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Cornell in Rome Design Studio Project Fall 2011
Published:
Sited in parallel to the Via dei Fori Imperiali, the narrative//counter-narrative library complex translates
the numerology and narrative structure of Dante Alighieri’s Divina Commedia into a volume of three
integrated cubes, each experienced as a differentcantica: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.

The three cubes intersect along a 45° degree circulation axis. Two opposing staircases run along aside each other, directing visitors upwards on two distinct paths. One staircase passes Inferno, ascends through Purgatorio, and culminates in Paradiso; the other departs from the courtyard of Ante-Inferno, leads through Inferno, and winds back to Purgatorio.

As a result, the narrative of the poem can be experienced as written—following Dante’s path from Inferno to Purgatorio to Paradiso—or froma second perspective—that of the poet Virgil, who traveled from Ante-Inferno to Inferno and then through Purgatorio as Dante’s guide.

The programmatic requirements are distributed based on their relationships to the three cantica. Inferno encases chaotic programs such as dining, administration, and material handling. Purgatorio encourages the acquisition of knowledge, embracing the street front with its bookstore and then vertically layering the various library programs. Finally, Paradiso houses the archive in a 270° panoramic glass box above the sunken courtyard of Ante-Inferno.