Architecture reflects the quality of life in a civilization. The Roman architecture was influenced by the Greek and Phoenician trends but the architects of Rome innovated to meet their local requirements, in view of its wealth and expanding population. Arches and domes had special importance in their structures. Salient features of the buildings in Rome were that they were built usually on a raised level and built to appear like sculpted units. The use of hydraulics was also common in the building processes. Rome and its suburbs had some buildings in common. The best of the buildings were those which were built for religious purposes. The public buildings were made to impress the masses and to accommodate larger number of people in protected environment of strong structures. A forum was a typical building which served as a market and meeting place simultaneously. Public baths were also a common feature and the citizens availed themselves of the facilities which were subsidized by the government. Amphitheaters were the multipurpose open air theaters.
1. Curia Julia
Curia Julia is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Rome, possibly the very oldest. Originally it was a temple converted into a curia, or meeting place, and named Curia Cornelia after Faustus Cornelius. This building was replaced by Sulla and again by Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. and was named Curia Julia after him. The curia comprised of two separate units: the comitium and Forum Romanum. The former was reserved for religious purposes, while the later served as a court and meeting place. The hall is 25.2 meters in length and 17.61 meters in width. Julius Caesar started its redesigning in 44 BC but could not complete the construction as he was assassinated at the theater of Pompey, where the senate used to meet temporarily while Julia Curia was being built. Julius Caesar’s successor, Augustus, completed it in 29 B.C. Two notable features of the curia are the Altar of Victory and its colorful, attractively designed floor.
2. The Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran
The official name of the Archbasilica translates in English as ‘Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist at the Lateran’. Although it exists within the city of Rome, yet it is located outside the Vatican City. The Archbasilica is built over the remains of the fort Castra Nova equitum singularium. Septimus Severus founded the fort in AD 193. After Constantine I conquered it, the fort was demolished. The Basilica was first used as the residence of Pope St. Sylvester I. It ranks first among the four major basilicas of Rome and is the cathedral of Rome and seat of the popes as bishops of Rome.
3. The Pantheon
The Pantheon is a famous ancient building in Rome. It was built by Marcus Agrippa as a temple to honor all the gods of Rome. Emperor Hadrian re-built the dome in 126 AD. It is circular building with sixteen granite columns, arranged in two sets of eight columns. Since its building, two thousand years ago, its dome is still considered the largest non-reinforced concrete dome in the world. The diameter and height of the dome are the same, each measuring 43.3 meters. The Pantheon is one of the best preserved ancient buildings and it has been always in use. It has been used as a Roman Catholic Church since the seventh century. It is dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs, and is formally known as Santa Maria della Rotunda.
4. The Arch of Constantine
Arco di Costantino, the Arch of Constantine, is located between the Palatine Hill and the Colosseum. It was built as a memorial of the victory of Constantine I over Maxentius, on October 28, 312, in the Battle of Milvian Bridge. The arch is known for its stylish relief. The arch stands 21 meters high, and it is 6.5 meters wide with 7.4 meters depth. The arch served as the Via Triumphalis or victory path used by the victorious Emperors to enter the city of Rome. A procession followed the Emperor, who proceeded on a specific route. Bricks and marble have been used as the building materials. In the 1960 Summer Olympics, the arch was used as the finish line for the marathon athletic event.
5. Altare della Patria
Altare della Patria, also known as Vittorio Emanuele II, was built in remembrance of Victor Emmanuel, who was the first king of a unified Italy. It is located between the Capitoline Hill and Piazza Venezia. Giuseppe Sacconi designed the monument in 1885. The monument is 135 meters wide and 70 meters high. At the base of the structure is the museum of Italian Reunification. A panoramic elevator allows the visitors a 360 degree view of Rome. The structure includes the tomb of an unknown soldier, selected by Bergamas, a woman whose only son was killed in the First World War and his body was never recovered. Body of the Unknown Soldier was chosen from the eleven unidentified remains.
6. The Palace of Justice
The Palace of Justice is a huge building known in Italian as the Palazzaccio. The building is located in the Prait district of Rome. It is meant for the Supreme Court and occupies a central place among many important buildings including the Piazza Cavour, the Piazza dei Tribunali, the Via Triboniano, and the Via Ulpian. Giuseppe Zanardelli, the Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Great Seal, laid its foundation stone on March 14, 1888. It was completed in 1910. Its excavation for foundations revealed some archaeological finds, including the body of a woman holding an exquisite sculpture of a doll, now preserved in the Antiquarium Comunale. The King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III, inaugurated the building on January 11, 1911, twenty two years after its completion.
7. Palazzo della CiviltÃƒ Italiana
Palazzo della CiviltÃƒ Italiana is located in the Esposizione Universale Roma district. It is an icon of fascism, a form of radical and authoritarian nationalism. It was initiated by Benito Mussolini in fulfillment of his plans for 1942 world exhibition. It is a big business center and was inaugurated on November 30, 1940. Most of the buildings in Rome would have probably appeared something like this building, had the fascist regime not fallen in the war. The 68-meters-high, marble-covered building occupies 205,000 square meters area.
8. Sapienza ‘ UniversitÃƒ di Roma
Sapienza ‘ UniversitÃƒ di Roma, most commonly known as Sapienza, meaning knowledge, is an autonomous state university. Pope Boniface VIII founded the University on April 20, 1303 mainly for religious studies. Pope Eugene IV reorganized the university in 1431. He increased the tax on wine to generate the required funds and decreed the inclusion of four schools of law, philosophy, theology and medicine. The university was originally a church devoted to Saint Yves, the patron saint of the Jurists. It is considered a masterpiece of Roman Baroque church architecture. The Sapienza was built by the famous architect Francesco Borromini. The interior altarpiece is decorated by the great artwork of Pietro da Cortona, who portrayed St.Yves.
9. The Palazzo Montecitorio
The Palazzo Montecitorio is a palace in Rome, originally designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini for Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, the nephew of Pope Gregory XV. The construction of the building stopped after the death of Pope Gregory XV and resumed during the papacy of Pope Innocent XII. After modifying the original plan of Bernini, the architect Carlo Fontana completed the building. In 1789 Pius VI installed the excavated obelisk, which is a tall, four-sided, pointed pillar. In 1870, Rome became the capital of Italy and the Palazzo Montecitorio was made the Chamber of Deputies.
10. Palazzo Barberini
Palazzo Barberini is a palace in Rome, located in Rione Trevi near Piazza Barberini. It is home to the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica. The site was formerly owned by the Sforza family who had a garden vineyard and had built there a palazzetto in 1549. Maffeo Barberini, of the Barberini family, who later became Pope Urban VIII, purchased the site in 1625. Great architects worked on the project and made their unique contributions. Maderno, along with his nephew Francisco Borromini, started working on the project in 1627 and it was finished by Bernini in 1633.
Buildings and their inhabitants have an intimate relationship and both protect one another. Buildings reflect the happiness and sufferings of the residents. Buildings are made to suit the requirements of their inhabitants, but quite often their inhabitants adjust their lifestyle in accordance with the requirements of the building. Sir Winston Churchill said ‘We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us. Having dwelt and served for more than forty years in the late Chamber, and having derived very great pleasure and advantage there from, I, naturally, should like to see it restored in all essentials to its old form, convenience and dignity.”