Abstract: Complexity and Contradiction in Diocletian’s Palace
The meaning of Diocletian’s Palace has been oversimplified in most of scientific research during the past two centuries. Although the original purpose of this building has recently been established as the imperial manufacture of textiles, the consequences of such new historical approach on the understanding of the architecture have not been contemplated. The well-known interpretation of the Palace as a classical monument is being substituted with an analysis based on Venturi’s terms, describing the complexity and contradiction of the building on both formal and functional levels. The general design is both schematic and intricate, utilitarian and symbolic. Architectural elements depart from their usual treatment – columns support themselves and are decorative rather than structural, spaces are at the same time open and enclosed. On the functional level there is a clash between the industrial and domestic use, between the profane and sacred, proletarian and imperial. However, these contradictions and ambiguities were not intentional; they are a result of the pragmatic procedure of the architect obliged to solve the seemingly incompatible requirements by the emperor. Following many centuries of constant change and adaptation to the demands of a living city, today the Palace is faced with a challenge of being reduced to a mere tourist attraction. Understanding of the real meaning of the place as a complex, ambiguous and contradictory building could help rectify such a one-dimensional view.
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