A $22 million retractable floor is being planned for Rome’s Colosseum. The Italian government is seeking bids from engineers to reconstruct the arena with a new historically accurate yet high-tech floor
The Colosseum in Rome is a UNESCO World Heritage site, one of the most visited attractions in the city which usually attracts around seven million tourists per year. Plans have been developed by the Colosseum Archaeological Park in collaboration with the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism in Italy to replace the original wooden floor, long since disintegrated with a flexible retractable floor.
The project will involve a historically accurate recreation of the ancient amphitheatre’s ground floor while offering the flexibility to protect the site’s ancient architecture and also expand the use of the space.
At present the hypogeum – the area under ground level which originally included 80 lifts that brought gladiators and animals into the arena – is fully exposed. The new retractable floor will still allow visitors to see the hypogeum but the area will be able to be swiftly covered in the event of rain, protecting the structure.
The floor will cover the arena entirely to offer a range of performance events. However the freshly purposed arena is unlikely to be used for chariot races or gladiatorial battles. The aim is for ‘high culture’ events, most likely concerts or theatrical performances. However the design will include hidden lifts and trap doors, echoing its original form, so performers could still appear as if by magic on the stage.
A major technological intervention
“The reconstruction of the Colosseum arena is a great idea which has gone around the world,” said Dario Franceschini, Italy’s culture minister, in a statement quoted on the ministry’s website. “It will be a major technological intervention that will offer visitors the opportunity not only to see the underground, as today, but to contemplate the beauty of the Colosseum from the centre of the arena.”
The Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism states that the goal of the retractable floor is to make the surface of the Colosseum arena floor usable again. Engineers are invited to find a “compatible and reversible technological solution” for covering the underground areas.
“The interventions must be designed in such a way as to simultaneously offer the perception of the level of the arena on which the games took place and the vision of the complex system of underlying structures and mechanisms,” says the online call to submit project proposals.
“The new arena will have to be conceived as a unitary retractable floor, with a high technological content, consisting of mechanized opening and closing devices, allowing visitors to understand the synergy and the close relationship with the underground, also using systems that refer to the mechanisms of the lifts and of ancient mobile scenes.”
Tender date February 1st.
Images: credit Parco Colosseo