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Work to secure, protect and rehabilitate Room 34 is now complete.
The most important interventions were the closure of a large gap in the outer façade of the Domus, alongside some minor work to protect and secure wall fragments, wall faces and parts of the wall structures.
Rotation of the Façade Towards the Outside
The detailed and extensive checks on the consistency of the walls and the brick courses allowed us to determine that the rotation of the wall had stabilized; we therefore decided to intervene in accordance with the project guidelines and “repair” the structure without using processes or materials that would in any way “alter” the nature of the wall; using natural limes and binders allowed us to achieve the desired consistency and safety levels.
The Closure of the Gap in the Wall Measuring About 20 m2
One of the first features to strike us was the quality of the ancient wall faces and cores. A lack of care in the choice of bricks used to build the walls and the laying of the courses was immediately apparent; the size and quality of the bricks, and the uneven courses, characterize the whole façade of the Domus Aurea; by contrast, the wall cores were made using whole or fragmentary bricks rather than the far more common little tufa blocks, bound with high quality mortars that ensured the high resistance of the walls, no thicker than 70-75 cm.
The use of non-shrink mortars and triangular bricks (which ensure a better adherence between wall face and core) completed reconstruction and consolidation work; the empty hole was finally closed.
Construction of a Counter-Vault
The close-up examination of the structural consistency of the vault over Room 34 allowed us to ascertain the extent of the damage caused by rainwater in this part of the Domus Aurea.
The studies immediately carried out on the impost of the vault were alarming: specifically, the mortars and especially the tufa blocks forming the vaulted structure had been reduced to the consistency of sand.
More specifically, the entire back part of the vault, for about a quarter of its length, was compromised making it essential to intervene immediately.
The structural project indicated the type and characteristics of the intervention, which was carried out at once.
Furthermore, the close-up examination of the decayed portions of the walls and the imposts in the rest of Room 34 led us to another unanimous decision: to extend the protective structure to the rest of the room to ensure the necessary safety levels.
Securing of Decorations and Stucco
We were only able to access the upper part of the room after erecting scaffolding; here we noted the presence, in a room of the Domus that was apparently not of primary importance, of some surviving fragments of fine stucco wall decorations, almost completely covered by the concretions that formed the room during many centuries of percolation and that we had to detach from the wall before proceeding with the construction of the counter-vault.
The conservation works to be carried out in the north-western area of the Domus Aurea, aimed at tackling the two main objectives of intervention on the monument, are now underway.
When we took on the job of consolidating and conserving Room 34 of the Domus Aurea, the tasks and difficulties to be tackled seemed fairly circumscribed.
After several months of work by a group of conservators, we are about to complete the intervention to secure the decorations of the Great Cryptoporticus which delimits the East Wing of the Domus to the north.
The morphology of the archaeological monument, and the complexity and number of consolidation interventions – planned and underway – entail a need for particularly careful health and safety management in accordance with the most stringent current legislation (Italian legislative decree no. 81/08, no. 106/09 as amended).
Work to secure Room 33, the Room of the Red Vault, has recently been completed.
Conservation work aimed at securing the surfaces of the Domus Aurea decorated with plaster, wall paintings and stucco elements are proceeding in parallel with stability tests on architectural structures and environmental monitoring.
From 2006, the East Wing of the Domus Aurea, centred around the famous Octagonal Room, was the site of works undertaken by the Commissioner appointed to urgently secure the Domus Aurea by Directive no. 3541 of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers of 18 August 2006. After a research and planning phase, the first consolidation interventions (1st batch) began in 2010. These works, directed by the Commissioner L. Marchetti, entailed consolidating vertical walls and jack arches, alongside structural and microclimatic monitoring, concentrated in the East Wing of the monument. With the Directive of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers no. 4017 of 25 April 2012 the state of emergency ceased and responsibility for the whole monument and its management, with the remaining funds, was returned to the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma, which in the meantime had continued to work in the West Wing as well as acting to safeguard the monument.