Plutarch recounted that the founding act of Rome consisted of digging a pit into the ground, where people, coming from nearby sites, were asked to put something good, according to nature, and something beautiful, according to culture: each one threw a handful of their homeland soil. The pit’s name was mundus, the Latin word for world. It even meant sky, in accordance with Cato and Pliny the Elder. Thus, the Urbe foundation coincided with acknowledging soil as a mundus, intimately linked with the subterranean and the celestial realms (comprehensive of atmosphere, air and water) and able to contain multiplicity and diversity. Not secondly, according to the tale, soil as mundus is where nature and nurture coexist. This paper investigates the multiple meanings of mundus, considering their inherent complexity and apparent contradiction as an opportunity for advancement in design critical thinking. The ambiguous notion of mundus, comprehensive of soil, air, and water, of ground and sky, of nature and culture, can help to overcome the separation between those elements and categories, to which modernity has accustomed us. Moreover, conceiving our habitat as a mundus forces us to consider soil, air, and water as a single complex entity, whose parts gradually differ in concentration and density, but act strictly together: mundus focuses on the relations and behaviours of each component, that collaborates, exchanges, or repulses with others. The paper aims to outline the complexity and the relational character of the term mundus, considering evidence coming from different references in Western history, from Kircher to Aït-Touati, Arènes and Grégoire, from Ovid to Agamben, from Mosbach Paysagistes to GTL Landschaftsarchitektur, who boldly put in relation subterranean and celestial worlds. The aim is to recur to the concept of mundus to extend the limits of design, towards a more comprehensive and integrated approach.
Metta, A., Broggini, F. (2023). Mundus. Landscape architecture as a practice of thickness, interference, mutation, and ambiguity. In Critic|all. IV International Conference on Architectural Design and Criticism. (pp.56-64). Madrid : critic|all PRESS + Departamento de Proyectos Arquitectónicos.