Piazzas of the Tiber/ Roman Facade, Rome, Italy
The relationship between water and public space has a distinct character in Rome, encompassing both the interiority of villa, palazzo and bath house and the exteriority of street, piazza and fountain. The care taken in the engineering of aqueducts that traverse a continent is matched only by the extreme delicacy with which that water is delivered at human scale. But in parallel runs a monumental neglect for the most important and most central water feature in the city. The Tiber River cuts a serpentine path through Rome that spatially and urbanistically slices the city in half. The vertical drop from street level down to the Tiber – the result of walls constructed to protect the streets from seasonal flooding – is an abrupt pause in the Roman experience and signifies a dead end to the city fabric where innovation, development and dialogue stop.
By addressing the interruption created by the Tiber, an opportunity arises to create new connective space and to introduce program that can revitalize both sides of the river and the adjacent city fabric. By extending the city edge toward the river, a continuous band of green space – an elevated river park – is introduced at the center of the city. This park is articulated at the edges by a façade that resonates with the architectural language of adjacent bridges and urban piazza facades throughout the city. The portions of the Tiber between bridges become piazzas – framed spaces that are inhabited at the edges and connect both sides of the river. This added space on and beneath the park is populated by new types of civic program – from art museums and outdoor galleries, to swimming pools, gardens, and performance spaces – that are informed by the adjacent portions of the city. Each new Tiber piazza can be read as a node in Rome’s network of open spaces moving back and forth across the river.
Equally important is the manner in which each space interacts with rising seasonal flood waters. Museums may sit at street level while pools, terraces, outdoor galleries, and so on may exist at lower levels for much of the year but are allowed to flood when necessary. In this way the space within the colonnade - behind the façade and below the park – serves to assist in flood mitigation by increasing available volume for waters to pass – but without limiting the experience of the park in other times of the year.