Barbara Nazzaro | Vitae Design Restoration of the House of Augustus
The House of Augustus lies on the Palatine Hill in Rome. A recent restoration project was overseen by Barbara Nazzaro, Mariarosaria Barbera, Fiorenzo Catalli and Cinzia Conti (Special Superintendence for the Colosseum, the National Museum of Rome and the Roman Archaeology Area) as part of the celebrations marking two millennia since the death of the emperor. The actual project design was the work of Barbara Nazzaro and the Vitae Design architecture practice (Cristina Iaconi, Andrea Greco, Carmine Salerno).
The goal was primarily to restore the house of the first emperor, protecting the rooms where he once lived, but importance was also placed on creating a dynamic relationship with the surrounding context.
The restoration included the creation of a “case” to protect the imperial rooms, as these had suffered significant damage over the many centuries of exposure to the elements. This also provided an opportunity to create a green roof that integrates into the surrounds and forms a visual link to the Aventine and Janiculum hills.
The walls of this new case interact with the old archaeological ruins, helping to clearly mark out the various areas open to visitors.
The cladding was done in Corten Ironex steel, using a combination of plain and perforated sheets. This choice resulted in a clear distinction between the heavy, material ruins and the light, modern additions, although the changing colours and appearance of Corten over time also provides a tangible depiction of the passing of time.
Since Corten can be shaped so easily, it was decided to turn it into the leitmotif for the entire project, modelling it so sections of the old walls were visible and adding perforations to parts to give an overall sense of vibrant lightness in which the effect of sunlight continually changes throughout the day.
The band of Corten on the back wall mutates into a sort of coping for the sidewalls and the front entrance. Below this band, Ironex panels alternate with opaque plexiglass along the sides and the front. The perforated Corten panels are slightly sloping to create a play with shadows and to foreground the entrance.
Inside, Corten was also adopted as cladding for many of the load-bearing pillars, especially when located on the original walls, to ensure visitors can still get a clear picture of the interiors once were.