The Fori Imperiali comprises a set of iconic fora, or monumental public squares, constructed between 46 BC and 113 AD and now tied together by a road that runs straight from the Piazza Venezia to the Colosseo. The squares, and even their modern central node, harken back to the power of imperial Rome and its leaders, making them natural subjects for Pallante’s promenade through the city. Organised in clusters, the fora were core axes of Roman politics, religion, and economy. Their architecture speaks to the respective duties of their commissioners, imbued with motifs that represent divine lineages and political motives (Caesar), social ideologies (Augustus), and military conquests (Vespasian, Trajan). In her model ‘souvenirs’, Pallante pays close attention to the fora’s surviving columns and structures which have variations in their surrounding sounds, as we can see in the accompanying 3d maps.
The ancient sites erected under emperors Trajan, Augustus, Caesar, and Nerva were excavated from beneath an accretion of rubble during a restoration of the area by Benito Mussolini in the 1920s-30s, though they continue to be the subject of archeological research. Inspired by the ‘Haussmannisation’ of Paris in the previous century, the Fascist government tethered their resuscitation of the Fori Imperiali to a vision of Italy in the image, literally, of the Roman Empire. In the process of rediscovering these glories, they also systematically razed a densely populated thicket of mediaeval and Renaissance structures, including small churches and housing for the poor representing more Humanist values. Thus the Fori Imperiali encapsulates national histories both condemned and recovered, a notion at play in Pallante’s audiovisual augmentations of Rome’s architecture.
The Pantheon is among the best preserved of Rome’s historical structures and one that, like Fori Imperiali, has its own palimpsestic history. Greek for the ‘Temple of all Gods’, the Pantheon was erected by the emperor Hadrian on the site of an earlier Hellenistic commission by Marcus Agrippa, whose inscription continues to grace the structure, lending it an Augustinian grandeur. The Pantheon today doubles as a Catholic church dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs, and as a burial site for several of Italy’s modern kings (and one queen), as well as the Renaissance master Raphael. Replete with busts, paintings, niches, and specialised altars, the Pantheon draws millions of tourists each year, whose voices animate Pallante’s audio tracks.
These visitors are mainly coming to experience the Pantheon’s uniquely cylindrical composition, that, however unusual in Roman architecture, would become an inspiration for neoclassical building programmes across the Western world. As we can see in Pallante’s geometric model breaking down its components, the Pantheon features a conventional portico of granite Corinthian columns leading to its cella, above which soars a mostly unreinforced concrete dome with an oculus that opens up towards the sky. From its checkerboard marble floor to coffered granite ceiling, the interior is subdivided into sections, each with distinct, even jarring, ornamental schemes that serve to orient viewers towards the centre. At midday, the hovering oculus washes the main axis with sunlight, its sublime effect only heightened by the rotunda’s resonant acoustics. With sound and structure so elemental to its design, the Pantheon makes a perfect stop for Pallante, and her renderings of it, ideal NFT souvenirs of Rome.
Traveling down the Via del Babuino, Pallante arrives at Santa Maria Maggiore, a major papal basilica and one of Rome’s seven pilgrimage churches. The basilica houses myriad visual and religious wonders: its Crypt of the Nativity is said to contain wood from the holy crib of Christ; it is the burial place of Saint Jerome, the fourth century Church Doctor who translated the Bible into Latin; and finally, it enshrines the venerated Salus Populi Romani icon. Rumoured to have been painted from life, in Nazareth, by Saint Luke the Evangelist, it depicts the Virgin Mary as protector of the Roman people, a role instantiated when the image reputedly saved the city from plague.
Santa Maria Maggiore was built following the Council of Ephesus’ declaration of Mary as Mother of God, as one of the first ever churches dedicated to the Virgin. The rich mosaics of Santa Maria’s nave and triumphal arch are among the oldest representations of the Virgin in late antiquity, interpolating scenes from her life, the life of Christ, and the Old Testament. This site of artistic splendour backgrounded by political calculation was consecrated by Pope Sixtus III as part of larger plans for urban construction. Within Italian territory, yet owned by the Holy See, Santa Maria Maggiore positions Rome at the heart of the Christian world and its values, an enduring foundation for the city’s present that Pallante’s works, in particular her maps and model NFTs, identify and visually reimagine.
In closing, we want to break down what this remarkable and limited collection will consist of for the buyer.
All the assets are already available for you to see on our webpage: accursedshare.art/priscilla-pallante.
The Augmented Rome collection will be broken up into the following tiers which, taken together, scale the city’s structures based on audial feedback:
Cymatic cuts (videos)
Consisting of 9 unique video cuts, 20 of each, amounting to a total of 180 videos
(150 USD each)
Mapmaker (3d maps)
Consisting of 27 3d acoustic maps, 20 of each, for a total of 540 maps
(75 USD each)
Architectural souvenirs (stills)
9 unique stills, 20 of each, amounting to 180 stills
(120 USD each)
They would be available in three minting options, each one randomised. A Dutch auction will also be held for the 27 gltf files corresponding to the 3d maps, which will be metaverse compatible, specifically with Decentraland.
The sites featured, with their respective blogposts are: (1) Piazza di Spagna, Castel Sant’Angelo, Colosseo; (2) San Pietro, Piazza del Popolo, Ponte Sisto; and today’s feature: Fori Imperiale, Pantheon, and Santa Maria Maggiore.
Each blogpost, as with this one, includes a fantastic introductory trailer by Pallante, which you should definitely listen to, with headphones. The acoustics of this project are not merely essential to its purpose, they are extraordinary.