BMCR 2022.07.17

Umgebaut Umbau-, Umnutzungs- und Umwertungsprozesse in der antiken Architektur

, , Umgebaut Umbau-, Umnutzungs- und Umwertungsprozesse in der antiken Architektur. Diskussionen zur archäologischen Bauforschung, 13. Regensburg: Verlag Schnell and Steiner, 2020. Pp. xv, 432. ISBN 9783795435783 €86,00.

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

The 13th volume of the renowned series Diskussionen zur Archäologischen Bauforschung issued by the German Archaeological Institute’s Division of Building Archaeology is devoted to the topic “Umgebaut” (Rebuilt) and is, sadly, dedicated to the memory of one of its editors, Ulrike Wulf-Rheidt, who passed away early and unexpectedly only a few months after the respective colloquium held in Berlin on February 21–24, 2018.

“Umgebaut” is used as a generic term that comprises all kinds of structural interventions in the existing built environment from expansions, conversions and adaptations to modernisations and conservations. Such practices, also grouped together under the term “Bauen im Bestand” (building with and within existing structures), play for both economical and environmental reasons an increasingly important role in contemporary discussions about architecture. Starting from this thought, the editors chose to investigate ancient rebuilding practices and processes with reference to the following questions: (1) how was it rebuilt, (2) how can we identify this from the material remains and (3) why was it rebuilt, i.e. which social, financial and cultural factors initiated rebuilding processes?

The choice of topic alone marks a great advancement in the field. For far too long the study of ancient architecture has been dominated by an idealistic approach primarily interested in the monuments at the moment of their completion. Their so-called afterlife and the changes that they underwent over time were considered at best to be of secondary importance. And, while these have been increasingly considered in the study of individual monuments over the past decades, there is still a marked absence of general studies that makes it practically impossible for researchers of such processes to find comparanda for their own case studies.[1] The volume at hand does not only contribute to filling this gap but also, and more importantly, guides research in this direction. As Piesker notes (p. 3), none of the 28 contributions included in the book derives from a research project focused on the rebuilding process per se. Hence, by participating in the colloquium the contributors rose to the challenge of shifting the perspective of their ongoing research to the in-between and indeed did so with remarkable success.

As usual for the series, the volume covers a very wide chronological and geographical range, with the focus however on Classical Antiquity. The essays are arranged in a roughly chronological fashion by date of rebuilding phase that has the greatest significance to the respective contribution. Piesker hoped that this structure would make temporal and/or regionally specific developments apparent (p. 4). Owing to the thematic breadth of the volume, it comes as no surprise that this worked to only a limited extent, the best example probably being the two contributions on the Roman province of Lusitania. However, while not ideal, the chronological arrangement was adopted as the best possible solution in view of the methodological difficulties encountered and discussed at the colloquium.

Specifically, the colloquium had been divided into five thematic blocks that aimed to distinguish between and diachronically define different rebuilding strategies: 1) Conservation / Treatment of Existing Architecture; 2) Reuse /Recycling of spolia (which is, however, more a method or a tool rather than a strategy); 3) Change of Use after Loss of Function; 4) Renewal / Modernization / Adaptation to Contemporary Taste; 5) Building within Existing Contexts or Revaluation / Adjustment / Adaptation. Notwithstanding the evident problems of terminology that are yet to be solved, it became apparent during the colloquium that this approach was rather simplistic. As Piesker explains (p. 4), one case study can easily belong to more than one category simultaneously. On the other hand, the reasons that led to the rebuilding action and the circumstances surrounding it remain for the most part unclear. Similar problems would have arisen if Mattern’s suggestion in his review of the volume had been adopted.[2] As an alternative to the chronological arrangement, he proposes a contextualized interpretative structure with categories such as “reuse of building material as a symbolic statement or for reasons of cost efficiency” or “rebuilding as expression of civic or imperial self-representation”.The greatest problem with this structure is that it shifts the focus from the rebuilding action to its, albeit uncertain, interpretative context – an approach that would not serve the purposes of this volume or meet the needs of the field. On the other hand, while a meaningful arrangement would be to distinguish between different kinds of structures (the principles underlying the rebuilding of a temple are quite different to those that would apply to another public building, a city wall or a house), in a volume of such broad content this would have resulted in underrepresented categories. The chronological arrangement is, therefore, indeed the best possible choice.

