OVERVIEW OF THE NERONIAN WEST BLOCK AND THE WEST COURT
As Figures 6 and 11 indicate, Severus and Celer found a number of standing buildings in the area of the West Block when they began their project. For the most part, their procedure is easy to reconstruct, consistent with their practice throughout the Esquiline Wing. They had their own conception of what they wanted to build here, which, as I argue presently, was a reasonably canonical patrician villa suburbana. This design is most recognizable in the original Domus Transitoria project (Neronian phase 1), but was substantially modified in the Domus Aurea project (Neronian phase 2). Because Severus and Celer were creating an imperial residence, the earlier buildings they found on the site were generally incompatible with their needs, requiring widespread razing. Not only does Figure 29 indicate the original Neronian design, but also the Neronian parts represent the scale of the razing required to clear the site for Severus and Celer's design. The area in question is interesting in itself. Keeping in mind that Neronian phase 1 was the Domus Transitoria project, that is, before the great fire of a.d. 64, Severus and Celer did not have a completely free hand over the entire Esquiline hill, but had to make do with whatever parcels of land Nero could obtain for them. Apparently, this did not include some of the commercial properties in the Pentagonal Court area, nor whatever stood in the area of the East Block.