The Pilot Worksite

The first month of 2014 has seen an important new intervention.

After the experiment already carried out at a smaller scale, we are about to open the pilot worksite in a vast area above the West Wing,

which will lead to the implementation of all the works planned as part of the rehabilitation Project for the Domus Aurea: from excavation of the earth layer of the current Oppian Hill park, to uncovering and then rehabilitating the ancient remains, up to the implementation of the technological package and finally the presentation of an innovative arrangement for the area above the Domus. This will continue to be a park, a place to stroll and relax, as the archaeological excavations have shown that the Trajanic Terrace also was in part, embracing the principle of sustainability to combine environmental benefits with the safeguard of the monument on which it stands.

The pilot worksite represents the transition from the test phase to the definitive phase of the project to rehabilitate the Domus Aurea, which will be presented to the public in a few months’ time.

The area concerned, covering about 730 sq m, lies above two different situations: Gallery 20E and Gallery 20F, which subdivide the original open space of the western peristyle, extending southwards to comprise the area where these galleries join Neronian Rooms 29 (the Room of the Vault of the Owls) and 31 (Room of the Yellow Vault) and northwards beyond the boundary formed by Cryptoporticus 19.

Gallery 20E, at the centre of the original Neronian courtyard, was excavated in the early 19th century during the works by De Romanis. Next to it, Gallery 20F is still full of earth.

Overall plan of the Domus Aurea: in yellow the pilot worksite area – SSBAR Archive

Overall plan of the Domus Aurea: in yellow the pilot worksite area – SSBAR Archive

We chose this area was because of the need to intervene with structural repair work on the vault of Gallery 20E which presented a serious lesion where there is now a modern skylight.

Modern skylight on the Oppian Hill – SSBAR Archive

Modern skylight on the Oppian Hill – SSBAR Archive

Demolition of the modern skylight – SSBAR Archive

Demolition of the modern skylight – SSBAR Archive

We needed first of all to remove the soil layer above it by opening Test Pit E  to expose the outer surface of the vault, allowing for the demolition of the skylight, the development of the structural rehabilitation plan and works to repair the vault, still underway.

Detail of the plan showing the test pits – SSBAR Archive

Detail of the plan showing the test pits – SSBAR Archive

A series of archaeological studies had already been carried out in this area in 2013: above the gallery Test Pits Q, S and the southern part of E showed the presence of the cement screed that forms the surface of the terrace of the Baths of Trajan, sloping slightly from north to south. As can be seen in the photo, we have uncovered the large hole in the centre of the vault of the gallery, created by the construction of the skylight.

Test Pit E – SSBAR Archive

Test Pit E – SSBAR Archive

At the north and south ends of Galleries 20E and 20F, and thus partially above the Neronian rooms, we found structures and layers belonging to the Neronian period: half of Test Pit E provides a view of the roof of the Neronian corridor (Cryptoporticus 19) that confirms the presence of the terrace arrangement with parapets at the sides and skylights, already found in Test Pits F and G.

Hangar above Test Pit E – SSBAR Archive

Hangar above Test Pit E – SSBAR Archive

Other operations preliminary to the opening of the pilot worksite involved arranging the area with the consequent removal of the lampposts and, with authorization from the department for the Safeguard of the Environment and Green Areas – Civil Protection Authority and the Rome Soprintendenza per i beni Architettonici e Paesaggistici, the felling of four plants: two stumps, one of laurel and one locust tree, a locust tree and a laurel regrown from stumps that had previously been coppiced and had sickened as discovered by the analyses undertaken by the technicians.

We then installed a hangar with the dual function of allowing work to progress as usual independently of the weather in the winter season and above all of ensuring constant microclimatic conditions inside the rooms beneath. The trend of the microclimatic situation will be monitored both outside and inside the monument.

Cavity with colony of termites – SSBAR Archive

Cavity with colony of termites – SSBAR Archive

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