Roman Art & Architecture: Design a Roman House


The creative assignment is designed to allow you to explore a major topic in Roman archaeology from nontraditional perspectives. It is designed to be instructive and fun!! You must design a Roman House. The completed assignment, with all drawings and references, must be handed in at the end of class on April 10, 2014.


I want you to design your interpretation of a Roman atrium house with at least one peristyle based on the archaeological evidence for Roman houses from the cities of Roman Campania. Remember that although the houses discovered at sites like Pompeii and Herculaneum were the homes of the wealthier citizens of those communities, they are also some of the best preserved and understood of Roman domestic structures. The house that you design and decorate must be new and not a copy of an already discovered ancient Roman house. You should study several actual houses (plans, wall painting arrangements, other decoration) discussed in your texts and other resources and create your own interpretation, borrowing and adapting bits and pieces from the evidence that interests you – much like a person today would be inspired by other homes she or he had seen or visited.

Ask yourself, “If I were an upper middle class Roman citizen living in Pompeii during the decade prior to the eruption of Vesuvius and I wanted to build a new house in my community for my family…

What would it look like?
What rooms would I expect to have?
What functions would those spaces serve?
How would those rooms be arranged in relationship to one another?
How would I decorate them?
How would my house make a statement about my status and influence in this community
How would my house and its decoration same something about me as a unique individual?

You must incorporate two complementary parts in your creative assignment:

VISUAL: First, you must design a labeled plan with concise identification tags for the major parts of your fictitious house. You must submit your plan on paper or poster board measuring between 8.5 X 11″ to 12″ X 24”. No three-dimensional models please. Photocopies of published plans or illustrations from texts or websites are not allowed.

WRITTEN: Second, you must describe your Roman house to a non-Roman friend visiting from a distant province who knows very little about how Roman citizens lived in the Bay of Naples region. Using prose composition, take your friend on a tour through your house. You may do this in the form of letters, a short story, a story with dialogue, or a combination of any of these. The prose portion of your assignment should be between 7-8 typed, double-spaced pages in length. You may play the role of the homeowner, a family member (including slaves) of the homeowner, or the architect. It is also possible that the homeowner or family member is also the architect. Make up characters and situations – be creative! The paper must have a short section at the end that lists the references (both paper and electronic) that you used for your written portion.

VERY IMPORTANT: While your plan and prose must be original, they also must be based on information about the standard layouts, functions of spaces and decoration of Roman houses discussed in class and in your texts. Your house design must make sense within the current knowledge of domus construction and decor in ancient Roman Campania. You must make specific references (footnotes, in text citations) to actual Roman houses and painted walls as comparisons in this assignment. Figure out how to incorporate references to known houses, their decoration, and their dates (if possible) in your written part of the assignment. Remember that the typical decoration found in many Roman houses included furniture, gardens, sculptures, fountains, textiles and especially wall paintings.

The paper must have a short section at the end that lists all paper and electronic references consulted. However, your design and decoration must be original and creative. Do not photocopy pictures from books or print photos off the web and paste them to your plan. If you cannot draw the basics of the wall painting styles or other decoration, be sure to describe them carefully with detail in your prose. Any instances of plagiarism from books, articles, web sites or other copyrighted material will result in a failing grade for this assignment.


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