[ENG] Construction 114: Side alley underground structures (2) - archaeological window part 1

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In putting into practice what I previously assumed, many details will inevitably suffer some changes. However, the basic subject remains the same: a "window" that allows one to peek underground, discovering hidden archaeological remains, perhaps belonging to the same foundations on which the Domus is built.

While initially I hypothesized the presence of Roman remains, highlighted by the composition of the wall in the opus reticulatum style (see drawing), later I opt for a structure compatible to the tower, probably the oldest element of the whole complex (at least in the lower part) . It could be an old defensive tower connected to the city walls and later incorporated to the new building ...

But these are only assumptions, not supported by certain documentary proofs.

The main feature of this window will be the round shape, at first just an hypothesis due to its complexity. In fact I would like to preserve the inside from dust and the best choice for that would be the use of an ordinary or acrylic glass, even if I'd prefer the first one. However, while I have good chances to cut the slate into the desired shape (and in case of mistake the material do not lacks), I'm not equipped to cut the glass.

At this point the case comes to my rescue: the table lamp that I use while working lacks the protective glass. In fact, years ago I removed it to prevent the bulb from overheating, placing it in a drawer in the midst of many odds and ends.
With a good dose of luck I can find it almost immediately and I transform it into the starting element for the construction of my window.

So, once the pieces that form the external facing are finally made, it's time to move on to its content.

Using two rather large blocks of slate as a base, I start laying the stones, forming a wall that represents an ideal continuation of the tower. In fact, the window is located exactly under its base.
On the left, a small brick arch gives access to an underground corridor, which will then be obstructed by dirt and debris, making it barely visible.
Then I insert a thicker stone, as if in that point the masonry rested directly on the underlying rock. I have collected several of these stones on the bed of a river and they will be useful for the construction of the pavement and the tower, getting very close to the materials actually used in the Genoese medieval constructions.

After the rock is the turn of the amphora, the only element that remained unchanged since the first studies. For now it's only a laying test, then the clay pot will be varnished and "soiled" adequately. In this phase I must pay particular attention to the fact that the elements do not protrude too much from the base. This would hinder the laying of the slate slab which must be perfectly vertical and in line with the concrete base.

Meanwhile, using a cardboard cylinder as a support, I'm building half a stone vault with which I will close the upper part of the underground chamber. Once closed, it will rest on the perimeter slab projecting ideally towards the outside.

After a first filling of the joints with cement grout, I prepare a bed of soil, pebbles and cement that will act as a base for the amphora, now well finished and ready to play its role.

To uniform everything, I spread a little sand that I fix with some light sprinkling of spray glue.

The lower part of the "secret chamber" is practically finished. Now I have to insert the vault, which has meanwhile stiffened and been removed from the cardboard support. I provisionally place the lower slab and a couple of random stones to support it while the glue is drying. Just out of curiosity, they're a river pebble (I already talked about it) and a scrap of a marble laboratory with round cutting tests on it.

Despite the rudimentary tools, even the circle that I cut on the slate slabs did not come out badly, and what follows is a preview of how the window will look once closed.

slate, glass, gravel, stones, sand, soil, transparent varnish, vinyl glue, spray glue
tweezers, pincers, sandpaper, hacksaw, files, Dremel with diamond cutting wheel
SIZE (in cm):
window diameter: 6
slate slab thickness: 0,6


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