Sunlight In The Architecture Of Classical Rome

Roman civilization is often grouped into 'classical antiquity' with ancient Greece, a civilization that inspired much of the culture of ancient Rome, and we should not be surprised to discover that, when it comes to solar design principles, the Romans applied them just as the Greeks had done. The writings of Vitruvius, the eminent Roman architect in the first century bc, influenced architects for centuries to come, including Palladio from the Rennaissance period and up to and including the modern age. In Vitruvius's Ten Books of Architecture (Morgan, 1914), he wrote: ' Buildings should be thoroughly shut in rather than exposed toward the north, and

Figure 1.16 White House, Canyon de Chelley, New Mexico (courtesy of James P. Warfield).

the main portion should face the warmer south side.' Many Roman houses featured a solar furnace known as 'heliocami-nus' in their design. Much like the modern sunspace in a passive solar strategy, the heliocaminus was a separate space within the house where solar heat could be trapped and then distributed to other quarters of the house as needed. The Pantheon of Rome, one of the most famous Roman temples

Figure 1.17 The early morning sun striking the main portal of the Athena Nike temple at the Acropolis, Greece (courtesy of Dreamstime).

which was destroyed along with other buildings in a huge fire in ad 80, was later rebuilt by the emperor Hadrian between ad 118 and ad 125, incorporating solar heating principles. The oculus on top of the dome of the main rotunda captures the zenithal sunbeams that heat and illuminate the rotunda, and

Architecture Greek House
Figure 1.18 Typical Greek house with the southern section lower than the northern section to allow the sunlight in during winter (courtesy of Mohamad Araji).

epitomizes the Romans' awareness of the importance of sunlight in their architecture (Figure 1.19).

The Romans are known to have pioneered the technology of glass window coverings, which they used to capture and trap solar heat to warm their homes, their baths, and their greenhouses where they cultivated plants, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Plants would then grow more quickly to produce fruits and vegetables all year round. Although glass had been used for nearly 3000 years by other civilizations in the Middle East and Africa, its use as a window to admit light and prevent rain and cold from entering a building was said to be a Roman creation.

Not only did the Romans use solar energy to heat small homes, but they also relied on it to partly heat large public buildings (Tatcher, 1956; Ring, 1996), such as the public baths of Ostia and Caracalla (Figure 1.20).

The Romans also pioneered the idea of solar zoning legislation and laws for protecting citizens' access to sunlight. With increasing urban density, the need to legislate solar access became evident in Roman cities. Soon complaints and lawsuits were initiated because many home owners aspired to incorporate a heliocaminus and, thus, needed unobstructed access to sunlight. Ulpian, a sitting judge from Rome in the second century ad, upheld the solar rights of plaintiffs, decreeing that access to sunlight should be upheld and guaranteed. As a result of this ruling, a legal precedent for solar rights was established and was later included in the Justinian Code of Law (Jordan and Perlin, 1979).

Zenithal Natural Lighting
Figure 1.19 Oculus trapping the sun beams over the rotunda of the Pantheon in Rome (courtesy of Dreamstime).

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