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Period Postcards from Naples
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postcard # 28 - 
Augustus Caesar & Parametric Design

This is a companion entry to "An Isometric train station".

There are more things in soil and subsoil
Than are dreamt of in our philosophy.
-
Omlet (1.5.167.8) Selene Salvi (self-portrait - view)

The contrast between these two images of the same square is quite stark. Indeed, without a few tell-tales such as the large buildings set at the four corners of this square, Piazza Nicola Amore, 500 meters west of the main train station (view) (in the far background), the images might not even be readily recognizable as the same site. The four buildings (the other two are just to the left and right of where the photographer is standing
– the third one is partially visible in the photo, below – the street branching to the left in the second photo is via Duomo and runs up to the cathedral) are identical and are still called "the quadruplets" by locals. The buildings, the square, and the entire one-mile major thoroughfare, Corso Umberto I running west from the train station almost to the port of Naples were built in the 1880s as part of the major urban renewal of Naples called the risanamento. The square is named for the major of the city at that time, Nicola Amore (1830-1894), in great part the prime mover behind the national decision to clean up the city. Before that time, the entire area was chockablock with ancient, often decrepit, buildings that were then torn down to make way for the new city and the new century.

The presence of the statute in this polychrome colored postcard (above) lets us date the card rather precisely. The statue is of mayor Amore and is dated MCMIV (1904). We also know that the first FIAT automobiles made their appearance in Naples in 1903 and 1904. There are no cars in the image and this is a major square on the way to the train station. Thus ...(drum roll)... 1904 or 1905. Maybe fashionistas can get more out of the hats; if that is you, send me a better date. Oh, and a boater hat, too, please (view). The sculptor was Francesco Jerace (1854-1937), a very prominent sculptor of his day from Calabria. Besides this rendering of Nicola Amore, he created the statue of Victor Emanuel II of Savoy (on the west façade of the Royal Palace
view), contributed to the great national monument to the same monarch in Rome and, somewhat quirkily, sculpted the marvelous statue of Beethoven (seen brooding here) in the courtyard of the Naples music conservatory. The statue of Nicola Amore remained in place until 1938 when Adolf Hitler (view) visited Naples. In order to save His endless motorcade the inconvenience of having to turn around the statue, they moved the statue to the ignominy (relatively speaking) of the east end of the Villa Comunale, where it still stands and gathers bird droppings (view).

Unique in this collection of images is a scene (pictured, above left) still in the future by, we hope, not more than two or three years. It will be the centerpiece of the square, a skylight illuminating a precious Roman relic set below ground (but in situ at ground level in Roman times), the podium of a temple (view) to Caesar Augustus, set to commemorate the Isolymic Games of Neapolis and soon in the entrance to the "Duomo" station of the Naples metro train line, the newest entry in the cavalcade of "art stations" that the city is now so enamored of. I have used the image elsewhere (see last link, directly above) and described it as an "intergalactic parametric grid skylight landed in the middle of the square" and said I was having fun with intergalactic and landed. I was, but 'parametric grid skylight' is for real. Parametric design uses algorithms, short mathematical instructions that, when repeated, can combine to encode complex geometries and structures.
The grid here in question may, in fact, be a Voronoi tessellation. Or maybe not. In architecture, it is part of the movement called post-modern Expressionism.  If you understand any of that, please send me a clear explanation in English or Mongolian – along with the boater from the paragraph above this one. In short, maybe that's more than just a nice-looking grid. You can imagine modern Neapolitans on their way to their hypertrains (view), reaching up through the grid, which then starts to ripple and flux as parametric structures like to do, and then eerie theremin music (view) chimes in and space-time (view) does its thing, as it will do, and our generation comes face-to-face with denizens of the 1890s on their way to pufferbellies (view) of their own! One of us stares up at them in amazement and says, "What the hell?! Great-Granddaddy? Is that you? Can you see me now? How about now? OK. Hey, get a haircut, gramps – you'll be wearing a helmet in a few years anyway. Don't sweat it - you survive. Quick, drop me the boater!"

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