Ninfeo Bramante, Genazzano, Lazio | Re-Use Italy | with Elysia Dyson

It started with modest ambition, a small 100-seat theatre built amongst the ruins in a forgotten valley. This complementary but distinctly new insertion into historic fabric was an arched structure giving continuity and completion to the language of the ruin, a retractable translucent canopy providing shelter and emitting an inviting evening glow.

A new access cut through the undergrowth from Via Pavese enabled a level approach. Aligned with the prominent campanile of San Paolo, it immediately connected site to town, Bramante to Colonna, Serlian arch to Serlian arch. The facility of the place attracted attention around the suburbanising periphery of the town. Soon a piazza was created to accommodate a broader range of cultural events, a car-free space which the town didn't have; alternately usable, or flooded to capture the stream in a reflecting pool, which in cross axis mirrored old and new, town and country.

The community adopted the valley, extending the infiorata to here, hosting fruit and veg festivals selling produce and cookery from the many market gardens which had sprung up alongside. A pop-up garden centre built on the western slope brought traders and enthusiasts. New pathways extended through the valley bringing walkers, reconnecting the town via reopened stairways. The valley had become an agrarian garden.

To accommodate larger performances and music events a second stage was set into the facing valley slope, this time seating 350 and openable to the piazza, which now formed a naumachia. Islands in the pool were embellished as exciting stage sets, the audience experience akin to that of Bregenz Festspiel, but more dynamic as the audience were free to circulate at will. A regional destination was in the making, the architectural elements defining new possibilities. A framework for multiple artistic interventions was born, reinvigorating a range of local craft and festival traditions.

Competition submission 2023.