Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Rome's Pasts and the Creation of New Urban Spaces: Brecciation, Matter, and the Play of Surfaces and Depths

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Rome's Pasts and the Creation of New Urban Spaces: Brecciation, Matter, and the Play of Surfaces and Depths

Article excerpt

Abstract. In this paper I look at how the discovery of remnants contributes to creating new spaces in the city. I use the geological metaphor of brecciation drawing upon the work of Sigmund Freud to elaborate on how materials from the past and the present are jumbled in a nonlinear fashion to enable spatial multiplicity. I then illustrate these ideas through the case study of the Sala Trevi/Mondadori building in Rome which exemplifies the ongoing dynamics of the play of surfaces and depths when remnants are featured as part of the design. This is done by outlining ways in which the building unfolds spatial and material juxtapositions, and by elaborating on three elements that are indicative of the metaphor of brecciation. I conclude that when material and spatial entanglements occur, the metaphor of brecciation goes further than the metaphor of the palimpsest in facilitating spatial transformation in the city: spaces can be modified and create new possibilities with the past, enabling tensions to coexist in the present whilst not limiting reconfiguration in the future.

Keywords: matter, space, remnants, surfaces, depths, Rome

1 Introduction

Historically, from antiquity until today, every era in Rome has demonstrated a potential for people to build, rebuild, reuse, adapt, protect, and conserve pasts (Jokilehto, 1999). The ways in which remnants have been promoted or forgotten throughout the city's existence contribute to shaping Rome's fabric as it stands today. Although the past is revered and marketed, it also poses a challenge to the planning of Rome.

Whilst geographers and anthropologists interested in the materiality of Rome and its effects on the city's socioeconomic life have persuasively commented on the jumbled nature of its architecture, the focus of these studies has mainly concerned the observable juxtapositions that are found on the surface (Agnew, 1995; 1998; 2010; Atkinson and Cosgrove, 1998; Herzfeld, 2009). Conversely, studies that explore Rome's underground emphasise the archaeological and historical significance hidden below the city (Della Portella, 2002; Pavia, 2000).

One aspect of the complexity in managing and building in a city with so much past is how it is found above and below ground. When remnants are discovered underground, they do not stand alone; they are interwoven with other materials that have been added around them in time. In these circumstances, the space surrounding materials is described as a single unit: materials located on the surface and materials found in the underground and the relationship these units of space have with one another.

Work that investigates the urban underground has examined the ways that the space under the city underpins the urban lifestyle found on the surface. Materials such as building foundations, parking garages, pipes, and drainage systems can be inserted in the underground and distanced from the aesthetics of the surface (Mumford, 1961; Trench and Hillman, 1994). Yet, they remain essential for sustaining the urban lifestyle found above ground (Graham and Marvin, 2001; Granick, 1991 [1947]). As Graham and Marvin (2001) point out, the technological networks that are featured above and below ground connect the urban landscape into a whole. (1) Whilst infrastructure, networks, and cables are often considered as materials that connect the surface and the underground, little is said about the impact of remnants on the spatiality of the city.

This paper seeks to inform studies of space and matter in the city by examining how remnants found underground can contribute to the creation of new spaces. The use of matter as a means of exploring the relationship between space and human interaction has been recognised in the social sciences (Anderson and Wiley, 2009; Bennett, 2010; Bingham, 1996; Edensor, 2005; Henare et al, 2007; Lees, 2002; Miller, 2005; 2008; Witcher et al, 2010). This study follows work that has looked at how the materiality of the past shapes the present, particularly in urban landscapes and in historic cities (Cochrane, 2006; Fouseki and Sandes, 2009; Khirfan, 2010; Loukaki, 2008; Macdonald, 2009; Madgin, 2010; Ricci, 1996; Rodwell, 2007; Tait and While, 2009; Till, 2005; While and Short, 2011). …

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