It occurs to me that Italy isn’t the best place to live if you’re an architect. Take a walk at random through Rome or Florence or Venice, and it is quite possible that you won’t pass a single building made in the last century, let alone the last decade. Certainly, no one needs a Cheesegrater grating bolts all over the place when there are so many historic monuments to preserve. But while Italy’s old buildings are nectar to tourists, they can prove a headache for those trying to adapt their cities to modern life.
No surprise, then, that some Italians have come out in support last week of a proposal to restore the floor of the Colosseum in Rome. In theory, this could lead to the building being used again as an arena, rather than merely preserved and tiptoed around as an historical site.
Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini is backing the idea ‘to give the Colosseum back its arena’ after an archaeologist suggested covering with a new stage its central section, where ancient underground tunnels and compartments for gladiators and animals lie exposed to view. ‘Basta un po’ di coraggio’ (‘Just need a little courage’), he tweeted.
Courage, I presume, to see the likes of Enrique Iglesias take to the stage where once gladiators fought to the death. For there is nothing particularly courageous about replacing the central floor, provided it is done with care. There is already a wooden, crescent-shaped platform over one part of the amphitheatre. A full stage could make the building look even more like it did when it was completed in AD 80.
If the idea is taken up, it won’t be in the interest of reviving cultural accuracy, but of encouraging the public to help with the building’s costs.