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Background: setting up the San Giovanni exhibition space

The exhibition space design was developed by Metro C S.c.p.A. based on the Contracting Authority’s request for the purpose of adopting the prescriptions imparted by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism–Regional Directorate for Cultural and Scenic Assets of Lazio, and ratified by the Special Superintendency for Archaeological Assets (SSBAR) when issuing clearance for the disassembly of the ancient structures discovered during the excavation of the San Giovanni station – Line C.

The prescriptions:

  • development and execution – prior to the inauguration of the work in question and based on a document of this Superintendency, with the collaboration of architects who are experts in setting up exhibition spaces – of an installation design illustrating the site’s history from the oldest human activities to the modern age, to be located on the levels open for public transit;
  •  insertion into this design of the consolidation, restoration, and subsequent disassembly and repositioning of portions of samples of the ancient structures discovered in the station and in the Via Appia Nuova shaft, at the indication of this Superintendency;
  • creation of the corresponding exhibition spaces, placed along the paths and meeting their safety requirements, qualified as and with the features of cultural spaces, equipped with educational panels reconstructing the evolution of the landscape from the pre-human age to modern times, screens for the projection of the already-produced film documentation, as well as display cases, climate-controlled if necessary, to display the movable finds.

The drawing-up of the design was assigned to the Department of Architecture and Design at University of Rome “La Sapienza,” in the persons of Prof. Lambertucci and Prof. Grimaldi.

The design was developed with the intent of restoring the places’ stratigraphy, in accordance with what emerged during the excavation, with the unravelling of a story told through the threshold surfaces that stretch along the horizontal and vertical paths of the station environments.

The areas of intervention are as follows:

  1. system of vertical lining walls
  2. system of pavement surfaces
  3. system of suspended ceilings
  4. system of exhibition environments.

The systems of vertical lining walls

The linings of the vertical walls will be made in 5+5 mm tempered layered glass, extra-clear, with back-enamelled interior face and intermediate films with graphics and texts in a variety of formats.

The design panes thus obtained, with partial screening of the surfaces of the second pane (lacquered), create a horizontal transparency that serves as an additional instrument of expression of the concept of stratification upon which the station’s entire story hinges.

These transparent windows are used in two different conditions:

  •      where there are exhibition cases built using structures in steel structural work, lined and lit on the inside, with opening behind in cases where there is a gap that permits it, or front opening by a door built into the glass lining in other cases;
  •      in correspondence with transparent windows that allow the depth of the system to be perceived, revealing the deepest layer of the wall, the masonry layer, that takes on important expressive value, taking part in the stratigraphic account through the use of a simple colouring of the masonry surface in a hue similar to the pertinent layer.

System of pavement surfaces

The pavement surfaces will be in black stoneware, in the attempt to recreate, in some considerable points, the presence of water. To evoke this suggestion, there will be, at the interchange level, strips of pavement using stoneware tiles having a different surface finishing (but still suitable for spaces open to the public) which, by means of a different colour, can recreate an effect of the presence of water.               Also at the interchange level, where the large Imperial-Age basin was discovered, marking will be inserted into the pavement to trace its original outline.

SYstem of suspended ceilings

All the horizontal distribution systems were designed without suspended ceilings, with these elements being replaced with a plane of light composed of the regular interaction of the LED-tube lighting system above which the systems’ distribution is placed, painted entirely in black. This architectural choice was also extended to the internal stairways between the lobby and platform, with their transepts.

At the platform level, corresponding with the Pleistocene level, there will be a virtual suspended ceiling with a light plane placed at +3.10 m, with linear lamps placed crosswise to the platform length.

System of exhibition environments

The complex system of exhibition environments extends along the station‘s spaces in accordance with its own logic and with specific themes.

Two modes of exposition have been identified: one connected with the articulation of the general glass lining system, and one connected with the “special environments” dotting the paths.

As regards the wall system, two ways of housing the finds were identified:

  1.   display cases operated from the rear – accessible from dedicated spaces obtained in the technical gaps of the building structure
  2.  display cases operated from the front – accessible by means of a horizontal/vertical outward opening system of the wall-system panes.

