Fontana dell'Acqua Felice in RomeCopyright: © Public Domain
The Fontana dell'Acqua Felice in Rome.
Creation and Genesis, Typology and Meaning of an Early Modern Urban Water Architecture
Within the framework of the very brief pontificate of Pope Sixtus V. (1585-1590), the public space of Rome was significantly transformed: Through the urban, architectural and iconographic sacralization of the city on all scale levels, Sixtus V, in close collaboration with his personal architect Domenico Fontana, realized a walk-in "tableau vivant" (Peter Stephan) as a programmatic real scene for the growing number of pilgrims. Thus he inscribed a network of straight street axes into the city structure, partly connecting the seven main churches in a star-shaped manner, and at the intersections of these axes he re-erected translocated ancient triumphal columns and Egyptian obelisks, which - reinterpreted as counterreformatory propagandistic signs of victory - contributed to the disciplinary layout of the urban space.
Since the higher Monti in northeastern Rome, where the Papal Villa Montalto was also located, were not sufficiently supplied with water, Sixtus V reactivated the ancient Aqua Alexandrina together with Giovanni Fontana, the acknowledged hydraulic engineer and architect and brother of Domenico, extended it to Acqua Felice and granted its water a triumphal entry into the city in the form of the Fontana dell'Acqua Felice built in 1587.
The architectural and historical significance of this monumental fountain, whose manneristically exaggerated attic zone bears witness to the beneficence of the founder, has never been comprehensively investigated. In fact, however, the Fontana is not only an infrastructurally necessary building at the time, but also a key building of water architecture that in many aspects points the way ahead, perhaps in an even revolutionary way. In addition to a typological definition of the exterior of the building, the hitherto completely unknown interiors behind the high-rise aquatic Scaenae Frons are investigated, too.
Starting from the building as the main source, the monographically conceived dissertation aims to trace the entire history of architectural design and development and its multi-layered levels of meaning through the preparation of a complete measured survey of the building, through intensive building research on site as well as through the likewise careful detection, compilation and evaluation of relevant written and visual sources.