chapter  2
29 Pages

The first ‘ruins’

ByJonathan Hill

As a metaphor for time, the ruin was acknowledged in ancient Rome but not painted or constructed. However, Watkin suggests: ‘If any ancient Roman did erect a ruin, then it surely would have been Hadrian whose Villa at Tivoli contained buildings and landscapes designed to recall those in different parts of the Empire.’ 1 Extensive travels and a pleasurable retreat in a sweeping setting encouraged Hadrian’s architectural experimentation. Juxtaposing diverse and contrasting forms and spaces, the Villa developed through an additive and subtractive process in which a new building was often adjusted during construction and occupation, and then altered in response to later buildings. The resulting, episodic, evolving assemblage of buildings, pavilions and gardens offered multiple, alternative journeys in which the past was resonant in the present. Rather than direct reproductions of places he had visited, William L. MacDonald and John A. Pinto conclude that Hadrian was interested ‘in historical transference, in creative renovation of the past’ by formal, spatial and topographical means: ‘the Villa was a place where views and arrangements of natural and man-made forms often alluded to the mythical, literary, and historical past.’ 2 Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli, second century AD. The Thermal Baths. Courtesy of Jonathan Hill.