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Update on Works in Room 34

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Work to secure, protect and rehabilitate Room 34 is now complete.

Overall plan of the Domus Aurea, in red Room 34 – SOPRINTENDENZA Archive

Overall plan of the Domus Aurea, in red Room 34 – SOPRINTENDENZA Archive

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

The original state of the wall: on the right the counter-façade, on the left the external façade. In yellow the gap measuring about 20 m2 – SOPRINTENDENZA Archive

The original state of the wall: on the right the counter-façade, on the left the external façade. In yellow the gap measuring about 20 m2 – SOPRINTENDENZA Archive

Work on the wall cores, wall faces, jack arches and arches in bipedales– SOPRINTENDENZA Archive

Work on the wall cores, wall faces, jack arches and arches in bipedales– SOPRINTENDENZA Archive

The façade of the Domus after the completion of reconstruction and conservation work. In red the gap, now filled in – SOPRINTENDENZA Archive

The façade of the Domus after the completion of reconstruction and conservation work.
In red the gap, now filled in – SOPRINTENDENZA Archive

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.

Reconstruction of the wall face around the door closed during the Trajanic period and already removed in antiquity. Note the uneven original courses and the use of bricks of different sizes SOPRINTENDENZA Archive

Reconstruction of the wall face around the door closed during the Trajanic period and already removed in antiquity. Note the uneven original courses and the use of bricks of different sizes SOPRINTENDENZA Archive

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.

Repairing the gap in the wall: in this phase the reconstruction of a wall face in opus reticulatum – SOPRINTENDENZA Archive

Repairing the gap in the wall: in this phase the reconstruction of a wall face in opus reticulatum – SOPRINTENDENZA Archive

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.

Complex falsework on the back wall of Room 34, needed to construct the counter-vault. SOPRINTENDENZA Archive

Complex falsework on the back wall of Room 34, needed to construct the counter-vault. SOPRINTENDENZA Archive

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.

The left-hand image shows the significant stripping needed to put the counter-vault structure in place; on the right note the placement of the scarf joints– SOPRINTENDENZA Archive

The left-hand image shows the significant stripping needed to put the counter-vault structure in place; on the right note the placement of the scarf joints– SOPRINTENDENZA Archive

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.

The completed counter-vault, awaiting continuation of the work – SOPRINTENDENZA Archive

The completed counter-vault, awaiting continuation of the work – SOPRINTENDENZA Archive

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.

Two photos of the stucco decorations discovered– SOPRINTENDENZA Archive

Two photos of the stucco decorations discovered– SOPRINTENDENZA Archive

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The general project

Disegno ricostruttivo del padiglione della Domus Aurea sul Colle Oppio (H.-J. Beste – DAI)

The first “Conservation Plan for the Monument” (Preliminary project report and definitive project), developed from an idea by A. Vodret, was drawn up by the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma in March 2011 and written by F. Filippi, A. Vodret, I. Sciortino, E. Segala and M. Pesce. It was then presented to the Technical Committees for Archaeological, Architectural and Landscape Heritage of the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities (MiBAC). Subsequently, those parts of the project concerning the consolidation of structures and decorations, and the tests for the proposed new arrangement of the waterproof roof were launched.

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