daniel fanzutti architecte

Rehabilitation of the Thermae of Constantine - Arles

Rehabilitation of the Thermae of Constantine Arles



A 9 m2 reception center renovated in the Thermae of Constantine, leading to a critical and global approach of the historical site.

The original reception building, a prefabricated, temporary bungalow, stood in the middle of nowhere, abandonned next to the monumental ruins of the Thermae of Constantine. The North elevation facing the Rhône was an obstruction to the perfect balance needed to assure urban continuity.

Initially, a very modest intervention had to be considered. The site was to be magnified by renovating the small building. However, creating a beautiful object had no meaning in comparison to the ruins' monumentality and their strong historical presence.

Consequently, the site was approached without buildings, by using the Thermae’s spatial interiority; a series of interior buttresses, aligned in staggered rows, create a visual depth and framed views on the edifice’s longitudinal axis. This spatial device guides the visitor in discovering the site through different viewpoints, such as in a maze.

Through this interpretation, the project’s composition is generated by walls, and by articulating a pathway which lead the visitors progressively from the urban space into the ruins. This progression outlines two different aspects of the bulding : an urban perspective seen by all citizens, and an interior viewpoint discovered in a more intimate manner.

In this approach, the small irrelevant building turns into a contemporary ruin by using walls, one of architecture’s most significant archetypes. They create multiple screens which fade away progressively as the visitor is drawm through dynamic, framed viewpoints.

Guided by the precepts of Roman architecture, the spaces were conceived not only through the composition of the walls, but their materiality, light, and chromatic relationships with the ruins.

Concrete walls : As a contemporary material, concrete conveys an important part of the project’s symbolic meaning. Subtle relationships with the environment were made by incorporating pieces of brick tiles, limestone, and warm colored aggregates. The thickness of the walls are revealed by using oblique shapes.

Steel building and entrance : in contrast with the concrete walls, very thin metallic openings disappear, develop an interaction between concrete and metal surfaces.

Technical constraints on the building site were adapted in specific manners with scruplous work on details, using only prefabricated elements.

The intervention disappears in order to preserve spatial continuity between the historical site and urban space.
Ville d'Arles
date: 2009
surface: 260 m2
construction cost: 180000 €