July 26, 2016

Stunning Rome’s Imperial Forums Newly Lit By Legendary Storaro

Is New York Times’ criticism of Major Marino supported by evidence? Marino accomplished important and long overdue things that many of his predecessors completely dismissed, like closing the streets up to car traffic around the Colosseum, removing trucks from the Pantheon’s (and other monuments’) facade, and finally putting ancient Rome under a new light, literally —

Apocalypse Now cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, together with his daughter Francesca Storaro, recently created an artistically ravishing lighting installation for Rome’s Imperial Forums. The inauguration of the lighting fell on 21 April 2015, the day commemorating Rome’s founding 2768 years ago. Fortunately, the installation is permanent. Roma Experience conducts almost daily tours of the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill in the mornings. Now we can happily recommend night stroll of the Imperial Forums to our clients, too. The Imperial Forums are made up of the Forums of Augustus, Nerva, and Trajan, built between circa 20 BC and 114 AD, later in date than the Roman Forum.

The lighting was championed by Ignazio Marino, Mayor of Rome, who used the term “heart breaking” to describe the prior darkness of the archaeological area. Soon, Storaro, famed for his work on The Conformist and 3-time-Oscar-Winner for Apocalypse Now, Reds, and The Last Emperor, will again work jointly with Francesca Storaro, lighting designer and architect, on the lighting of the Roman Forum. The Storaros have collaborated on lighting projects such as New York City’s historic Flat Iron Building in 2008.

Vittorio Storaro in an interview with Italy’s La Repubblica* spoke of the Forums in terms of the modern era’s ability to extend the beautiful time at the end of the day by using artificial lights, saying, “The magic hour is what we call it in cinema, when the great father Sun leaves his place for the great mother Moon. It’s one of the most important moments in life, because it’s a moment of equilibrium between these two forces, the solar and the lunar.” To achieve the nightlong equilibrium in the Imperial Forums, the Storaros used 520 LEDs over an immense area of 20,000 square meters. LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, have many applications, from electronic displays to home lighting to illuminating stadiums. They’re also deeply appreciated in cinema and theater for, among other things, not radiating heat, saving actors from burning up and makeup from melting down. The energy efficiency of LED lights, and their ease of maintenance, was an important consideration, both to the Storaros and to the cultural heritage administrators of the archaeological site.

Each of the Imperial Forums has a unique lighting plan. This is terrifically helpful in distinguishing one Forum from another. Francesca Storaro explained the three plans, saying, “Each Forum has its own characterization, each Forum has its own story, that is, its story recounted by means of its special light–axial in the Forum of Nerva, mono-directional for the Forum of Augustus, and centrifugal in the Forum of Trajan.”

The usual viewing place for the three Forums is the Via dei Fori Imperiali, the long runway-like street that connects the Colosseum to Piazza Venezia. The street bisects the Roman Forum and the Imperial Forums, which is unfortunate. Its legacy is equally unfortunate as it was constructed during Mussolini’s dictatorship for propagandistic parades. Occasionally, plans to dismantle the street are introduced, but so far they have come to nothing. Archaeologists are, of course, very curious about what lies below and wait for the street’s removal. For now, it’s the platform from which to view the Imperial Forums on the one side and the Roman Forum on the other.

Mayor Marino’s interest in featuring the archaeological sites of Ancient Rome was behind the merciful limiting of traffic around the Colosseum and on the Via dei Fori Imperiali, and the superlative lighting of the Forums of Augustus, Nerva, and Trajan. That the mayor is enamored of ancient monuments is clear–he’s now campaigning for the Olympics to be held in Rome, dangling the carrot of the Colosseum, saying it could be used for Olympic ceremonies.

The New York Times’ Article on Major Marino.