First reveal: Arco dei Fileni, Libya, 1941 in 1:35, Scratchbuild
This article is part of a series:
Some of you may have dropped by this WIP on the Arco dei Fileni (Arch of the Philaeni) entry in the diorama and armor section:
Since the main construction phase is now finished, I wanted to bring a first reveal to you. Today, I had a long sanding session so now the build is ready for finishing. I will add a few vehicles to make the proportions of the monument more clear but focus will be on the Arc itself, always.
The Arco dei Fileni was erected in the mid-1930’s in Libya (North Africa), then a colony of the kingdom of Italy. The Italian dictator Benito Mussolini himself inaugurated the Arc on March 16th 1937 and it was situated on the border between the Northern African (Italian-controlled) provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, between Al Agheila and Ras-Lanuf.
The site for the Arc was chosen near the purported burial place of two brothers from Cartago who were buried alive there to mark the border between the Greek province of Kirene and Roman Cartago. Hence the name “Arco dei Fileni”, the brothers’ arc.
The legend of the brothers’ fate was described in a verse by Horace and one passage from this writing was actually on the monument: “ALME SOL POSSIS NIHIL VRBE ROMA VISERE MAIVS” (“Oh amighty sun, may you never look onto a city greater than Rome”. Italian fasism of the 1920 and -30ies heavily relied on the romantic representation of the old Rome. Hence, this monument’s appearance in Northern Africa was intended to provide a beacon of the new Roman Empire Mussolini so much wanted to build around the Mediterranean sea.
For more history, I refer to the WIP thread before.
Why I Built this arc?
Actually, I was reading a book on the conflict in Northern Africa between 1941 and 1943 and bounced upon this picture:
I was most interested in the monument behind the Pzkpfw. III and started to research. The Arc was designed by the Italian architect Florestano di Fausto and constructed in travertine stone, of which most of Rome was built. This stone has a particular texture and is predominantly white in color:
The Arc appears in many pictures at the time, and really was a landmark for many troops on both sides, involved in the conflict in Northern Africa, as this exempt from a comic album shows:
Also, it was a main tourist attraction in Libya and long after the war ended there. It was even on the front page of tourist guides:
And even on postage stamps…
Unfortunately, the original no longer exists as the later dictator of Libya, Muammar Al-Gadaffi had it demolished in the early seventies of the previous century. To him, the arc was too much a reference to the colonial past of his country he could better do without and so, it had to be removed. Personally, I recognize that the monument dated from a dictatorial, yes fascist past but it’s elegant lines do attract me and therefore I took on the project of building it. To my knowledge, nobody ever undertook this challenge seriously before.
Remember: To begin, begin. (William Wordsworth)
This time around, I had no plans and not many references on the size and dimensions of the Arc. I found one article indicating three main dimensions and commenced the task of measuring available photographic imagery of the monument and producing a pencil drawing at scale 1:100. I had pictures like these that showed the main details on the inner side of the Arc (compare to the historical shot!):
The real thing was about 32 meters high, which amounts to 91 centimeters in scale 1:35. The build was initiated by assembling a frame from hardwood profiles from the department store:
When that was done and straight, I set to the task of sheeting the outside of the frame using 2mm balsa. As I think about using the wood grain to mimic the typical layered structure of the travertine stone, I tried to keep all grains in horizontal direction, in line with what I could derive from pictures.
Last week, I applied a layer of wood primer (transparent) which rendered the brittle balsa stronger. Today I had about 4 hours of a careful sanding session outside. Lovely weather it was!
This is the result!
I hope you like it so far, left to do is the painting, weathering, sculpting of the statues of both brothers, the bas-relief and some details on the outside. These relics are all that is left from this once majestic monument in a little museum near Syrt in Libya.
If you like, you can continue to follow progress in the WIP thread:
Comments, views are welcome!