Inhabiting the Aqueducts
‘Grafted Palazzo’ is an architectural project set in Rome, Italy where Waterloo 4th year architecture students reside and study for a term in an effort to internalize the many lessons of a city history that spans millennia. The city itself is an open text-book, where the relationship between urban morphology and architectural typology are clearly evident throughout the eras and thus present a challenge when designing within a specific context. The work presented here examines the critical relationship between design and context as a paradigm for contemporary design. As a result, the project I’ve developed avoids self-referential solutions and forms in an effort to respect Rome’s unique layered context.
The architectural intervention is sited within Rome’s Parco degli Acquedotti (Park of the Aqueducts) in an area called the Tuscolano district which is well outside the center. The Tuscolano faces many of the same dilemmas other European periphery districts face because of its’ scattered urban form and boundless public spaces, however, it is precisely because of this condition that intervention is required. A metropolises periphery today has gained a central role in contemporary architectural discourse. Any debate on the future of cities could only start from here. As a result, my proposition inserts itself into this unique setting to act as a catalyst for the transformation of a currently marginalized area of the city.
Parco degli Acquedotti is a unique Roman park because it is home to fragments of Acquedotto Claudio and Acquedotto Felice. In keeping with Roman tradition, the architectural program, a dwelling for migrants, is added to a fragment of Acquedotto Claudio as another layer and is thus seen as the consequence of an act of grafting into the existing condition. Out of respect for the aqueducts, the migrants’ dwelling and work spaces never touch the aqueduct itself, instead, the spaces are supported by their own structure and are positioned in the negative spaces of the aqueduct. The informal work/storage spaces are located in the lower voids of the aqueduct, while the dwelling spaces hover above. Like a typical palazzo, the front of the dwellings facing the illegal migrant city open up to an informal piazza, where inhabitants have the space to engage in the broader public realm, while the back is a garden space that encourages existing vine growth to overcome the permeable steel support structure. As a result, the elevations look starkly different from each other and lead onlookers to see a front and back which is a rather peculiar case because aqueducts on their own do not have a front and back. Because of the way the Grafted Palazzo establishes a front and back, the inhabitants have a threshold condition which many informal spaces lack. Such luxuries are important because they not only establish a sense of security for these marginalized individuals, but also act as a new way to read the aqueduct as a public/private delineating form.
Completed at: The University of Waterloo, Rome Studio, 4A, 2016