The History

In 1978 twelve international architects participated in the design competition for a “New Rome” based on the city’s historical center. Titled Roma Interotta (Rome Interrupted), the project assigned each architect a section Nolli’s famous plan for Rome from 1748, from which they would develop a fictional project. The project, which was based on the distant quality of Nolli’s map that documented a condition long lost, posed a strange prompt for designs in a liminal space that did not exist. Still, many teams engaged real aspects of the city, past and present. Aldo Rossi, for example, updates the Baths of Caracalla by quipping them with modern heating and cooling systems while Colin Rowe attempted to “rebuild” the Palatine Hill, using imported Roman precedents. Others, however, ignored the original Roman site altogether. Leon Krier, for example, proposed sheltered piazzas to be placed across the city, while Robert Venturi and John Rauch overlaid a photomontage of the Las Vegas strip onto their assigned square. Although many of the participants were avowed “contextualists,” the majority of designs disregarded the historical emphasis of the project, focusing instead on the depiction of contemporary urban space rather than the historical development of Rome.