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$ 18 million refit of Colosseum gives visitors a gladiator view

ROME – This is a view that gladiators would have once experienced as they prepared for deadly battle: staring into the battered crowds of the Colosseum, perhaps under the gaze of the mighty Roman emperor himself.

Nearly 2,000 years later, visitors to the Colosseum will once again be able to stand in almost the same place and imagine the roar of the spectator, after the Italian Ministry of Culture announced the winning project on Sunday in a competition to build a replacement floor for landmarks in Rome.

The design chosen has a grid of specially treated wooden slats that can be rotated to let the air circulate and expose the beehive to underground corridors. It was set up by a team led by Milan Ingegneria, an engineering consulting firm, and is expected to cost around € 1

5 million or $ 18 million. The surface is expected to be in use by 2023.

Currently, most of the underground chambers are exposed to views with only a small piece of floor at one end. This section – about 650 square meters or 7,000 square feet – was installed in 2000 and was used for the first time that year for a staging of “Oedipus Rex” by Sophocles.

Alfonsina Russo, director of the Colosseum and its archeological park, said the recent renovation would allow visitors to try the effect of standing in the middle of the arena.

“When we reconnect with the thread of time, we finally return to the public the same perception that people had from the monument scene in antiquity,” she said Sunday during a news conference to announce the winner.

Before the pandemic brought the global journey almost quietly and closed many monuments and museums, the Colosseum was Italy’s most visited place, with more than 7.6 million people taking its glory in 2019 alone.

Some experts and archaeologists have questioned the need for the coating. Art historian and essayist Tomaso Montanari said, “From a cultural-political point of view, it serves no purpose.”

He criticized “the idea that the monument, as it is, is not enough and must be transformed into a place for something else.”

“Monuments are not things to be filled in,” he added. “It’s all very ridiculous, it’s Italy seen through Las Vegas.”

Sergio Rinaldi Tufi, a retired archaeologist who worked at the University of Urbino, also expressed skepticism. He said the part of the arena, built in 2000, “already gave a good idea of ​​the relationship between the auditorium, the arena and the underground area”, and that there was no need to create “a fake arena.”

Visitors to the Colosseum today have the privilege of seeing its underground area, he added. “It’s unique in the world,” he said. “It would be a shame to cover it.”

But the Italian Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, said at the press conference that “from the center of the monument, the” majesty of the monument “could be more fully absorbed. He called the Colosseum” a symbol of Italy in the world. “

Sir. Franceschini acknowledged the debate over the appropriateness of the plans – “It’s natural,” he said – but argued that the project combined “sustainability, conservation, improved protection and technological innovation” and was “of great value.” Implementing the renovation is “a significant challenge for Italy,” he added.

The war from underground corridors currently exposed would have formed centuries ago the Colosseum’s bustling backstage with cages and pens for wild animals and underground pulleys to raise the animals to the arena floor. These and other areas were buried until the end of the 19th century, when the hypogeum or underground area began to be excavated.

Sir. Franceschini noted that the floor of the arena had been intact at the time, referring to a photograph from around 1870 that showed the hypogeum completely covered.

The new surface will be installed on the level of the monument’s original floors, which were inaugurated in around 80 AD. Among the news of the chosen project, one of the 11 designs being considered, rainwater will be collected for the monument’s public bathrooms.

Referring to the winning design, Mrs Russo, Colosseum director, said, “The structure is light and reminiscent of both the shape and function of the original plan of the wooden arena at the time it was first used.” She added that the project had taken into account requirements for the protection of the monument and for being ecologically sustainable.

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