Rome launches major international competition to redesign Imperial Forum area

Rome is finally launching the major international competition to identify the architect who will be entrusted with the redevelopment of the central archaeological area. It will become a grand promenade through the Imperial Forum and the most important sites of ancient Rome.

In Rome, the call for bids has finally been published for the international architectural competition that is to lead to the creation of the New Archaeological Walkway at the Imperial Forums. In fact, the city administration intends to have a large pedestrian ring built that will allow people to stroll through an admirable and unique setting, from the Forums, to the Colosseum, the Caelian, the Palatine, the Baths of Caracalla, the Circus Maximus, and the Capitol. The project, about which there has been much discussion and on which we have also taken a position on these pages, envisages the opening of pedestrian spaces for greater livability, with more viewing angles, furniture and greenery, hinged on the great axis of Via dei Fori Imperiali, no longer just a roadway. This is the first step within the grand design for the transformation of Rome’s Monumental Archaeological Center (known as the CArMe project), a set of transformations embracing the world’s most important archaeological area.

The competition, whose deadline is set for December 29, 2023, aims to select by February 2024 a candidate for the realization of the staging project, which will aim to profoundly change the sense of the archaeological area: in fact, all its places will be transformed into a set of public spaces and balconies overlooking the ruins. In addition, the whole area will be connected by the New Archaeological Promenade, following the example of the nineteenth-century promenade of then-minister Guido Baccelli. The walk will also be flanked by to new elevated paths from Monti to the Carcere Mamertino - passing from Campo Carleo to the Church of Santi Luca e Martina - that will allow people to rediscover the ancient connections with the modern city and the daily life of the surrounding neighborhoods. Much care, Roma Capitale announces, will also be put into the landscaping, not only for the quality of the landscape, but also to ensure especially in summer the coolness of the vegetation.

Competitors will have to elaborate solutions that allow for different operations, starting with the setting up of an articulation of public spaces that will redesign the landscape of the axis of Via dei Fori Imperiali and the contiguous areas, providing elements of street furniture and digital tools for communication, popularization, artistic performances and the possibility of experiencing immersive virtual realities. Applicants will also have to envisage the restoration and care of the transversal paths connecting with the surrounding city, useful for the fruition of the archaeological share and offering, at the same time, new visual angles on the area, and imagine solutions for the installation of equipment for fruition and for the furnishing of public spaces as complex elements of relationship between all the components of the landscape and urban stratification of the area. Finally, they will be asked to create a coordinated image that takes into account and enhances the different articulations of the pedestrian route of the New Archaeological Promenade composed of Via dei Fori Imperiali, Via di S. Gregorio, Via dei Cerchi, Via di S. Teodoro and the ascents to the Capitol (Via di Monte Tarpeo, Via di San Pietro in Carcere) and the access branch from Via Cavour, and to define green furniture solutions to be used as an element capable of making the different characteristics of the intervention spaces dialogue. The winner of the competition will receive a prize of €135,000.00 net of social security charges and VAT if due. Competitors ranked 2nd to 5th will be awarded an expense reimbursement, totaling 100,000.00 € (thus 25,000 per competitor) net of social security charges and VAT if due.

The published notice opens the implementation phase of the Operational Program, which indicates a series of works to be completed in the three-year period 2025-2027 with a €282 million investment between Pnrr, Jubilee, state and municipal funds. Elaborated by Roma Capitale, by the Capitoline Superintendency on the basis of the Report to the Mayor presented by Walter Tocci, with the technical support of Risorse per Roma and the collaboration of the relevant Departments and other municipal companies, the CArMe project represents the largest ever investment in the central archaeological area. And it is inspired by three fundamental principles: the multiplicity of spaces and places, aiming at both vertical (between the contemporary and ancient city) and horizontal (urbanistic between the central area of the Forums and the city) reunification; proximity to theancient, overcoming a distant fruition of the monuments through a series of transversal paths and pedestrian rings; theopening towards the city of an area today closed to daily life that must instead become again a place of public fruition, with itineraries coming from the city.

The pedestrian ring that is the subject of the competition will be connected with the other ring at the archaeological level, which will be built by extending the current pedestrian walkways until they join all five Imperial Fora. By means of a new elevator from the Trajan Markets, new access to the CArMe will be provided from the Quirinal and Via Nazionale areas. Public transport connections will also be strengthened, thanks to the extension of the streetcar from Piazza dei Partigiani to Ostiense Station, which will connect the main sites of the Monumental Archaeological Center, the new subway stations, buses, and the Torricola train station, and bicycle and pedestrian paths.

The area will be watered by several pedestrian routes from the city, Termini Station, Esquilino, Appia Antica, and Aurelian Walls, as if to recall the streams that in archaic times watered the valley, later not coincidentally called the “Pantani”. Another key feature of these projects will be their addressing beyond the Historic Center, making possible, in the intentions of Rome’s municipal administration, widespread public investment throughout the city. The rediscovery of the ancient city, in fact, will have to involve the whole territory: for this reason, a twinning will be established between CArMe and at least one archaeological area in each Municipality.

The Operational Program represents a substantial investment in the central archaeological area and, as Roma Capitale announces, it constitutes only the first phase of this great commitment, which will be followed, through a participatory process, by the definition of the works envisaged by the Strategic Plan, financed with other resources to be found in the next decade, in order to guide the transformation in the long term.

In this context, it will be possible to design an overall arrangement of the CArMe aimed at reinterpreting the ancient in the contemporary, connecting the ancient squares with the city and rediscovering the multiplicity of the landscape: not only the Forums and Colosseum, but also the Colle Oppio, the Celio, the Baths of Caracalla, the Circus Maximus and the Bocca della Verità. Design solutions will be proposed by major international architectural competitions to be held over the next few years.

Image: Rome, Via dei Fori Imperiali. Photo: Gabriella Clare Marino

Rome launches major international competition to redesign Imperial Forum area
Rome launches major international competition to redesign Imperial Forum area

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