The identification of this technical solution, which allows an easy front-end management of the display cases, made it possible to reconsider the role of the railings placed between the interchange level and the stairways connecting to the platform level. In these points with high visibility because they are located at the centre of all the various paths for using the station, a series of transparent glass display cases was inserted, giving material form to the restoration of the phenomena and perception of the stratigraphic complexity.

The special exhibition environments are all marked by the use of black raw iron sheet, suitably superficially treated to guarantee appropriate durability. The sheet partially replaces the glass linings that characterise all the other usable spaces of the station. This solution gives these environments a different physical presence and immediate visibility.

Special points:

  1.   The stratigraph: a sort of sculptural element that, along with the adjoining wall, uses graphic elements but also plastic ones (high and low relief) to provide information on the station’s space, offering the conceptual keys by which to make sense of the spatial arrangements. The purpose is to restore value and importance to the passage and sedimentation of historic time that first the occasion of excavation, and then the archaeological finds resulting from that excavation, offer us.

2.   The recycling wall: the symbol of the narrated story, it is a structure made of heterogeneous materials, of fragments evoking other periods. This exhibition environment is designed with a bearing structure in galvanised steel structural work and with an exterior lining constituted in part by transparent glass and in part by black raw iron sheet, superficially treated and wrought to form channels lit with LED strips.

3.   Living with water: this is the largest special environment, placed on the interchange level between the two staircase blocks. The threshold wall system lies in such a way as to evoke the incline of the large, Imperial Age basin that was found here, spatially connecting with the large sign describing its original outline on the ground. The entire system is lined with black raw iron sheets, superficially treated as appropriate, interrupted in certain points by display cases defined depending on specific finds connected chiefly with the theme of water. A system of horizontal and vertical cuts of light will aim to break up and articulate the overall image of the system, making it more dynamic. This exhibition environment is designed with a bearing structure in galvanised steel structural work and with an exterior lining constituted in part by transparent glass and in part by black raw iron sheet, superficially treated and wrought to form channels lit with LED strips.

FINDS DISCOVERED DURING THE EXCAVATION

The movable materials recovered during the excavation in the years 2010 – 2014 are currently kept at the laboratory set up at the Metro C Base Camp at Via dei Gordiani, and have thus far been subjected to first-intervention treatments diversified depending on their characteristics and their state of conservation.

The preliminary cleaning activities were followed by pre-classification and dating of the finds by means of data sheets for spot-dating the stratigraphic contexts, which then went into the database of fact sheets of the Stratigraphic Units.

In parallel, the special finds were selected and inventoried, creating a second database of fact sheets specifically regarding the photographic documentation and the description of the items of particular scientific relevance, such as coins, metals, bone and ivory articles, gems, intact oil lamps, and so on.

Each item was registered with a progressive number indicating excavation provenance (Stratigraphic Unit and Chronological Phase), the description, the measurements and the state of conservation, with attached photo.

The station excavations made it possible to explore an exceptional stratigraphic volume involving more than 20 metres of manmade deposits over a total area of almost 3,000 m2.

Investigating this complex and multi-layered site over a very large area presented an exceptional opportunity to deepen knowledge of this section of the Roman suburbs that, in archaeological terms, is still poorly known due also to the depth of the ancient deposits, which are hard to reach without concrete diaphragm walls.

The analysis of the results of the excavation and their contextualisation in the territorial environment in a diachronic framework underscore the importance of water resources in this site’s settlement dynamics, from prehistoric times to the modern age. The consequent formation in this sector of water-saturated lime/clay deposits created ideal conditions for a widespread conservation of the organic finds in an excellent state of conservation, part of which suitable for display in the museum’s display cases.

Thanks to the depth and wealth of the deposits, the investigations restored an enormous overview, for each phase when it was frequented, of the various classes of materials: findings in stone and metal, articles in bone, architectural terracotta whose presence is particularly important and shows unique elements characteristic of the archaeological site, glass and plaster. The finds of ceramics and amphorae are highly abundant and are of scientific importance, although intact objects are rare.

Another element characterising this setting and which will be underscored in the museum environment is that the site shows that it has been frequented by people since prehistoric times, as attested by a significant presence of stoneworking in the Pleistocene deposits, and some fossil finds.

Before they are displayed, the restoration activities will have to be performed.

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