Aqua Felice Rome
Sang Lee and Marc Schoonderbeek
ROME: PUBLIC PLACES AND PERIPHERIES
The BC Rome studio attempts a new reading of Rome’s urban places – in this particular instance, along L’Acqua Felice – and explore the conditions of peripheries that enclose and frame those places in the city. Here the publicness of the city is essentially seen as a milieu composed of ‘interstices’ (or the nooks and crannies) that have accumulated over centuries. This temporal duration presents not only the horizontality of the city’s expansive territories but also the verticality of its historical sedimentation and strata. In this case, the reading of the city’s public places provides rich opportunities of unexpected spatial encounters running along the aqueduct. The BC Rome studio’s explorations consisted of the places that are thought of as peripheral or marginal and at the same as presenting the kind of conditions that are representative of the ‘cracks’ of time and history. An investigation into the recent history of the Felice aqueduct showed already the marginality of the spaces and their typical ‘occupants’, exclusively consisting of social ‘outsiders’. The shantytown (or ‘peripheral slums’) that had grown in and around the aqueduct, have been cleared out the last decades, resulting in the present-day condition where practices of spatial appropriations and demarcations have turned the aqueduct area into a diffused mix between public, semi-private and private spaces. Simultaneously, the traces of the previous inhabitants are still abundantly present. While focusing on particular aspects of urban places and peripheries presented along the aqueduct, the very idea of a periphery appears blurred and problematic in that the multiplicity of interpretations that this monument can assume in the contemporary city. It is out of this apparently uncontrollable and actually apprehensible notion of the ‘marginal’ and the ‘peripheral’ that new concepts of space could form. The aim of the BC’s research and mapmaking work in Rome research was indeed to speculate on the potential of these urban patches where the indeterminacy still leaves room for interpretation that is transformed into a strategy through a precise process of mapmaking. In this way, subjective experiences of the city are translated into an architectural discourse that is on one hand sensuous and personal and on the other the fiction of maps contribute to the formation of posterity. The practice of mapmaking provides the opportunity to extract and reassemble conventional concepts into spatial ones by shifting the perception of the navigator. It is an instrument of translation of the everyday of the city into the complex vocabulary of techné and appeals to the construction of new epistemes.