Abstract: Complexity and Contradiction in Diocletian’s Palace

Lecturer: 

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.

 

Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

R. Adam, Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian at Spalatro in Dalmatia, London 1764.

J. Belamarić, The date of foundation and original function of Diocletian's Palace at Split. Hortus Artium Medievalium 9, 2003: 173–185.

J. Belamarić, Gynaeceum Iovense Dalmatiae – Aspalatho, in: A. Demandt, A. Goltz, H. Schlange-Schöningen (eds), Diokletian und die Tetrarchie. Aspekte einer Zeitenwende. Millenium-Stud. Kultur Gesch. Ersten Jts. n. Chr. 1, Berlin / New York 2004: 141–162.

F. Bulić, Lj. Karaman, Kaiser Diokletians-Palast in Split, Zagreb 1929 (re-edition Zagreb 2006).

N. Cambi, Diocletian (the Person and the Personality) and his Palace, Zagreb / Split 1997.

E. Hébrard, J. Zeiller, Spalato. Le Palais de Dioclétien, Paris 1912.

J. Marasović, T. Marasović, Diocletian's palace, Zagreb 1968.

J. Marasović, T. Marasović, S. McNally, J. Wilkes, Diocletian’s Palace. Report on American-Yugoslav Joint Excavations, Volume One, Split 1972.

J. Marasović, T. Marasović, S. McNally, J. Wilkes, Diocletian’s Palace. Report on American-Yugoslav Joint Excavations, Volume Two, Split 1976.

T. Marasović, Diocletian's Palace: the world cultural heritage, Split, Croatia, Zagreb 1994.

S. McNally, J. Marasovic, T. Marasovic (eds), Diocletian's Palace: Report on American-Yugoslav Joint Excavations, Volume Five, Minneapolis 1989.

S. McNally, The architectural ornament of Diocletian's palace at Split, Oxford 1996.

G. Niemann, Der Palast Diokletians in Spalato, Vienna 1910.

G. Nikšić, The Restoration of Diocletian’s Palace – Mausoleum, Temple, and Porta Aurea (with the analysis of the original architectural design), in: A. Demandt, A. Goltz, H. Schlange-Schöningen (eds), Diokletian und die Tetrarchie. Aspekte einer Zeitenwende. Millenium-Stud. Kultur Gesch. Ersten Jts. n. Chr. 1, Berlin / New York 2004: 163–171.

G. Nikšić, The Restoration of the Peristyle of Diocletian's Palace in Split, in: E. Emmerling (ed.), Toccare - non toccare, München 2009: 116-129.

G. Nikšić, Diocetian's Palace – design and construction, in: G. von Bülow, H. Zabehlicky (eds), Bruckneudorf und Gamzigrad – Spätantike Paläste und Großvillen im Donau-Balkan-Raum. Akten des Internationalen Kolloquiums in Bruckneudorf vom 15. bis 18. Oktober 2008. Bonn 2011: 187-202.

C. Norberg Schulz, Meaning in Western Architecture, New York, 1974.

R. Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, New York 1966.

J. J. Wilkes, Diocletian's palace, Split:residence of a retired Roman emperor, Sheffield 1986.

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