the Exterior of the Roman Aquarium
The full, monumental-style impact of the design of architect Ettore Bernich is visible from the outside, the perspective from which the different component parts of the building can be clearly identified: a cylindrical body with an elliptical base, combined with a forward entry portion featuring an arch designed as a niche. The building is entered on two symmetrical flights of stairs placed on a podium in front of the forward portion. The combination of these elements points to the inspiration taken from different types of classical architecture, specifically the amphitheatre motif for the cylindrical body and the triumphal arch or nympheum for the forward portion.
With the Aquarium, Bernich, an architect thoroughly versed in the archaeological heritage of the classical age, and especially that of Rome, and already engaged in the construction of numerous buildings in the new Capital, made his personal, eclectic contribution, "in the Roman style", to the definition of a new type of building for modern, unified Rome: a public monument designed for knowledge, leisure and recreation. There are numerous references and direct citations regarding monuments of the past, including the Temple of Sybil in Tivoli and the Pantheon. The severe appearance of the cylindrical body is amplified by the vertical thrust of a double band of semi-columns with Doric capitals and Corinthian pediments that accompany the window openings along the perimeter. The monumental effect is heightened by the importance of the outcroppings and the use of the rustic indentations. The forward portion of the structure presents a wealth of decorative touches, all inspired by aquatic themes. To the sides of the central niche are two recessed compartments decorated with stucco sculptures with a false bronze finish: the one to the right depicting Fishing and that on the left showing a scene of Navigation. Fishing is also the subject of the two round relief scenes found above the recesses, framed by two caryatides. The frieze of the crowning cornice, with the motif of the two dolphins with the trident, repeats the decorative motif of the frieze on the Baths of Agrippa at the Pantheon, discovered in 1882. Topping off the upper portion is a sculpture group made of mortar, showing the chariot of Venus pulled by a triton and a neryid. Sizeable portions of these crowning sculptures, whose role was purely decorative, were lost over time, on account of the poor quality of the materials used and the imprecision of the construction techniques; a recent restoration has partially restored the effect of the works as a whole. The surface finishing of the outside of the building is made of plaster painted to resemble travertine, with certain portions of the lower frame, the podium and the parapet in travertine; the colour contributes to the severe, monumental appearance of the building, in what represents another link with the models of Roman architecture.
contents and images are taken from the web site of Comune di Roma