David Chipperfield and the Brescia Roman Theater project

The task of designing a project to improve the Roman theater of Brescia, able to balance respect for the archaeological site with the desire to enjoy it again, was entrusted David Chipperfield (London, 1953) last December. However, the official announcement only came at the beginning of the year with the joint announcement by the municipality of the outgoing Italian Capital of Culture, the Brescia Museums Foundation and the Chamber of Commerce. The city administration has initially entrusted the task of development to the study of the English star architect – probably under the direct supervision of his Milan detachmenta preliminary project, preparing for the technical-economic feasibility project” for the area clearly identifiable with the theater of ancient Brixia – it was built in the Flavian period between 79 and 81 AD, like the nearby Capitolium, and rebuilt in the 3rd century during the reign of Septimius Severus – to which was added the northern part of the Palazzo Maggi Gambara, which occupies the western part of the auditorium.

The rebirth of Brixia, the UNESCO corridor and the role of the Roman theater

On the website of Brixia – the most important Italian archaeological park north of Rome, protected by UNESCO – under the direction of Brescia Museums FoundationInvestments have been made for some time to strengthen the operation, which began more than 40 years ago with the opening of the Santa Giulia Museum. In this spirit, we also decided to “re-semantize” archeology through a program of contemporary art activities. And thanks to the year as Italian Capital of Culture, the project could also be realized in 2023 UNESCO corridor, which connects Brixia, the Archaeological Park of Roman Brescia and the Santa Giulia Museum; while to architect Juan Navarro Baldeweg was tasked with preparing the “new” Capitol, where until last summer the confrontation between the reconstituted had taken place Winged victory and that Boxers at rest on temporary loan from the National Roman Museum. The commitment to ensuring new accessibility to monumental and archaeological sites is therefore based on a long-term vision.
In the eastern part of the archaeological site, the Roman Theater is “hinged” with the Santa Giulia complex: the rehabilitation and reuse of the structure brought to light in the 19th century is therefore considered by the administration as an essential step towards the completion of the restoration measures to enhance the area with the aim of returning the theater to its original function and restoring the staging of performances.

Roman Theater, Brescia. Photo Brescia Museums Foundation

The Restoration and Reuse of the Roman Theater. The Chipperfield order

The undertaking had already been attempted in the past, which was made more difficult by the sub-optimal state of preservation of the site: a precedent can be found in the project for the restoration and renovation of the Roman theater presented by the architect in 2000 Giorgio Grassinever materialized, after which the municipality took part in a national tender to finance a feasibility study, which was also rejected.
About ten years ago“explains the mayor of Brescia Laura CastellettiIn the area of ​​the Roman Theater there was tall grass and poppies. When we arrived as administration, we worked to enhance the archaeological area and last summer we reopened the theater for use and also organized performances in consultation with the Teatro Grande. It is now important that this archaeological area is fully restored“. For this reason, continues Castelletti, Brescia Musei has identified David Chipperfield who will deliver “a hypothesis to enhance this space. Once you have the idea, work on the project and look for resources“. Currently, an agreement with the Chamber of Commerce secures 150,000 euros for 2024, a figure that will double by 2025; However, unconfirmed rumors in recent months have suggested that much larger numbers, in the tens of millions, would have to be found. Certainly, the English architect – already responsible for the reconstruction of the New Museum in Berlin and the Mudec in Milan, the recent restoration of the Procuratie Vecchie in Venice, currently involved in the project to upgrade and expand the Archaeological Museum of Athens, Pritzker Prize laureate In 2023, also thanks to his recognized ability to work with historical context in mind – he accepted the “challenge”. It's for a few days website of his studio presents the commission received and underlines the intention of “Continue the process of liberating the theater, balancing what remains with what is no longer visible, the present with the past, in search of a very delicate balance“.

David Alan Chipperfield.  Photo Tom Welsh
David Alan Chipperfield. Photo Tom Welsh

There were voices that disagreed with Chipperfield's choice

We are now waiting for the project, which is still in the design phase: the first meeting between Chipperfield and the Brescia Superintendence, which will have to express its opinion on its feasibility, is scheduled for three months from the presentation of the working materials. From February 21st to 23rd the architect will be in Brescia for another visit to the site. Meanwhile, there are those who express doubts about the Foundation's decision to take on a direct commission: the Order of Architects of Brescia, according to the President Stefano Molgoramakes it clear that he would have liked one to open public competition to identify the best project, perhaps designed by an Italian architect. The superintendent also agrees with the idea of ​​an international competition Luca Rinaldiwhich requires and “prefers” caution (conservatism?) regarding theater reusepure preservation, due to the extreme fragility of the components”: “First, knowledge must be organized, then a competition of ideas could be encouraged by inserting the constraint of planned protection; There is still a lot to investigate and then a table can be opened. We can't hurry“. Starting from the same premises, Brescia Musei decided to solve the problem in the opposite way: “Given the complexity of the archaeological site, it was necessary to understand what can be done here, in what way and under what conditions, before proceeding with a tool such as a tender“. And Chipperfield's professionalism seemed to be a guarantee.

Livia Montagnoli

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *