A Colossal Mechanism

It is obvious that when we talk about the Colosseum, no introduction or description is needed, the superlative words are are automatisms and the mental space instantly builds the conventional form of the object-become-symbol. But if the repetitive image of this architectural, archeological, historical, etc. hypersignal is suddenly „contaminated”, then a different mechanism is activated and everything becomes much more exciting. This is what happens at the first „confrontation” with the project for the New Arena of the Colosseum, designed in a collaborative process by Milan Ingegneria, Fabio Fumagalli, Labics, Consilium and Croma.

The uncovered ruins in the entire Forum Romanum and the Colosseum with its “unveiled belly” revealing its excavated inner structures, are already emblematic in this directly (over)exposed form to the eye. In these hypostases there are traces and clues about the way the intact architectural organism has functioned throughout history, but it cannot be easily reconstituted by the untrained eye, which is rather seduced by the remains in their naked, ”museified”, frozen version. In order to get out of immobility the ”heaviest” historical monument caught in this paradigm – the Colosseum, the design team sets in motion a whole mechanism with new technologies.

The image of the Flavian Amphitheater with a colossal wooden arena is to be reconstructed with an ingenious retractable structure, at the same level and on the same perimeter of the historical one, integrated in the pre-existing system and strongly anchored in the present, by respecting a series of principles: high-performance, sustainability, reversibility. In a conceptual and material continuity, the intervention will allow a better conservation and protection of the archeological structures from the lower levels, reconstructing at the same time the original aspect of the amphitheater and the functioning of the underground areas.

1 - Pianta e sezione | Plan and section - Courtesy Milan Ingegneria, Fabio Fumagalli, Labics

6 - Render - Courtesy Milan Ingegneria, Fabio Fumagalli, Labics

A colossal new-tech stage machinery in synergy with the hypercomplex body of the historic monument – this could conceptually compress the ambitious proposal of the design team. At a practical level, the new arena will be made of light and high-performance materials, so that the structure consisting of dynamic insulated components with a small section can be supported by historic masonry. The section will be made of stainless steel and its internal structure will allow the installation of bollards to protect the retractable floor, will permit light to penetrate underground areas, will contain a system for removing bio-deteriorating organisms and a device for collecting and recovering rainwater. The surface of the platform is to be formed by revolving mobile panels made of a light and resistant composite material – carbon fiber and Termanto, covered in Accoya wood, which by opening, closing and sliding will create various configurations. Activating such a mechanism during the visit of the underground areas will open and filter new and spectacular views, amplifying the effect of natural light and the grandeur of the historic monument.

The quintessential architectural palimpsest, the Colosseum will receives a huge mechanised stratum placed on top of all the other layers. Beyond the high technological level of the project, the new arena produces changes on multiple levels. The intervention reconfigures the spatial relations and the paths, opens new perspectives, accessing old angles of view: you no longer tend from the margin towards the “center of the world” like a distant spectator, but look at the world right from its nucleus. However, if you want to discover its undersides, it is no longer openly revealed to you, but gradually submits you to a journey. Viewed from below, the Colosseum Cavea metamorphoses from a place intended for spectators into an arched scene that perpetuates itself dizzyingly to the infinite, on and on, from Antiquity into de distant future.


RO version

Article published in igloo #203 / august-septembrie 2021 / New Tech


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