”Indeed basilicas of the greatest dignity and beauty may also be constructed in the style of that one which I erected, and the building of which I superintended at Fanum”. What remains today of that legendary building – strangely unknown to most of us – described by Vitruvius, the greatest roman historian of architecture, in Book V. Chapter I, of De Architectura (The Ten Books on Architecture), and which, lacking further references, is considered today to be the only building designed and constructed by him and mentioned in the only handbook of ancient architecture that has survived to this day? The distinct signs of a vague memory, drawings, reconstructions and hypotheses, among them we may, perhaps, also include the stupendous remains of tombs to be admired in Fano, a town in the Marches, the ancient Colonia Juliae Eanestris. In the sixth century the building was destroyed by the barbarian fury of the Goths who plundered and set fire to the city. Since then it bas been retrieved only in drawings. Treatises, writers and commentators of De Architectura, since 1486, have redrawn the basilica following Vitruvius description. Scholars and archaeologists have attempted to reconstruct it by reading evident traces of it in the remains recovered during excavations from 1840 on. Few attempts have been made to conduct systematic scientific surveys of those ruins or to perform critical philological studies of the drawings contained in De Architectura. Many experts have argued about whether those remains can be attributed to the basilica of Fano and therefore definitively confirm it as one of the major recoveries in the history of architecture. The A. attempt to fit the pieces of this puzzle together, based on the fact that representation is closely related with the themes of a forgotten history, and drawings are a decisive element in understanding it: Vitruvius’ drawings no longer exist but must have closely reflected his written description. The drawings of treatise writers are often merely the expression and affirmation of the prevailing cu1ture of the time were based on Vitruvius’ precarious” text and have produced the ”numerous” basilicas of Fano. The historical drawings by archaeologists are based on their excavations. The modern surveys, with the help of advanced information technology, try to recover two thousand years of oblivion regarding the work of Vitruvius. The careful comparison of the drawings with Vitruvius text thus poses a series of complex problems highlighted by a critical philological survey of the material. These problems mainly concern the typological particularities introduced by Vitruvius in the BasiIica of Fano, some of which are anomalous in that specific typological context: from the giant order to the positioning of the Tribunal on the short side, to the presence of an Aedes Augusti (Temple/House of Augustus) which has constantly confused scholars and archaeologists The A. thus endeavour to answer to those doubts about the ”reconstruction ” of the edifice, by visualising its development in a virtual three–dimensional model using Autocad and 3Dstudio, and VRML techniques. In the initial phase (producing a kind of virtual draft), the model was used to verify construction hypotheses and solutions. It became the synthesis of more than five centuries of studies which, since l486 (editio princeps of De Architectura), attempted to reconstruct Vitruvius’ basilica. 1n its final version however, it could be a great step towards the retrieval of the memory of a building that no longer exists, but can be rediscovered by means of the drawings which enable us to explore the recesses of history and to recreate the past.
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