One wonders though whether we can or even need to describe the transformation process as a whole rather than the individual measures implemented each time. An excellent example of this is Mächler’s contribution. Based upon the German regulation of mandatory minimum fees for architects and engineers, she grouped the interventions made on the Leonidaion of Olympia into five categories: maintenances / modernizations / repairs / “Umbauten” (used for demolitions and radical interventions) / extensions. Similarly, most of the contributors summarize the individual measures relating to their own case studies in their concluding remarks. This brings us to a suggestion that could offset the disadvantages of the chronological arrangement and unify the essays on an interior level: the creation of indexes. By asking the contributors to provide keywords corresponding to the basic questions addressed by the colloquium, three basic lists could easily have been created: one for the kind of structural interventions discussed (repairs, extensions, size reductions, partial demolitions, integrations, etc.), a second one for the evidence at hand (reused or reworked material, clumps left visible, incorporated walls, reuse or elevation of floors, etc.) and a third one for the possible reasons that necessitated the interventions (natural catastrophes, deliberate destructions, changing or growing institutions, etc.). Indexes such as these would facilitate exchange and could take research one step further.

The collection opens with a set of essays that are somewhat peripheral but serve as an enlightening background reading and emphasize the ubiquity of rebuilding strategies: Case studies in building continuity from the Near Eastern Neolithic settlements of Aşıklı, Çatalhöyük and Göbekli Tepe (Kinzel, Duru and Barański), the 2000-year history of Sechin Bajo in Peru (Fuchs and Patzschke) and the atypical case of the complete reconstruction of the Egyptian Satet temple on Elephantine (Arnold). These are followed by two contributions on fortification walls. Cevizoğlu presents the transformations of a gate in the city wall of Klazomenai from the Early Bronze Age to the Late Archaic period, while Brasse provides an overview of the modifications of the walls of Pompeii from the 6th century BC to the 1st century AD.

The following five contributions address the Greek Archaic and Classical period. Hellner discusses the relatively recently discovered Late Archaic temple at Trapezá Aigiou in Achaia (ancient Rhypes?) that underwent an extensive repair and partial modernization in the late 5th century BC. Sioumpara offers a systematic overview of the management of spolia in Attic sanctuaries after the Persian wars and convincingly rejects the presumed ideological meaning of their reuse, at least at the moment of its occurrence. Tanner compares Late Classical renewal strategies in the agora of Eretria and its extra-urban sanctuary in Amarynthos and detects more conservatism in the profane realm rather than in the religious environment, due to practical and functional reasons. Goette discusses the transformation of the rectangular/trapezoidal wooden theatre of Dionysos in Athens into an enlarged permanent structure of rounded form and connects it with the decision, taken in 386 BC, to again present the plays of the 5th century. Dirschedl, after assigning the Archaic cyma that crowned the Hellenistic retaining wall of the sanctuary of Apollo in Didyma to a presumed altar, argues that its reuse served as a symbolic reminder of the Archaic sanctuary that was destroyed by the Persians. This does not necessarily contradict Sioumpara’s findings since the situation in the Hellenistic period could have been quite different.

Moving to the Italian peninsula, Trümper presents the building history of lot VIII 5, 36 of Pompeii and focuses on the Republican Baths that were demolished after they became technologically outdated around a century after their foundation in the second half of the 2nd century BC. The subsequent incorporation of their terrain into the contiguous Casa della Calce raises important property issues. Borbonus summarizes the structural modifications in the early Imperial columbaria of Rome that soon after their completion did not fully meet the requirements of the users.

Imperial residences are the topic of the next three essays: Beste discusses the way in which Nero’s successors dealt with the Domus Aurea and argues that their approach to the building reflects their personal attitude towards Nero. Manfrecola shows that the Villa of Domitian in Albanum was the result of merging two older villas, while Busen discusses the adaptation of the Villa Pausilypon to meet the demands of imperial representation, focusing on the construction of the Odeion within a pre-existing rectangular structure. The building history of the agricultural Villa Metro Anagnina in the suburbium of Rome, presented next by Tombrägel and Bauch, complements the picture.

