09 May 2012

Curia renovations underway

After years of planning and months of delicate negotiations to receive the necessary permits, the renovation of the General Curia finally began on 9 April 2012. The contract for the project's first phase, which was awarded to Mannelli Costruzioni, involves the demolition of unnecessary walls, the removal of old plumbing, heating and electrical fixtures, the construction of new walls and the installation of a second elevator. The demolition work has begun in earnest, and work on the new elevator is proceeding rapidly.

The project calls for excavations in two areas: the first is a small area where the base of the new elevator will be laid, and the second is in the courtyard. The latter will serve initially to facilitate the removal of rubble and old equipment from the basement of the building. Eventually it will hold a large cistern for harvesting rainwater that can be used in the toilets, laundry and garden. Harvesting rainwater will save money in the long run, and it has several environmental advantages so it is an important part of the project. In Rome, however, one never knows what might be lurking underground. The excavations had to be done slowly and under the watchful eye of an archaeologist; the discovery of any historically interesting artifact can put projects on hold indefinitely. There was a sigh of relief, therefore, when digging for the base of the elevator turned up nothing but dirt. The excavation in the courtyard did not go quite as smoothly. First, they found an old cistern used to store heating oil. No problem, that can be removed. Next, they discovered part of an old wall. Upon inspection, it turned out to be "only" from the 17th century and so of no historical value (in the photograph, the wall is on the left and the cistern is visible above the wall). Down another meter, however, they found another, older wall (the location of which is indicated by the rods sticking out of the ground). This one will have to be left in place, forcing us to slightly shift the location of the rainwater cistern — only a minor issue. Two days ago, the excavation hit another snag — the discovery of a "cavern" that runs the entire width of the courtyard. A preliminary examination seemed to indicate that it was either a natural formation or the remains of a rock quarry. If that is the case, it should not present a problem, but as I write this we are awaiting an official determination.

The next step in the process is to award the contract for the electrical and plumbing work, one for the doors and windows and one for the flooring, all of which should be completed in June.

Br Luis Eduardo Rubiano (right) discusses the project with the general contractor, Mr Carlo Mannelli. Luis is standing where the guardian's office used to be. The walls between the rooms have been removed.

A view of what was once the archives and toilets.

My old office is still intact, but not for long (sniff).