The Coliseum: Building the Arena of Death

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The Coliseum: Building the Arena of Death

Engineering Project Management

INTRODUCTION:

Project management has existed in some form for thousands of years. After all anything that requires an approach where humans organize effectively to plan and achieve specific objectives can be loosely defined as a project. How else would humans have achieved some of the worlds most stunning wonders and achievements.   Examples include, the Great Pyramid of Giza (2,550 B.C.) and the Great Wall of China (221 B.C. - 206 B.C.). These projects were made possible with the development of simple tools like wheels and levers, and wedges, around 3000 BC. The pace of development continued in and around the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Asia Minor. This led to projects like those that created the Roman Coliseum, 80 A.D.  In the following examination of the building of The Coliseum we will consider how the project management principles shaped the design, and construction of one of history’s greatest monuments.

First we will cover some basic historical background of The Coliseum, following with a discussion of some of the architectural aspects of the structure, and design concepts, next, we will cover the project management principles utilized in the construction of The Coliseum, and the ongoing restoration projects. BACKGROUND:

The Coliseum or Flavian Amphitheater was begun by Vespasian in 70 A.D., inaugurated by Titus in 80 A.D. with a week long event during which 5,000 men and countless animals were killed. Given the scale of the enterprise it was built remarkably quickly.

Its monumental size and grandeur as well as its practical and efficient organization for producing spectacles and controlling the large crowds make it one of the greatest architectural monuments achieved by the ancient Romans. Over-engineered perhaps, but it has stood the test of time. DESIGN, ARCHITECTURE AND CONSTRUCTION:

The name of the architect is unknown, but by analogy with what we know from elsewhere in the ancient world, the design process would have involved floor plans drawn to scale, 3-dimensional scale models, perspective drawings, and for the artisans some full-size design sketches.

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The Coliseum is made of numerous major sections, each a marvel of architecture at the time it was built. First, is the substructure; a massive sophisticated service area beneath the arena of the Coliseum. Next is the arena, the area where the performances took place (named for the sand that was scattered over it to soak up the blood of the combatants). It was separated from the seating by a high parapet so Senators sitting in the front row were protected from weaponry, and blood spattering. The third section is the circulation system, from the outside the building rises 48.5m (159ft, about the height of a 25 story building) in four tiers. At each of the first three levels, 80 half columns in travertine stone framed an arch opening, through which light reached passageways inside. On the bottom level were 80 numbered entrances. The concrete vaults that formed the main supporting structure of the building also formed a logical system of corridors and stairways so that each entrance led spectators to their sections. Next, is the seating section, with a capacity between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators. The building handled large crowds with efficiency; it is believed the coliseum could be emptied of all its 80,000 spectators in less than 12 minutes, (imagine emptying a stadium the size of Giant Stadium in New Jersey in 12 minutes!). Romans hated mixed crowds and sorted spectators by rank, gender, profession, or marital status. Admission was free to all citizens of Rome, to aid in the organization, the Romans invented seat numbers, and tickets.

The oval footprint and gigantic size of The Coliseum makes it the most recognizable building in Rome to this day. By the time it was built, Romans had been constructing amphitheaters in this fashion for a...
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