Figure 1: Nolli plan of 1748


Rome: The Lost and Unknown City (Roma Ignota e Perduta)

Judith DiMaio

In 2014 I was invited to speak at the symposium, Rowe/Rome on the matter of the exhibition, Roma Interrotta, which was displayed in 1978 in Trajan’s Market. Our team (that being Colin Rowe, Judith DiMaio, Peter Carl, Barbara Littenberg, and Steven Peterson) was assigned the center plate, or sector 8 of the 1748 Pianta Grande di Roma by Giambattista Nolli for development.

In his prelude to his critical remarks in the third volume, Urbanistics, of As I Was Saying, Colin Rowe states, “The program for the exhibition was based upon the plan of Rome published by Giambattista Nolli in 1748 (Figure 1) and upon the argument that, after Nolli, the urban tissue of Rome had been ‘interrupted,’ that is, that something assumed to be implicit in the urban texture of Rome had become lost. In other words ... the exhibition was an ostensible critique of urbanistic goings-on since the overthrow of the temporal power of the Papacy.”1

He continues, “Participants — many of whom, I think, failed to understand the message — were each assigned one of the twelve plates which make up Nolli’s plan, and from it they were asked to extrapolate their own developments.”2

He further observes, “an interesting idea but one that could scarcely lead to any successful issue; and this because Nolli’s twelve plates, when they are presented as sites for development, are not equipped with an equivalency of complication;”3 meaning, that those “up north” are dense in tissue and include the Vatican, the Borgo and the Piazza del Popolo, not to mention the Campus Martius. Whereas, down southwest and south “...since these are occupied by the decorations of Nolli’s plan what can be done “except for producing new decorations”4 (Figure 2).

Rowe then focuses: “...ours was the center site, the Palatine, the Aventine and the Celio, that most difficult theater of ancient Roman debris”5 (Figure 3). His point being, what do we have to grab onto for development (Figure 4)?

“... half crumbling ruins remain, and traces can be seen of the peristyles, of the grandiose colonnades, and of pools and basins for bathing ... Antiquity has deformed it all, and the walls once adorned by painted cloth and golden fabrics are now covered with ivy. You can feel the brambles grow where the tribunes clad in purple sat, and you can see the dwellings inhabited by serpents ...”6 Pope Pius II Piccolomini appears to be of the same opinion as Rowe, albeit circa 1458.

Figure 2: Roma Interrotta plan assembled 1978

Figure 3: Nolli plan sector 8 1748

Figure 4: Roma Interrotta plan sector 8 1978

Page 1


Click monogram to return to home page