The Birth of the Orthogonal City Plan: Visual to Surveyed Representations of Rome from the 14th to 18th Century

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Tarlan, Ayse Aylin
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Early representations of cities are shown as a staggering of selected icons, figures on a passive ground. Later in the seventeenth century, shifts in political governance lead to an increase of land value. At this point, representing cities in a visual manner is no longer efficient. A precise method is needed to record land in order to demarcate, manage, and mark ownership. With the discovery of measuring techniques and tools, cities are now surveyed and represented as an orthogonal projection. The evolution of this process takes place from the end of the Middle Ages until the nineteenth century. This paper traces back this evolution and focuses on examples that marked the transition from the visual representations to the orthogonal city plan, such as the Leonardo Bufalini plan of Rome and G.B. Nolli’s Nuova Pianta, crucial orthogonal plan examples to assist with understanding this process. These orthogonal plans embed information on land economy in which figure, land, is equivalent to ground. They recall the origins of representing urban form as land registration that lie in the roman jurisprudence. The first cadastral registry known is Forma, a bronze tablet used during the roman colonization period. This document marks the beginning of representation of urban form as an abstract subject, an orthogonal projection with the intention of registering land use. In this paper, to better understand this evolution of representing the city as an abstraction, I will first look at early representations of Rome, where the origins of this transition have their roots. I will then proceed in unfolding political transformations that occurred during the transitioning periods, since it is this shift of power that lead to the necessity of recording land for renovation, fortification, and management purposes. For this, I will investigate the Leonardo Bufalini plan that applied in the 1551 survey to map the city of Rome. After Bufalini, orthogonal projection as a technique of representing urban form was not used until the 1700s when the city needed a series of renovation projects and land demarcation after the wars of reformation. The reintroduction of survey plans, and cadastral registry becomes an important tool for land management. Finally, I will end by analyzing Giambatista Nolli ’s Nuova Pianta di Roma, where this technique reached its peak in terms of accuracy as well as influence all over Europe.
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