New technology restores ancient Roman city

by Ofentse Sefolo
New technology restores ancient Roman city

Almost two millennia have passed since Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying the ancient Roman city of Pompeii under a carpet of volcanic ash that left the settlement frozen in time. Today, this popular destination, which has earned World Heritage status from Unesco, attracts archaeologists and tourists eager to visit a site that offers a window into life in antiquity.

Given its popularity since the city’s rediscovery in the 18th century, it has been one of Italy’s biggest draws – officials at the Pompeii Archaeological Park have looked for ways to preserve the buildings and decorative elements in a manner that respects this remarkable setting.

Here we take you on a remarkable journey as to the excavation and transformation of Championnet Complex, which focused primarily on its roofing structures and what exactly it entailed to return it to its former glory. Every step taken was carefully planned and carried out with precision – a true example of what can be achieved when great products are combined with inspired minds.

Need to know:
• Championnet Complex

One striking initiative put forth by administrators in charge of maintaining Pompeii for future generations is an effort unveiled to the public in 2017 that involves Championnet Complex.

Did you know?
This area owes its name to Jean Etienne Championnet, a French general serving under Napoleon and a connoisseur of antiquity who continued the excavation work at Pompeii initiated by the Bourbons.

• Forum

Located close to the Forum, which was the epicentre of civil, religious and economic life in Pompeii, the site is made up of a collection of stately residential buildings that cover some 4 000m². The houses were part of an exclusive neighbourhood in the ancient settlement and boasted scenic terraces offering panoramic views of the Gulf of Naples.

Roof construction and excavation
Project: Remains of Championnet Complex in the world-famous Pompeii Archaeological Park

3 key steps taken:

  1. Officials turned to Massimo Pinto, owner of Naples-based Vittorio Pinto Interni and an expert in thermoforming Corian® Solid Surface for interiors, to come up with a custom-made solution.
  2. Pinto and his team devised a roof covering in Corian® Exteriors made up of a skeleton in galvanised steel that would be covered by thin panels (12mm in thickness) crafted out of Corian® Solid Surface in the distinct tan colour.
  3. The top of the panels was flat but featured a curved shape underneath.

“The aim was to create something quite distinctive to make a statement,” explains Pinto. “While the shapes we used are modern, we chose a neutral brown colour that blends easily with the masonry from antiquity so as to lessen the impact of using a modern material such as Corian® Solid Surface.”

Did you know?
The walls are fashioned out of rocks that include lava, limestone and travertine.

4 new and innovative technologies applied:

  1. Each covering is anchored to the tops of the reconstructed walls via steel pillars that rest on anti-seismic stabilisers. To the naked eye it appears as if the protective structure is almost floating atop the ruins.
  2. The larger roof covering consists of three layers: The top is rectangular in shape, while the interspaced elements beneath are L-shaped and constructed to precisely fit the location in terms of shading and support.
  3. “Corian® Solid Surface offers us a material that is relatively lightweight, highly formable and durable enough to withstand inclement weather over the long run. It is perfect for the requirements of the site,” adds Pinto.
  4. Museum officials agree with Pinto, noting that the innovative structure breaks new ground while not distracting visitors’ attention from the main attraction: The rich architectural and cultural heritage of ancient Pompeii.

This roofing project has proven how new technology can be combined with older – and in this case archaeological – sites to create structures that are not only unique but also appealing for all generations. It also serves as a unique example for architects and designers who seek a range of ideas when it comes to roofing designs and functionalities.

Acknowledgement is given to www.vittoriopinto.it, www.exteriors.corian.com, www.corian.com, and www.dupont.com for the information and images used in this article.

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