Rome. Roma Interrotta Revisited

Rome 0506.1748m.2013p 4x3 150927
Rome. G.B.Nolli’s Panels V and VI, 1748 (detail), overlaid with proposal showing continued urbanization. Notre Dame University School of Architecture Rome Program Graduate Urbanism Studio. 2013. Steven Hurtt, instructor. Christopher C. Miller, Ph.D.

The studio returned to the premise of the 1978 Roma Interrotta exhibit.  Like the original exhibit, each student was to take a panel or two; we were to continue the urbanism of Rome as if, interrupted in 1748, it was to continue in the present.

From the Piazza di Monte Cavallo on the Quirinal to the ancient Praetorium at the Aurelian Wall to the east, I began from Norberg-Schulz’s speculation that the ravines of Latium contribute to the cultural spirit-of-place.  This, in turn, seemed to have been the starting point for Portoghesi’s approach to the reconstruction and development of the ravines around the San Vitale church.  I adopted the notion that the great broad swales at the Quirinal and Viminal Hills could provide the topographic enclosure for parks which offer an alternative green connection between Rome on the escarpment and the city below.

Rome; plan oblique sketch showing proposed crescent facing southwest from head of Quirinal swale. Christopher C. Miller, Ph.D.
Rome; plan oblique sketch showing proposed crescent facing southwest from head of Quirinal swale. Christopher C. Miller, Ph.D.

Visual axes to Landmarks:

1. Palazzo Barberini to Pantheon

2. Crescent directed toward the Senator’s Palace Tower on the Capitoline Hill

3. The public terrace at SMMaggiore directed to San Francesco di Paola and to a new column set at the rear flank of SPietro in Vincoli.  This terrace is a resting point in the sequence of axes: Castrum to Bath of Diocletian; Bath of Diocletian to Crescent Terrace; Crescent Terrace through two links of Quirinal Garden to Public Terrace near San Francesco di Paola di Monti; this Public Terrace to an entry of the Bath of Trajan and eventually to a greenway in Rome’s south.

4. Greenway along ridge of Severan Wall connecting via tree-lined street north to a feature in Nolli 3 and on northward to the Borghese Gardens.  This axis and the one described above cross just east of the Bath of Diocletian.

5. Lesser axis from the garden fronting the Via Pia near the Quirinal Palace to the Ellipse and then from here to the column near the Church of San Francesco di Paola a Monti.


I accepted the conclusion of Muratori, Caniggia, and Corsini that Italian cities including Rome, have their root patterns in the surveying of the land by the Romans.  For contemporary town planners exercising a reasoned preference for what we might call medieval town planning, one of the problems has been how to articulate and therefore rationalize the highly intentional approach of a designer in the twenty-first century with a result that is intended to have no simple formality.  Raymond Unwin writes about the contrast of formal and informal town planning; he seems to say that even the latter must demonstrate a definite idea.  My interest has been to begin from the Roman land surveying, employ a simple rationale of bending the land parceling morphology to the higher level of streets aimed at the gates so that, in the plan, there can be perceived, as Unwin named it, a definite idea.

The studio’s collective and individual work was presented to Michael Graves, originator of the original Roma Interrotta Exhibit, in summer of 2013, then at the Notre Dame School of Architecture in the fall of 2013, and at a Rome conference commemorating Colin Rowe.


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