Friday, September 23, 2011

Urban Design: Nolli's Map of Rome

Nolli's Map of Rome, from Wiki's article.

A high-definition copyrighted group of the map in twelve sections is available for download, and hardcopy purchase, from the University of California at Berkeley depicting the 18th-century work by Giambattista Nolli, at this link.

The initial purpose of the map was simply to conduct a survey and produce an accurate depiction of the city. Being pre-automobile and in a heavily built-up environment, buildings and the spaces between them were the map's format. Streets were truly corridors.

The remarkable and compelling trait of the map, though, is its convention of showing in figure-ground format public spaces in white, with private spaces and structure in black. The flow of space without distinction between roofed-over publicly-accessible space and that which is open to the sky offers a surprising and profound manner of seeing the city.

While the distinction between "public" and "private" might vary in validity from time to time, the basic idea that a space could be visited as a commercial, religious or othewise public place supports the logic of Nolli's map.

It's graphically beautiful and I consider it a great learning experience for anyone with interest in urban design.

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