The Colosseum Factory / TPOD


Event details

Date 29.05.2024
Hour 15:0018:00
Speaker Maria Shéhérazade Giudici
Category Conferences - Seminars
Event Language English

This lecture is part of the course Harmony and Conflicts by Marson Korbi, within The Doctoral Program of EDAR, EPFL

The Colosseum Factory, by Maria Shéhérazade Giudici
At the apogee of the Flavian dynasty, the construction of the Colosseum did not only represent the power of the Emperor, but, rather, an inter-class alliance between the court and aristocratic landowners, small entrepreneurs – often freedmen – and waged workers. The building itself can be seen as nothing but an act of wealth redistribution on a massive scale. In this sense, its construction represented a tool to share the spoils of colonial violence with all strata of Roman society. In the following centuries, the Colosseum would be repaired, restored, and reused in a range of vastly different ways – from quarry to manufactory, to workers’ housing, to touristic site. Some projects wanted to obliterate everything about the old building, and some wanted to preserve its form. However, what none of them could do was to recreate the social context that had shaped the very materiality of the initial building: the qualities of the original bricks and masonry were indeed profoundly informed by the labour conflicts of the early Empire. Their aesthetic and tectonic character was extremely specific, and essentially impossible to replicate under different conditions, even just a few generations later.

The talk will argue that the context of a building is not only its physical setting, but, ultimately, the nexus of political tensions that orient the economy of its construction. The presentation will follow the constructive vicissitudes of the Colosseum from its inception to its various adaptations, analysing the way in which different forms of labour organisation impacted its architectural qualities – from the most mundane material aspects, to its monumental form and urban presence.

Maria Shéhérazade Giudici is the founder of publishing and research platform Black Square and the editor of AA Files; she leads the History and Theory course at the School of Architecture of the Royal College of Art, and heads the PhD Programme of the Architectural Association.

Image: Fragment from Domenico Fontana, Aerial view showing the path of the Obelisk from the Circus of Nero to its new position in St Peter’s square, 1590

Practical information

  • General public
  • Free


  • Marson Korbi, TPOD

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