Italy unveils winning floor design for Colosseum arena

Rome: Rome’s Colosseum will have a new retractable arena floor within the next two years thanks to a hi-tech project unveiled by the Italian culture ministry.

The €18.5 million contract to build and install the flexible floor was won by Milan Ingegneria, a structural engineering and architecture firm with headquarters in Milan and Venice.

Hailing it as an “ambitious” project, culture minister Dario Franceschini said the sophisticated floor design would allow visitors “to see the majesty of the monument” from its centre.

The floor will be “extremely light and completely reversible” assures Milan Ingegneria, which boasts an international portfolio, including projects in collaboration with celebrated Italian architect Renzo Piano.

The platform will comprise hundreds of cabon fibre slats, coated with Acccoya timber, which will let natural light reach the network of tunnels and underground chambers where animals and gladiators were once caged before contests began.

Franceschini said the floor would allow for the staging of “high level” cultural events inside the Colosseum which reopened to visitors recently following an extended closure under Italy’s covid-19 restrictions.

In the days of imperial Rome, the sand-covered wooden arena floor hosted gladiator fights and animal hunts.

Over the centuries the underground hypogeum area became filled with earth and rubble before being excavated in the late 19th century.

The project also includes the installation of a ventilation system to control the humidity and temperature of the underground rooms, while the “non-invasive” design of the floor means that it can be removed in the future if required.

The idea of rebuilding the Colosseum arena was launched in 2014 by the archaeologist Daniele Manacorda and was strongly supported by Franceschini who tweeted at the time: “All that is needed is a bit of courage.”