The two following papers focus on Lusitania in the 1st century AD. Röring attempts to reconstruct the Augustan predecessor of the Marble Forum of Mérida, possibly a Basilica, and Lehmann discusses the remodelling of Augustan architecture in marble, a material that in this context would allude directly to the emperor.

Laufer then takes us to 2nd century AD Lycia and Pamphylia. In various cities he detects the phenomenon of reuse of building materials from fortification walls in public buildings, such as baths. In her contribution on the Leonidaion of Olympia, also discussed above, Mächler describes the radical transformation of the building’s interior from a Hellenistic palatial to a Roman villa structure, while its peculiar exterior – a secular peristasis – remained unchanged. Ismaelli provides an exemplary analysis of the late Severan reconstruction of Temple A in the Sanctuary of Apollo in Hierapolis, thereby elucidating different aspects of the rebuilding procedure. Especially noteworthy is that the temple’s renewal involved the reuse of a great part of the entablature of the peristasis of the sanctuary’s main temple (B), which was dismantled to that end – the project thus seems to have been part of an uncompleted programme for the modernization of the entire sanctuary. In a valuable reconstruction Temple A is depicted in its finished state and Temple B in a state of partial demolition (fig. 14); this came, as Piesker clarifies, in response to Wulf-Rheidt’s insightful call for visualizations of construction sites that do indeed form a much neglected part of ancient everyday reality (p. x).

The last seven papers present case studies from Late Antiquity. Starting in Ephesos, Thür re-examines the conversion of the Celsus library to a nymphaeum and associates it with an extensive programme attributed to the Proconsul L. Caelius Montius (340–351 AD) for the restoration of the water supply installations and the embellishment of the city, since it included the reuse of reliefs from the so-called Parthian monument. The theatre of Ephesos and its afterlife are presented subsequently by Hofbauer and Styhler-Aydın. Despite the gradual reduction of its size from the 4th century AD and its subsequent partial incorporation into the Byzantine fortification wall, it continued to be used for performances. Moving to Rome, Döring-Williams and Albrecht re-examine the building phases of the Basilica of Maxentius, which was initially left unfinished, and especially the addition of the north apse and completion of the complex, now dated to the second half of the 4th / beginning of the 5th century AD. Gering traces the building material of the temple of Rome and Augustus in Ostia and thereby manages not only to enhance the reconstruction of this prominent temple but also to expand our knowledge of the topography of the late antique city center and to elaborate on the function of an “increasingly differentiated spolia industry” that developed after the catastrophic events of the mid-5th century AD. Returning to the East, Brünenberg discusses the partial transformation of the bath complex of Baalbek/Heliopolis into a villa and a small odeion and Quatember the conversion of the Bouleuterion of Aphrodisias into a palaistra. The volume concludes with the late 5th/ early 6th century AD construction of a church complex on the ruins of the Roman Temple of Elaioussa Sebaste in Cilicia, presented by Borgia.

From this unavoidably synoptic presentation of the essays the reader can hopefully grasp the impressive variety of new issues deriving from the innovative shift of perspective introduced by this volume. In the reviewer’s opinion, the field should benefit now from further, thematically specialized collective works that could offer more specific results as, for example, on the “rebuilding” of temples.

