The Colosseum may once again be not only “looked at” but “used” as an urban space
Good news came to us before Christmas: the publication of the announcement of the return of the arena of the Colosseum, the only one of the great amphitheaters of the ancient world that has been deprived of it after the archaeological excavations of the last century. Sometimes I am pointed out, for better or for worse, as responsible for this story, which has its origin in my submissive proposal, written back in 2014. But the merits certainly go elsewhere: to the intuition of Giuliano Volpe, who suggested reading my text to the Minister. Dario Franceschini, and obviously him, who followed his words of gratitude (not always in politics!) With the necessary sources of funding for the project.
And then to the Archaeological Park of the Colosseum, born of one of the minister’s most controversial reforms, which now give the first obvious results: to its director, archaeologists, architects, all the staff, who effectively created the premises for this decisive step, after years dedicated to very exhaustive investigations aimed at the analytical knowledge of the monument. My satisfaction comes from the concrete manifestation of the fact that, therefore, certain things can be done in Italy; that the operation of the Public Administration can be enabled; that, if the idea is good, it can also be given good legs.
The announcement, for the most part, identifies and indicates the technical difficulties of the company and their overcoming. The design, which obviously will not be able to alter the emergent structures by adapting to the fundamental principles of restoration, must offer adequate solutions to guarantee both the perception of the old floor, which housed the games, and the vision of the whole. labyrinth of underlying structures and mechanisms. It must propose the reorganization of a unitary plan with a high technological content with alternate fixed and mobile sectors capable of being easily maneuvered; and they must be studied to protect the structures from atmospheric precipitation as well as from excessive insolation, guaranteeing the delicate microclimate in the hypogeal zone. Therefore, there is a wide field of intervention for the best professionals who want to try their luck. We look forward to the result of the selection and the start of the works, scheduled for the end of the year.
I am not surprised that the emphasis of the media has once again placed the accent, as it did six years ago, on the question: “What will they do after that?” Taking this legitimate curiosity for granted, and taking into account the crude benaltrisms that are specifically proposed, for me the answer is simple: what the manager of the monument (that is, the Mibact for the Coliseo Park) will consider appropriate to program, putting his face and assume responsibilities to public opinion. And various cultural and social events are welcome, including well-done re-enactments of the ancients. to play gladiators. Why shouldn’t what is legal in other venues also be allowed in the most famous performance building of antiquity?
In any case, it is my duty to remember that the reasons for my old proposal did not stem from that question, but from two pressing needs: that the protection of the underground, recklessly exposed to the elements for decades, be preserved and that the integrity of the floor be restore the architectural form to a famous monument, which had been deprived of it in its last century of life due to improvised archaeological excavations (not excavations). A house without a floor and without a roof can exist and be beautiful, as Sergio Endrigo sang, “in via dei matti number zero.” And indeed, the Colosseum is beautiful. IT IS kalos; but i wish it was kalòs kai agathòsAs the ancient Greeks would say, for whom formal beauty was assured by the symmetry of the parts, by the ethical harmony of decency and usefulness, that is, of the complementarity between the beautiful and the good. A house without a floor can be beautiful, but it cannot be good. Even more so when we take off that floor.
Restoring a flat does not imply, nor exclude, a social use of the Colosseum, which returns it not only to globalized and local tourism, but finally also to Roman citizens and to the many who have lost intimacy with this heritage icon. world archeology, which past history had guaranteed, as a place of devout religiosity in the eighteenth century, of European tourism in the nineteenth century, of massive events in the first half of the twentieth century, until the waste of these last decades of paroxysmal development of the mass tourism. The Colosseum will be able to once again be not only “looked at” as a painting, but “used”, as an urban space: not only an “attraction” but finally an “activator” of culture.
Therefore, contemporary events are welcome, although they must find a limit in the physical protection of the monument and in the economic compatibility of its management. But there is a small “but”: please, let’s not call the new arena with technological pavement, but piazza, “the common square”, as defined by medieval documents from the time when the Colosseum was bursting with life. In common street that ignored the games of the ancients such as the processions of the modern ones, that gigantic mass, already in ruins, between shops, stables, workshops and modest houses, housed the most varied activities as a neighborhood of the city, before the earthquake of 1349 and the Events in history opened a new stage of life for a monument that has already experienced so many: as many as its long existence has allowed, which in a handful of decades will celebrate its two thousandth anniversary.
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