analyzes the urban dynamics during the intensive postunification expansion of the city. Their results, often drammatically disastrous, are now still visible, since unresolved spaces and deep scars prevent the perception of the wall as an urban space and an unitary monument.
Thus, the main aim is to rethink the Walls, not as an ancient “background”, but as an architectonic opportunity, that could re-shape lost and scattered fragments of the city. In the specific case the proposal focuses in the sector between San Giovanni in Laterano and Santa Croce in Gerusalemme where the Walls pass through complex parts of the city, that beyond their original characteristic of borders have now new significances. From connecting axis of the two basilicas to transport hub, this area will be one of the biggest transport interchange points of the city due the opening of the new metro line, and the entrance to one of the most suggestive monumental areas of Rome.
Who influences you graphically?
In this work our main inspiration was Rome. The monumentality of its architecture characterised our vision of the project. The setting of The great beauty by Paolo Sorrentino influenced us for the contrast between the ‘bigness’ of the architecture and history of the city and the ‘smallness’ of its inhabitants’ life. We explored this relationship also through Giorgio De Chirico’s paintings. The ancient cartography, mostly the medieval illustrations and the Giovanni Battista Nolli’s plan, was an important reference for the bi-dimensional drawings, but also theoretical studies about contemporary Rome, such as Roma Interrotta and Rome, The centre(s) elsewhere, have been a precious graphic resource. The depiction of the flora comes from the Roman School, for example the drawings of Francesco Cellini and Alessandro Anselmi. Finally we are always interested in all international graphic trends.
You use all means of representation, do you trust that only in this way is it possible to fully explain and explore a proposal?
We believe that every project has its own way to be represented, capable to value its qualities. In our case it was necessary to use various techniques of representation due to the complexity of the project and the different scales we worked on.
You talk about reactivating the walls so that they become an architectonic opportunity, how is this explored graphically?
We have represented the walls intact and homogeneous, even though, as today, the monument has traces of decay and material discontinuity, due to many different restoration techniques used through the centuries. We chose to represent the walls as a timeless element in order to emphasise the aim of the project to connect both all the different cities of the Past and the different fragments of the Aurelian circuit lost in the contemporary metropolis. Moreover the walls are not just an ancient background of the project, but they are the new point of view from which to observe and explore the city.
To what extent and how are you qualifying these unresolved spaces that surround the walls?
The walls, during the time, have lost their significance of boundary due to an irregular and uncontrolled growth of the city, which left behind residual spaces without their own identity. The proposal tries to reactivate these scattered fragments of the city by revealing their now hidden qualities. In the specific case of San Giovanni area we have rediscovered the ancient ground level and the medieval uses of the walls and we have reconnected them with the modern city, restoring the ancient gate of Porta Asinaria as the main entrance to the city centre. The adjacent garden, reprising the 18th century boulevard between the two basilicas San Giovanni in Laterano and Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, gives back dignity to the pomerium, forgotten memory of the original and mythic boundary.