Authors and titles

Katja Piesker, Um-Bauforschung. Der Beitrag der archäologischen Bauforschung zum Verständnis von Umbauprozessen in der Antike
Moritz Kinzel – Güneş Duru – Marek Z. Barański, Modify to Last. A Near Eastern Perspective on Rebuilding and Continuation
Peter R. Fuchs – Renate Patzschke, Umgebaut. Zweitausend Jahre Baugeschichte in Sechin Bajo
Felix Arnold, A Temple Built Anew. Reasons for Replacing the Temple of Satet on Elephantine (Egypt)
Hüseyin Cevizoğlu, Die baulichen Veränderungen des Stadttores in Klazomenai während der Bronze- und frühen Eisenzeit
Christiane Brasse, Transformations- und Umbauprozesse an den Stadtmauern von Pompeji
Nils Hellner, Wiederverwendete und umgestaltete Bauteile am archaischen Tempel auf der Trapezá Aigiou
Elisavet P. Sioumpara, Zerstörung und Wiederherstellung der Ordnung. Wiederverwendung von Baumaterialien in attischen Heiligtümern nach den Perserkriegen
Alexandra Tanner, Erneuerungsstrategien bei der Platzgestaltung mit Säulenhallen in Eretria und Amarynthos
Hans Rupprecht Goette, Umbauten und Umwertungen griechischer Theater unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Dionysos-Theaters in Athen
Uta Dirschedl, „Zeitlos schön“, „Perserkriege-Denkmal” oder pars-pro-toto-Wiederaufbau? Zur Wiederverwendung eines monumentalen archaischen Kymation im spätklassisch-hellenistischen Apollonheiligtum von Didyma
Monika Trümper, From Republican Baths to Casa della Calce. A Radical Transformation Process in Pompeii
Dorian Borbonus, Bauliche Eingriffe in den frühkaiserzeitlichen Kolumbarien Roms
Heinz-Jürgen Beste, Umbauten im sog. Residenzgebäude der Domus Aurea nach Neros Tod
Karoline Manfrecola, Aus zwei mach eins. Der Zusammenschluss zweier Villen zum Albanum des Domitian
Tobias Busen, Des Kaisers neue Räume. Umbauten am Odeion der Villa Pausilypon
Martin Tombrägel – Julian Bauch, Die Umbaumaßnahmen der Villa Metro Anagnina in bautechnischer Perspektive
Nicole Röring, Von einer Basilika (?) zu einem rezipierten Augustusforum. Das „Marmorforum“ von Mérida
Janine Lehmann, Material und Symbol. Zum neuartigen Marmorglanz augusteischer Bauten und Plätze in der Lusitania
Eric Laufer, Vom Wehrgang zum Wandprofil. Eine Serie von Spolierungen älterer Stadtbefestigungen im kaiserzeitlichen Städtebau der Region Lykien-Pamphylien
Claudia Mächler, Das Leonidaion in Olympia. Umbaustrategien in panhellenischem Kontext
Tommaso Ismaelli, The Late Severan Reconstruction of Temple A in the Sanctuary of Apollo in Hierapolis in Phrygia. Architectural Design and Building Practices at a Turning Point in the City’s History
Hilke Thür, Von der Bibliothek zum Brunnen. Umnutzung und Umbau in hydrotechnischem Kontext. Ein Bauprogramm im spätantiken Ephesos?
Martin Hofbauer – Gudrun Styhler-Aydın, Vom Bühnenspiel zur fortifikatorischen Nutzung. Der Umbau des Theaters in Ephesos zu einem Teil der byzantinischen Stadtbefestigung
Marina Döring-Williams – Luise Albrecht, Die Nordapsis der Maxentiusbasilika. Eine Neuinterpretation der Baubefunde
Axel Gering, Zum Aussagewert umgenutzter Bauteile des Roma- und Augustustempels für die Bau- und Verfallsgeschichte Ostias. Ergebnisse der Spoliensurveys 2016–2018 des Ostia-Forum-Projekts (OFP)
Clemens Brünenberg, Ausgebadet. Bauliche Transformation an den Thermen von Baalbek/Heliopolis
Ursula Quatember, Vom Rathaus zur Palästra. Das Bouleuterion von Aphrodisias
Emanuela Borgia, A Building Site From a Ruin. The Early Byzantine Ecclesiastical Complex Within the Roman Temple of Elaioussa Sebaste (Cilicia)


[1] For useful additions to Piesker’s bibliography (p. 2) see Tanner, Borbonus and Lehmann (pp. 111. 177. 267).

[2] T. Mattern, Rev. of K. Piesker, U. Wulf-Rheidt (eds.), Umgebaut. Umbau-, Umnutzungs- und Umwertungsprozesse in der antiken Architektur, DiskAB 13 (Regensburg 2020), GFA 24 (2021) 1045–1049.