EXPLORING THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE TERRITORY: Diploma 14 in RomeInterview

An interview with the 4th and 5th year students of Diploma Unit 14

 

10 February 2016
Rome, Italy

 

Diploma 14 completed their own pilgrimage as they explored Rome with tutors Pier Vittorio Aureli (a native Roman), and Maria Giudici. Between the 20km-a-day walks they discovered the story of the city, from past to present, as further research toward the unit’s brief of ‘The Nomos of the Earth: Rethinking the Architecture of the Territory’. Here they answer a few of our questions to tell us more about the trip.

 

Have your perceptions of the term ‘territory’ altered in any way as a result of the trip?

 

James: From the ancient basilicas to the Pope Sixtus V’s obelisks, I think the sense of vastness and ambition of the past really strikes me more than before. The scale of architecture was employed critically and strategically for inhabitants to perceive the presence of the ruling political power at that time.

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A Roman milestone along the Via Appia. Photo by Laurenz Berger

NA: Absolutely, especially in regards to the term ‘order’ and ‘orientation’ of the territory, which is never truly visible or realizable on a street scale but only on an urban scale.

Laurenz: For me, it was astonishing how much my perception of Rome changed during the trip – for instance on top of the ancient Roman sanctuary in Palestrina I would for the first time see the chain of volcanoes surrounding the city (and discover that the sea was actually nearby, too).

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Pier Vittorio Aureli looking over the view from Palestrina. Photo by Pablo Sanchez Lopez

Michela: By studying and walking through urban and suburban architectural projects, I believe I have perceived the most interesting notion of territory: its ‘scalelessness’ entity.

Sorina: Yes, where I initially thought of territory as being solely a geographical term, I now perceive it differently. It is strongly linked with power, and the interests those in power had over the land.

 

What aspects of Rome did you identify with the term ‘territory’?

 

James: The fact that the consular roads became an extensive territorial armature for Romans to deploy their sequences of milestone not only to measure distance but to offer a sense of orientation towards the ancient metropolis.

Noel: The most obvious was the Via Appia as it suggested that Rome was part of a greater network.

Pablo: The basilicas, which were constructed at the edges of the city to claim the Roman territory.

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The ceiling of the San Paolo Basilica. Photo by Tané Kinch

Mahsa: The fascinating fact about Rome is how the geographical condition of the territory has a direct effect on the formation of the city. Also, it was really interesting to see how through minimum architectural interventions, the future expansion of the city can be more or less defined.

Michela: As a result of the trip, I now consider within the definition a series of elements, from the church of San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane, with its powerful spatial definition of the junction, to the Via Appia, which still today works as a spine between the urban and the suburban.

Yasser: Moving from site to site on foot, walking for hours and absorbing the expansion of Rome, its physical presence through its ancient roads, is something I can identify the terms Rome and territory with.

EXPLORING THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE TERRITORY: Diploma 14 in Rome

In what ways was the trip insightful as a medium of research for your own project?

 

Pablo: It was very interesting to see how large Roman buildings were constructed over a very long period of time, which will be relevant to the large interventions that we will be projecting.

Panos: As the lifespan– and effect- of buildings can be (much) greater than our own, sustainability and flexibility are of tremendous importance.

Laurenz: Personally, I was surprised by the difference a ‘territorial’ element can make in experiencing the city- being able to see, for example, from one basilica to the next along the route creates a very pleasant sense of orientation.

Mahsa: For me, Rome was a city that has been a stage for various powers to play out their roles and affect their crowds; therefore, each authority arranges their stage differently. Thus, the city of Rome has become the accumulation of objects, which are inserted by multidisciplinary powers overtime, but surprisingly enough, all these objects work in harmony and the city keeps growing in between.

Tané: It was very promising for me to witness the permanent, long-lasting effect ancient powers had on a still so current city; the fact that architecture isn’t always disposable.

 

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Pier Vittorio Aureli disclosing the details of the Palazzos. Photo by Gabriel Wulf

Which site/building/object did you find most inspiring?

 

NA: Personally it was the Santuario della Fortuna Primigenia in Palestrina. As well as a strong system and order within the centre of Rome, this massive building (or village) defines the limit of the Ancient Rome. While progressing the project in the unit, it is becoming very understandable to signify a definition of a limit of the city, area, space, and their order.

Laurenz: The Via Appia I found absolutely amazing since it is an existing ancient road, very beautiful to walk along, incredibly well preserved, and so astonishingly well-made- perfectly straight. I also liked the fact that following this road one would arrive at the southern tip of Italy.

Sorina: I found the Oratorio del Gonfalone a true gem. This particular oratory is a highly decorated but minute space. It often holds concerts in a space that is painted with very bright and vivid frescoes.

Tané: I was wildly impressed by the Via Appia, a straight road with the aim of connecting Rome to Greece. As students of architecture, we sometimes imagine such large-scale interventions like these, so it was encouraging to see it physically realized.

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Walking along the Via Appia. Photo by James Mak

Can you share with us a highlight or favourite experience from the trip?

 

Gabriel: There was one moment, I remember as the essence of the trip: Pier Vittorio lecturing in the patio of a renaissance palazzo. He was really in his element. Or the little break once we arrived in the amphitheatre of the Santuario Fortuna Primigenia in Palestrina, where we had the view over the whole of Rome until the sea.

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Diploma 14 sharing the view from the Santuario della Fortuna Primigenia in Palestrina. Photo by Pablo Sanchez Lopez

Panos: For me, as I know Rome well, the Oratorio del Gonfalone was a new experience that definitely added to my understanding of the city.

Laurenz: On our intense daily tours, short breaks along the way were sometimes very much needed. Then, the coffee was always a highlight – I cannot believe how good and cheap coffee is anywhere in Italy.

Sorina: Well, Palestrina was the highlight for sure. What a struggle to get to the top, but what a view! Well worth the leg power. The sanctuary was truly the highlight of the trip, a lovely spot up in the mountains 35km east of Rome. Inside, the Hellenistic mosaic depicting the Nile and its iconographic history was truly incredible. Though recently restored, it did give us some inspiration for our analogous maps!

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Diploma 14 at the Santuario della Fortuna Primigenia in Palestrina. Photo by Pablo Sanchez Lopez

 

Tell us a fun fact you learnt about Rome.

 

James: When Pier Vittorio said Rome had the best pizza in the world, he really meant it.

Noel: There’s a very good bar on Piazza San Calisto, called Bar San Calisto. Great place.

Pablo: Shoes in Rome are actually not good quality. Ice cream is though.

Sorina: That column orders have a male or female nature.

 

For more information:

Diploma 14

Diploma 14 Extended Brief

Diploma 14 Website