by Prof. arch. Francesco Venezia
Michele De Mattio
Installation of the exhibition in the National Archaeological Museum
Fundamental to the conception of the installation was the use of color. The choices were inspired by the colors present in fresco cycles in Pompeii. Colored walls create a dialogue with the exhibits, consisting largely of oils, watercolors and drawings, and relate, one after the other, to the exhibits, accompanying the visitor along what appears to be a stroll through the streets of a city unearthed.
The installation is in fact a veritable architectural system enclosed in its turn within another architectural space of gigantic dimensions: the Salone della Meridiana in the National Archaeological Museum. In terms of design, the problem was to give the installation a form that would not be overwhelmed by the setting: that would withstand being crushed by the space of the saloon, 20 meters high and with a floor space covering 1200 square meters. The focus was then placed on a geometry that would use effects of perspective to invert the balance of forces between the installation and the saloon with a special system of circulation following a meandering course, so enabling visitors to measure the relations between the two different architectures, the host and the hosted, from different locations. This concept is dear to Egyptian architecture, as a response to to the eternal recurrence of things. The geometric form at the base of the installation is a trapezium, a figure also dear to Egypt.
Installation of the exhibition in the Amphitheater of Pompeii
Egypt is again evoked by the installation designed for the exhibition in Pompeii Amphitheater. A completely removable pyramid was built in this ancient space to present the casts of the bodies of the victims of the eruption, together with archival photographs documenting the work in the excavations in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The pyramidal form is intended as a twofold evocation: it elicits the volcano whose overwhelming eruption buried Pompeii and Herculaneum, but also the discovery of the temple of Isis in Pompeii. One of the first buildings to be brought to light, it helped disseminate an Egyptian taste through Europe even before the Napoleonic campaigns.
The pyramid is 12 meters high, built almost wholly out of wood with an inner dome made of fiberboard. Visitors pass through it along a ring-shaped path. At the center are placed the plaster casts, and the photographs, partly broken down into fragments and then reassembled in pastiches, are exhibited along the walls illuminated by diffused light.
Francesco Venezia was born at Lauro in the province of Avellino in 1944. He was full professor of architectural composition at the University Institute of Architecture in Venice. He has taught at the Sommerakademie in Berlin, been a visiting professor at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, professeur invité at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Lausanne and four times lecturer in a design studio at the Accademia di Architettura of the Università della Svizzera italiana of Mendrisio. In 1988 one of his works, a museum at Gibellina, was selected for the European Mies van der Rohe Architecture Award. In 1997 two of his works, Faculty of Law and Economics and the University Library in Amiens, received the Architecture in Stone International Award. He has received the silver medal of the President of the Italian Republic “for services to culture.” He has been elected to the Accademia di San Luca.
He is the author of Che cos'è l'architettura. Lezioni conferenze, un intervento, Electa, 2011; Nel profondo della cattedrale. Caserta 2010-2014, Libria, 2014. His work is the subject of: Paolo Di Martino (ed.), Trentadue domande a Francesco Venezia, Clean, 2001; Francesco Venezia. Le idee e le occasioni, Electa, 2006.
Considered one of the most imposing indoor spaces in Europe, construction began on the saloon in 1612-1615 and it was completed, because of problems with statics, only in 1804. It takes its name from the sundial (meridiana) built between 1790 and 1793, when the astronomer Giuseppe Casella decided to install an astronomical observatory here. The project was soon abandoned because the place was unsuitable, but the sundial can still be seen in the floor. Designed by Pompeo Schiantarelli, it spans more than 27 meters and consists of a strip of brass arranged between marble panels in which are embedded charming painted medallions depicting the twelve signs of the zodiac. At midday local time the sunlight penetrates the hole of the gnomon placed high in the south-west corner and falls on the line of the meridian in the floor, traversing it in relation to the seasons.
Built by the duumvirs Q. Valgus and M. Porcius, probably between 80 and 70 BC, as revealed by a slab of travertine placed at its entrance, the amphitheater of Pompeii is one of the oldest and best preserved, with seating for over 20,000 spectators.
Intended for gladiatorial combats, it was erected in the less urbanized south-east part of the city. The auditorium is divided into three areas: the ima cavea (front tier) for important citizens, the media cavea and the summa cavea, higher up, for the others. An awning (velarium) would often shade the viewers from the sun. Two doors opened onto the major axis of the arena: one for the entry of the parade of participants in the games and the other to take away their lifeless and wounded bodies.
A famous fresco, now in the Archaeological Museum of Naples, reconstructs the whole structure particularly at the time of the violent brawl that broke out in 59 AD between supporters from Nocera and Pompeii. The incident, which caused numerous deaths and injuries, was probably due to the resentment felt in Pompeii against Nocera, which had recently become a colony and absorbed part of its territory.
The severity of the clash led to the intervention of the Emperor Nero, who ordered the closure of the amphitheater for ten years (a measure later canceled after the earthquake in 62 AD), while the ringleaders were punished with exile.
Naples, National Archaeological Museum
Piazza Museo Nazionale, 19
Open daily from 9 am to 7.30 pm
Excavations of Pompeii, Amphitheater
from 9.00 am to 7.30 pm
last admission at 6 pm
from 8:30 am to 5 pm
1st and 2nd November
last admission at 3:30 pm