Technology and Construction
To get a deeper understanding of Domenico Fontanas “Della trasportatione dell’obelisco Vaticano e delle fabbriche di Sisto V”, published in 1590, the book must be put into historical context. The author himself offers the reader his perspective as construction sight and leading architect in the process of transporting a 327-ton obelisk over a distance from the Vatican Circus to its new location, the St. Peters square, near the St. Peters church. Being commissioned by Pope Sixtus V with this project in 1586, Fontana writes, describes, depicts, and illustrates on 108 pages the process of destructing, transporting and re-constructing the Vatican obelisk.
Domenico Fontana gives important historical background for understanding, reasons and motives for this project, but also precise description of realizing this large-scale project. While analyzing the book, it comes to notice that the author uses two stylistic elements. Firstly, there is densely written text, which stretches over several pages and probably gives a very precise description of the architect’s ideas, encountered problems, analysis and description of these. Noticing the structure of the book, there are several chapters filled with information of this kind. Fontana not only uses text to circumstantiate his thoughts and plans, but also gives a lot of illustrations. Examine these, it becomes clear how detailed and precisely his drawings are. For instance, he made several technical drawings of the deconstruction process, showing great love of detail and preciseness in lines. On top, sketches, instructions and proposals of implementation are found in the book. Just to mention an example, a wooden framework was built around the obelisk, lowering it with ropes, manpower and horses. The series of technical and detailed drawings, floorplans and images of situations in the process make an epic graphic choreography. By means of this image-text combination the reader can comprehend how difficult this project must have been.
At this point, it must be mentioned that Domenico Fontana was chosen to execute the job on behalf of Pope Sixtus V because he had great knowledge in statics. Also, by bringing in engineering and architectural expertise being ahead of its time, he aroused great and universal reputation.