chapter  10
22 Pages

CONTEXT and BUILDING

What is the most important city to architectural history? Carthage, Babylon, or Jericho?

Athens or Constantinople? London, Paris, Beijing, Tokyo, or New York? This would be a

difficult debate to resolve. Nevertheless, one city worth discussing would be Rome, Italy,

which holds a unique and distinguished position in architectural history and theory. It was

the physical, political, and ideological center of the Roman Empire, it is home to an

unparalleled collection of cultural and architectural artifacts, and it is the exemplar of

medieval and Renaissance European urban design and planning. It is a city that has

been transformed again and again over centuries. Rome has been transformed by religious

rulers, political regimes, and by the media. During the 16th century, Pope Sixtus the Fifth

conceived a street plan for Rome that linked prominent nodes of the city. During the 1930s

reign of Benito Mussolini, the historic Roman Forum was permanently altered by the

insertion of the Via dei Fori Imperiali. The grandeur of Rome was recast in the 2000 film

Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe. And, with the growing suburbanization of North America

and Europe, many urban planners, designers, and architects have returned to Rome for

inspiration. While urban sustainability is a primary motive behind neo-traditional town

planning, Rome arose and developed for different reasons.