Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Collapse of the Domus Aurea

The collapse today. Picture from Diario El País.

Today, newspapers around the world, have published about the sixty square meters (645 square feet) collapse of a gallery’s vault of the Domus Aurea.

"The real emergency is on the Palatine," said Domus Aurea Commissioner Antonello Vodret, referring to the first and greatest of Rome's hills, where the city was born and where its emperors later built their residences.
"Unless we get money soon, the whole hill could crumble".
"There are some 150 houses that have not been protected against water," Vodret said.
However, he voiced the hope that Tuesday's partial collapse of one of the tunnels of Hadrian's Baths, built over the Domus, would "hasten the arrival" of the funds.
Archeologist Andrea Carandini told ANSA that the situation of some of Ancient Rome's sites was so bad that "collapses have become a nightmare for me".
Tuesday's incident was "dramatic proof that there is a real emergency in Rome," he said, adding that it was lucky no one died when the tunnel roofing came down in what has been used since the early 20th century as a storage area for artifacts.
(From ANSA.IT)
Picture from ArteHistoria
Picture from
 Picture from MSN
The Domus Aurea (“Golden House”), has been built by Emperor Nero between the Great Fire of Rome (64 AD) and his suicide (68 AD) in English has a very good description of the villa. The following text is from this site, adapted.

The Domus Area was a large landscaped portico villa, designed to take advantage of artificially created landscapes built in the heart of Ancient Rome, after the Great Fire of Rome cleared away the aristocratic dwellings on the slopes of the Esquiline Hill.
Built of brick and concrete, the extensive gold-leaf that gave it its name was not the only extravagant element of its decor: stuccoed ceilings were applied with semi-precious stones and veneers of ivory while the walls were frescoed
The estimated size of the Domus Aurea is an approximation, as much of it has not been excavated. Some scholars place it at over 300 acres, while others estimate its size to have been under 100 acres.
Suetonius describes the complex as "ruinously prodigal" as it included groves of trees, pastures with flocks, vineyards and an artificial lake— rus in urbe, "countryside in the city". Nero also commissioned from the Greek Zenodorus a colossal 35.5 m high bronze statue of himself, the Colossus Neronis.  The statue was placed just outside the main palace entrance at the terminus of the Via Appia in a large atrium of porticoes that divided the city from the private villa. This statue may have represented Nero as the sun god Sol, as Pliny saw some resemblance. The face of the statue was modified shortly after Nero’s death during Vespasian’s  reign to make it truly a statue of Sol. Hadrian moved it, with the help of the architect Decrianus and 24 elephants, to a position next to the Flavian Amphitheater. This building took the name of “Colosseum” (Coliseo) in the Middle Ages, after the statue nearby, or, as some historians believe, because of the sheer size of the building.
The Golden House was a party villa, as shown by the presence of 300 rooms without any sleeping quarter. Strangely, no kitchens or latrines have been discovered yet either.
Rooms sheathed in dazzling polished white marble were given richly varied floor plans, shaped with niches and exedras  that concentrated or dispersed the daylight. There were pools in the floors and fountains splashing in the corridors.
Some of the extravagances of the Domus Aurea had repercussions for the future. The architects designed two of the principal dining rooms to flank an octagonal court, surmounted by a dome with a giant central oculus to let in light. It was probably the first Roman use of a dome that was not in a temple dedicated to the gods, such as the Pantheon, and an early use of concrete construction. One innovation was destined to have an enormous influence on the art of the future: Nero placed mosaics,  previously restricted to floors, in the vaulted ceilings. Only fragments have survived, but that technique was to be copied extensively, eventually ending up as a fundamental feature of Christian art: the apse mosaics that decorate so many churches in Rome, Ravenna, Sicily and Constantinople.
Engineers-architects Celer and Severus also created an ingenious mechanism, cranked by slaves, that made the ceiling underneath the dome revolve like the heavens, while perfume was sprayed and rose petals were dropped on the assembled diners. According to some accounts, perhaps embellished by Nero's political enemies, on one occasion such quantities of rose petals were dropped that one unlucky guest was asphyxiated
"Nero gave the best parties, ever," archaeologist Wallace-Hadrill told an interviewer when the Golden House was reopened to visitors in 1999 after being closed for years for restorations. "Three hundred years after his death, tokens bearing his head were still being given out at public spectacles - a memento of the greatest showman of them all." Nero, who was obsessed with his status as an artist, certainly regarded parties as works of art.
After Nero's death, the Golden House was a severe embarrassment to his successors. It was stripped of its marble, its jewels and its ivory within a decade. Soon after Nero’s death, the palace and grounds, encompassing 2.6 km² , were filled with earth and built over: the Baths of Titus  were already being built on part of the site in 79 AD. On the site of the lake, in the middle of the palace grounds, Vespasian built the Flavian Amphitheatre,  which could be reflooded at will, with the Colossus Neronis beside it.The Baths of Trajan, and the Temple of Venus and Rome  were also built on the site. Within 40 years, the Golden House was completely obliterated, buried beneath the new constructions, but paradoxically this ensured the wallpaintings' survival by protecting them from dampness.
Increasing concerns about the condition of the building and the safety of visitors resulted in its closing at the end of 2005 for further restoration work. The complex was partially reopened on February 6, 2007, but closed on March 25, 2008 because of safety concerns.
The likely remains of Nero's rotating banquet hall and its underlying mechanism were unveiled by archeologists on September 29, 2009.

To read about the collapse:

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails