Thursday, February 07, 2008

Plunder or Proto-ecology



The Colosseum, perhaps the most iconic of Rome's parade of iconic structures, was famously plundered for building material during the Renaissance, serving as a living quarry for marble and travertine in particular. It was stripped down to a third of its original mass during this building boom. The typical response seems to be: "how dare they have plundered this priceless architectural relic!" Sarah, however, turned this attitude on its head, seeing a resonance between the plunder of the Colosseum and present-day Green building practices. One way building projects earn points for LEED Certification, for instance, is to "plunder" preexisting on-site structures as part of the project.

In today's terms, the much-reviled builders and planners of the 1600's were not plundering, but rather were recycling, making use of a decrepit and no-longer-useful structure as a way of cutting costs and conserving resources. Of course, the stakes were much lower at that time, environmentally speaking, with world population less than a tenth of what it is today and climate change, industrialization, and globalization still far off over the horizon. So maybe it's comparing apples and oranges, but I thought it was an perspective on an art historical orthodoxy. Here's some Colosseum images, starting with Thomas Cole's painting (pulled from wikipedia):



And some of my own photos of its interior, the third of which shows some of the different tunnels and architecture below the stadium's floor. These, incidentally, were not used to flood the stadium in order to stage mock-naval battles, but were the holding pens and access tunnels for combatants and animals. The naval battle idea is romantic (in a sick kind of way), but I'm surprised that anyone who had been inside the Colosseum would think it a possibility--the place is much too small, smaller than any professional football or baseball stadium I've been in inside the states, and there's just no room for maneuvers.





The internet is jammed up with romantic evening photos of the Colosseum, but it's a big internet and I'm sure there's room for one more. The folks in charge of lighting this sucker sure know what they're doing:

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