Impluvium


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Related to Impluvium: cubiculum, Tablinum, Peristylium

Impluvium

A pool for receiving water draining from the roof in an ancient Roman atrium.

impluvium

impluvium, A
In ancient Roman dwellings, a cistern set in the atrium or peristyle to receive water from the roofs.
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In this phase the impluvium (catch basin on the floor) developed beneath the compluvium (skylight) (Figure 2a).
Another option was the displuviate roof (Figure 2b) which retained the square opening above the impluvium but being outward sloping.
Conventional typology of the atrium-house was based upon the underlying assumption that the central court (atrium) of a typical Roman house had to be roofed and that "the link between impluvium and compluviate roof-line" (Figure 2a) was the characteristic architectural section of the "true" atrium-house (WallaceHadrill, 1997, 223).
Due to the adherence to this assumption, generations of scholars insisted on thinking that any court without an impluvium had a testudinate roof (Figure 2d).
For him, the insistence on either impluvium or testudinate system was due to nationalistic bias which distorted the implications of the material evidence for the sake of deriving an ancient Italic tradition of domestic space independent from Greek and Hellenistic patterns (Figure 1).
In this example, despite the presence of an impluvium there is clear evidence for an unroofed atrium (Wallace-Hadrill, 1997, 228).
The off-centered arrangement of the square impluvium with respect to the square formed roof line demarcating the atrium was so consciously done that, on the NE and SE sides, a covered walkway or a semi-closed space came out as a transitional zone between the open atrium and closed side spaces.
Impluvium then is a component of this overall water management system which, according to its role, can be a part of an open atrium (Figure 2d) as well as a compluviate roof system (Figure 2a) (Wallace-Hadrill, 1997, 231).
Neither atrium nor impluvium are fixed typological features as imposed by the conventional historical narrative and the discussion of atriums' roof system in isolation from environmental parameters and functional requirements does not make any sense.
In contrast, in this chthonic realm the pool is a vestigial impluvium (too vestigial, perhaps), which in Roman and Arabic prototypes collected rain from the heavens above and served almost as a mysterious eye to the earth below.
In even relatively modest Roman houses, water played an integral part, for the atrium, with its central impluvium (rain-water pool), was the first space to be encountered on entering.