Landscape (and) urbanism? Engaging Nolli

Anthony Sease

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Sease, A. (1). Landscape (and) urbanism? Engaging Nolli. Journal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability, 8(4), 352–372.

Anthropological Place , Ecological Place , Figure Ground , Landscape Urbanism , Nolli’s Map , Urban Design

Landscape urbanism is articulated against the purported failures of traditional urban design practices to conceptualize adequately the transience, adaptability, and ecological complexity demanded by contemporary urbanism. This paper engages Giambattista Nolli’s 1748 map of Rome, a seminal example of the figure ground representational method, to highlight some contradictions in landscape urbanism’s texts and projects. Whereas the figure ground is often reduced to a binary black and white image, Nolli’s map illustrates the intertwining of public and private spaces, through rendering detailed attributes of site, infrastructure, history, and architecture. Also considered is the asser- tive restructuring of disciplinary influence within what Linda Pollak identifies as ‘con- structed ground.’ This reclamation constitutes a re-territorializing of landscape architecture through re-engagement of the urban fabric, as well as the more aspirational and necessary re-territorializing of design through intentional consideration of ecological complexity in the making of public urban spaces.

Main finding
This author argues that by privileging ecological place over anthropological place, landscape urbanism (not unlike modern planning) could be 'abandoning figural urban space and the potentiality of reiterative social practices' associated with it. However the author also notes that while landscape urbanism may de-prioritize figural urban space, it brings a critical, multi-scalar understanding of landscape to a timely, interdisciplinary re-territorialization of urban design.

Description of method used in the article
Engages Nolli’s famous 1748 map of Rome to facilitate an analysis of landscape urbanism vis-à-vis the making of public, urban space.

Theoretically interesting

Organising categories

Other or N/A
Urban Planning
Physical types