Trajan’s Hollow, a site-specific installation at the American Academy in Rome, is a reinterpretation of one of Rome’s most famous monuments, Trajan’s Column. After creating a digital model of the original, its form was virtually modified to generate a more porous interaction between interior and exterior. A thin slice of this model was then cast as an installation translating the original’s exterior carvings into micro-landscapes. At that micro-scale, the crenellations within the 5cm thickness of the Trajan’s Hollow installation recall images of foreign landscapes, much as the original Trajan’s Column does through figural bas relief narrative.
Trajan’s Column is one of the great monuments of Rome, documented obsessively over the centuries by historians and archeologists and admired by tourists and Romans alike. Despite its monumental stature, few would use the word “architectural” to describe the column, let alone “habitable”—and yet the column and its internal spiral staircase shape an amazingly complex interior experience, unknown (or unappreciated) by most.
Trajan’s Hollow, the most recent in a long history of plaster casts made of the column, uses techniques of scalar shift and material transformation to reveal the hidden spaces of the monument. Building on the accidental reciprocity between the interior and exterior of the column created by its set of 43 window/apertures, Trajan’s Hollow develops a language for shaping interior experience based on the sculptural frieze that surrounds it. A thin section of the column rendered as a horizontal plaster bas-relief at 1.5 times the scale of the original translates the carvings of the emperor’s exploits in Dacia into spatial conditions. Rather than viewing the column through the lens of historical narrative, sculptural technique, or idealized architectural intent, this reinvention documents and amplifies existing and potential relationships between the narrative and the experience of space.