Once the architectural outlines of the Roman Villa had taken shape, the question arose of how the external surfaces could enhance such an ambience. Naturally our minds turned to the famous frescoed spaces of sites like Pompeii. Architectural imagination is not only central to so much Roman wall painting, but also immensely appealing, seductive in fact, for any architect open to decoration. But how to get there? Who should do the design? It would have been logical to seek out academics or decorators, but, uneasy at the prospect of entrusting something that would impact so significantly on the architecture to a third party, we dared to hope that we muster sufficient insight and artistry to pull off the task. While we use hand drawing day to day along with digital techniques, luckily Mark is an amateur watercolourist, Jakub a prize-winner at measured drawing, while Victoria thrives on a diet of regular sketching.
The ethos of our architectural practice is not to borrow directly but to proceed according to principles and experience, but when it comes to wall painting we hardly possessed the knowledge such a stance presumes, and we allowed ourselves to borrow liberally, adapting as necessary, especially in the area of figure composition. And so began a long process of research and immersion, with study visits to Herculaneum, Naples, Oplontis, Pompeii and Stabiae in Campania, to Rome for its museums and the Domus Aurea and to northern Greece where precursors can be found in a few surviving fragments of Hellenistic art and decoration. As the place where Roman painting has been recreated most extensively, and to a very high standard, the Pompeianum at Aschaffenburg in northern Bavaria, is also highly instructive. Invaluable comments, tips and feedback was also forthcoming from several of Mark’s academic friends specialising in ancient art, while the later stages of composition benefited from the expertise of Nikos Vakalis, fresco conservator, decorative artist and teacher, and his team that won the contract for execution.