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The Urban Landscape in Italy





Piazza del Popolo



The Piazza del Popolo was the main entrance space to the city of Rome, located just inside the main gate of the ancient wall.

The renaissance reformation of the gateway began in 1516 to make it a more impressive entry. The present form took 300 years to complete. In 1589, Sixtus V, had the red granite obelisk erected at the focal point of the three avenues serving different districts within the city structure. Obelisks and straight, wide roads throughout the city of Rome were constructed under Sixtus V with the intention of forming a connection of the main religious focuses of the city.

In addition to marking points, the obelisks also suggested a change in direction or other streets intersecting.

The two churches between the three avenues on the south side of the piazza were started in 1662.

The other sides of the piazza took their present form between 1816 – 1820.







Capitoline Hill was the seat of the Roman senate at the time of the construction of the Campidoglio, much earlier the location had been the religious sanctuary.

The medieval placement of original structures lacked a predetermined architectural order. The mass and articulation of the buildings and the location in relationship to one another was disorderly. During the time of Pope Paul III Michelangelo was commissioned for a design for the Capitoline hill.

According to Thomas Ashby, there are at least 6 primary objectives in the plan of Michelangelo:

1. To refine and simplify the existing piazza, eliminating the medieval angle towers and battlemented parapets, substituting in their place an organized elevation.

2. To clear the area of shops, houses, other unsuitable uses and many of the ruins.

3. To reconstruct the Palazzo dei Conservatori, eliminating the medieval character to be compatible with the elevation of the Palazzo del Senatore.

4. To build a new palace to balance with the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the axis through the center of the space and the tower of the Palazzo del Senatore and a statue of Marcus Aurelius.

5. To construct new stairs up to the piazza on the main axis.

6. To use the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius as the focal element of the piazza, a new concept at the time. Prior to the Campidoglio sculpture was always placed within the protective space of a building or as part of a building, here the sculpture was allowed to command the space.

Marcus Aurelius — Roman Emperor and Philosopher (AD 121 – 180, Life) Emperor 161 AD.

Some other concepts present at the Campidoglio are the use of forced perspective both in the buildings and in the stairway that enters the piazza. The distance between the buildings ranges in dimension from 181 feet to 133 feet, creating an illusion of perspective that is either shortened or lengthened depending on the vantage point. The use of the oval form to achieve unity within the composition of the three disparate buildings is also important.


Piazza Navona



The shape and form of the Piazza Navona follows the shape of a stadium built by Domitian between 81 AD – 96 AD. The ruins of the seats and corridors form the foundations for the renaissance buildings.

The final form of the renaissance period is credited to Bernini between 1647 – 1651.

The houses surrounding the long narrow space form a unified background for the three sculpted fountains.


Piazza of St. Peters



The cathedral of St. Peters was built between 1506 and 1626. St. Peters is one of the largest and most significant buildings built during the renaissance.

Bramante was responsible for the initial planning of the church until his death in 1514. Many other leading artists of the period were involved with the design of the church until 1546, when Michelangelo took over as architect in charge.

The large entry forecourt was built between 1655 – 1667 based on a design by Bernini. The entrance space to St. Peters Cathedral is composed of three pieces:

1. The Piazza Retta is the space immediately in front of the cathedral.

2. The Piazza Obliqua is the elliptical space enclosed on the sides by the semicircular colonnades.

3. The Piazza Rusticucci which has never been completed is the section that was meant to connect St. Peters with the River Tiber.



Spanish Steps



The Spanish Steps were built by Alessandro Specchi and Francesco de’ Santis as a staircase from the Piazza di Spagna up to the church of Santa Trinita dei Monti.

A curved series of steps rise up the hill with platforms breaking the climb into segments. The Spanish Steps are significant in that they not only provide access from one place to another, they also act as an urban center and attraction.


Trevi Fountain



The Trevi Fountain was built between 1732 and 1737. It was designed by Niccolo Salvi as a building and fountain merged into a single object. Stone formations of the fountain become part of the foundation of the building and climb up the lower level. The fountain marks and glorifies the end of an ancient aqueduct.

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