Tuesday, 28 January 2014


Reconstruction of part of the Forma Urbis with cavea of theatrum Pompei shown.

'This site is dedicated to exploring the Forma Urbis Romae, or Severan Marble Plan of Rome. This enormous map, measuring ca. 18.10 x 13 meters (ca. 60 x 43 feet), was carved between 203-211 CE and covered an entire wall inside the Templum Pacis in Rome. It depicted the groundplan of every architectural feature in the ancient city, from large public monuments to small shops, rooms, and even staircases...

...The Severan Marble Plan is a key resource for the study of ancient Rome, but only 10-15% of the map survives, broken into 1,186 pieces. For centuries, scholars have tried to match the fragments and reconstruct this great puzzle, but progress is slow--the marble pieces are heavy, unwieldy, and not easily accessible. Now, computer scientists and archaeologists at Stanford are employing digital technologies to try to reconstruct the map. In collaboration with the Sovraintendenza of the Comune di Roma, a team from Stanford's Computer Graphics laboratory has been creating digital photographs and 3D models of all 1,186 fragments. The next step is to develop 3D matching algorithms to "solve the map," and to build a fully searchable database of the fragments'

Stanford Digital Forma Urbis Romae Project


Giambattista Nolli's 1748 Grand Plan of Rome or Nolli Map
Plate V of the Nolli Map
An extraordinarily influential figure ground map showing, at it's simplest reading, the relationship between public and private space. The map is a section through the ground floor of buildings so shows distinctly the flow into and around buildings.
'...perhaps Nolli’s greatest contribution is the identification of semi-public space in the form of church and theater interiors, palace courtyards, entries and stairways. Until relatively recently (1970s) palace courtyards were open to the public, so that all white areas in the Grande Pianta represented the continuum of accessible urban space. In the memory of this author, walking through Rome taking shortcuts through courtyards to reach one’s destination was one of the delights of living here.'


'Before Nolli, the favorite way of representing the city was the view-map (bird’s eye view), as opposed to the plan-map (ichnographic or orthogonal view). From 1400 to 1748, there are only five plan-maps of Rome and two of these are minor. The three important ones are Bufalini 1551, De Rossi 1668, and Barbey 1697. None of these approach the accuracy and completeness of the Grande Pianta. After 1748, the majority of maps are plan-maps, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries. Tourists and pilgrims tend not to favor plan-maps, so for them a hybrid of the plan-map and view-map is most commonly available. This is a plan with the major monuments shown in three dimensional images, often misleadingly oriented. This type harks back to the Cruyl map of 1665.

The Grande Pianta was published in twelve large (80 x 54 cm) sheets together with five sheets of indices and two smaller maps on single sheets. One of the latter is a reduction of the Grande Pianta, while the other, drawn to about the same scale, is Nolli’s careful reproduction of Bufalini’s 1551 plan of Rome. In the title Nolli acknowledges his debt to Bufalini as his principal predecessor. At the same time, his reorientation of the plan from East to North, and his use of the same graphic convention of shading for the inhabited area used in both this own plans, invites the viewer to compare the Nolli/Bufalini map to the small Nolli, and to draw the obvious conclusion that the latter is the better of the two.'



'The Forma Urbis Romae by Rodolfo Lanciani is a detailed map of all the ancient ruins in Rome as of 1893-1901 when it was first published. The "Forma Urbis Romae" consists of 46 separate plates covering most of the central parts of Rome.'


Roma Interrotta 1978 (See Architectural Design, Profile 20, nos. 3-4 1979)

Aldo Rossi. Citta Analoga. Collage, 1977

Colin Rowe. Collage City.


Roma Interrotta 1978 (Rome Interupted) was a project organised by the mayor of Rome, Giulio Carlo Argan (an art historian) inviting twelve architects to each take a plate of the Nolli map and to re-imagine Rome. A list of the architects with their given Nolli Section:

I Piero Sartogo

II Constantino Dardi

III Antoine Grumbach

IV James Stirling

V Paulo Portoghesi

VI Romaldo Giurgola

VII Venturi and Rauch

VIII Colin Rowe

IX Michael Graves

X Rob Krier

XI Aldo Rossi

XII Leon Krier

'Alan Chimacoff would describe the differences in the twelve design conceptualizations of Rome as: Violence and destructive confusion (Sartogo); irrational rationality (Dardi); poetic mysticism (Grum- bach); the triumph of modernism and self (Stirling); the last, hopeless, gasp of Team X (Portoghesi); the gridiron as ultimate urban paradigm (Giurgola); an a-cultural world of kitsch (Venturi); paradisiacal city of architectural garden (Graves); an unintelligi- ble confusion of images (R. Krier); early industrial surrealism (Rossi)'

From B.D. Wortham-Galvin | The Woof and the Warp of Architecture: The Figure-Ground in Urban Design