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A Multifarious Mountain

Part 2 Dissertation 2007
Ruth Oldham
Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL) | UK
This text is an interdisciplinary discussion about our different ways of looking at ruined, abandoned and historic sites. On the one hand they can be seen as frozen moments of time, places that represent the ‘past’, or on the other hand, part of the present, to be interpreted and inhabited by a contemporary society. I will argue that there is rarely one ‘correct’ answer, no site can ever really represent one moment of time. I believe physical and imaginative engagement with such sites is necessary and this can only be achieved by treating them as part of our contemporary landscape.

My interest in this argument has stemmed from my study of the Monte Testaccio in Rome, an ancient rubbish dump and the site of my design project - a new Faculty of Archaeology. The site will remain absolutely central to my discussion. I believe the Monte Testaccio is important because it has not been preserved and presented as a tourist site. This allows it to take on several roles at the same time - its identity has not been defined. The different roles that I have identified can be broadly defined as an archaeological artefact, an accidental artwork, and an architectural site.

The text is structured around these three disciplines - archaeology, art, and architecture. However, it is not a simple triangular relationship. Archaeology and architecture form an opposing pair, and art is the third party, a means of understanding better their relationship, particularly at this site. The role of drawing is also very important. Both archaeology and architecture use drawing as an essential means of creating and communicating ideas. In the latter part of the text I will present some of my own drawings, collages that contain an evolution of ideas, changes and mistakes. They are an attempt to synthesize some of the ideas explored in the text - most importantly, the notion of an architecture as a process of appropriation and occupation, rather than an architecture of objects frozen in time.

Ruth Oldham

An interdisciplinary investigation of Monte Testaccio, an ancient rubbish dump in Rome, Ruth’s dissertation argues that architecture, archaeology and art offer different interpretations of this unusual mountain, the site of her design project. Exceptional in ambition and achievement, this dissertation grasps the subtleties of other disciplines and demonstrates their architectural relevance. Focusing throughout on the varying roles/modes of drawing; the conclusion discusses how her final design project – a Faculty of Archaeology – incorporates layers of previous designs showing that the archaeological process of retrieving fragments informs not only the subject matter of this dissertation but also its research procedures.

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