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Unbuilt Rome

2017, Campo/RIBA

Roma – IT

Three images of Rome


Thee city is the material presence of the built environment as much as the accumulation of lost, destroyed or imaginary elements, which not anymore or never became parts of reality. All of these elements, physical or immaterial, constitute a collective cultural capital of a place and contribute to shape its diffused mentality.


The project Unbuilt Rome explores this idea of the city as a stratification of built facts and drawn thoughts, through a shared research that examines a series of projects designed for Rome and never realized. These projects – together with countless others which incurred in the same destiny – played a key role in the construction of the common imagination of Rome and had a significant influence on the architectural culture and on the debate on the city.


With Unbuilt Rome CAMPO invites nine emerging Italian architecture offices – AM3, BDR, Fosbury, Ganko, Gosplan, La Macchina, Raumplan, Supervoid, Warehouse of Architecture and Research – to investigate some examples of this extraordinary invisible but present patrimony. Rather than producing an historical research the contributors are called to verify the operative relevance of these projects in the contemporary architectural discourse and practice by imagining the consequence of their presence in the Rome of today.


CAMPO’s curatorial team selected nine case studies and assigned one of them to each participant, proposing a diptych of selected images or drawings as a starting point for further research and speculation. The contributors were then asked to produce a brief text and a series of illustrations, choosing the preferred technique of representation within the given format of four picture frames.


The work of the nine architectural teams is juxtaposed to a visual essay by Jacopo Valentini, which pictures the actual condition of the sites where the selected projects had to be built. The rarefied atmosphere of the photographs confronts the presence of the drawings and produces an estrangement effect that exposes the complex and ambivalent relationship between materiality and imagination.


The research is collected and presented to the public in an exhibition and a book produced by CAMPO.


Unbuilt Rome is an invitation to imagine the effect of time, to verify the unexpected, to reclaim the opportunity, to reinterpret the absence. In the continuous overlapping, grafting and rewriting we can read the logic of Rome, its mutant form and the eternal conflict between the Rome that exists, the Rome that could have been and the Rome that will be.


The Rome of Archaeologists

Supervoid, C.Valenzuela, 2017

Digital print, cm 50x50

Historical cities and monuments are the result of a complex layering of thinking and signs which after centuries become unrecognisable from one another and acquire meaning through the complex relations they establish among each other. Augustus Mausoleum is the perfect example of a building that lived through very different phases becoming the support and opportunity for the most disparate uses: mausoleum, garden, arena, theatre, memorial. This richness is rendered through a drawing where some of the most significant designs, interpretations and reconstructions of the monument are superimposed. The result is an image where it becomes hard if not impossible to distinguish between epochs, to separate ruins from projects or interpretations, just like in our everyday experience of the city.


The Rome of Architects

Supervoid, 2017

Digital print, cm 60x90

“Simple masses develop immense surfaces which display themselves with a characteristic variety according as it is a question of cupolas, vaulting, cylinders, rectangular prisms or pyramids.”


Le Corbusier, The Lesson of Rome in Towards a New Architecture, 1923.



Rome has been read by architects as a collection of monumental pure volumes arranged in the cleared space that lies within the city walls. This is for example the image of the city we are presented with in the Sceanographia Campii Martii drawn by Piranesi (1762), or in Antonio Bordino’s Map of Rome (1588).

Adalberto Libera’s design for a Memorial inside Augustus Mausoleum is not far from this view of roman architecture. The monument is scrapped of any trivial or vernacular meaning and what is left is a rigorous interpretation of its mere geometrical essence: a huge cylinder sitting on a square pedestal.

For this reason we decided to draw Libera’s project as if it were part of an imaginary Campo Martio, where the modern city is removed while real and unbuilt, modern and ancient designs establish a dialogue of finite parts.



The Rome of Tourists

Supervoid, 2017

Digital print and spray painting

cm 30x40

During the Grand Tour era travellers from northern Europe used to commission artists with views of the monuments they encountered in their trips in order to bring them back home. Nowadays we take home a ton of cliché pictures, religious memorabilia and we buy kitsch souvenirs. Some of the most desired ones are live spray painted representations of monuments. Had it been realised, Libera’s design would have been a perfect companion to the Coliseum as a subject for this kind of cheap street art, its opening towards the sky an excellent setting for flamboyant skies full of planets and comets.

collaborator Catalina Valenzuela


Unbuilt Rome

AM3, BDR Bureau, Fosbury Architecture, Ganko, gosplan, La Macchina, Raumplan, Supervoid, Warehouse of Architecture and Research


Featuring the work of Jacopo Valentini




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