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The Italian Piazza Transformed

The Italian Piazza Transformed: Parma in the Communal Age

Areli Marina
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Italian Piazza Transformed
    Book Description:

    During the long thirteenth century, the cities of northern Italy engendered a vital and distinctive civic culture despite constant political upheaval. In The Italian Piazza Transformed, Areli Marina examines the radical transformation of Parma’s urban center in this tumultuous period by reconstructing the city’s two most significant public spaces: its cathedral and communal squares. Treating the space of these piazzas as attentively as the buildings that shape their perimeters, she documents and discusses the evolution of each site from 1196, tracing their construction by opposing political factions within the city’s ruling elite. By the early fourteenth century, Parma’s patrons and builders had imposed strict geometric order on formerly inchoate sites, achieving a formal coherence attained by few other cities. Moreover, Marina establishes that the piazzas’ orderly contours, dramatic open spaces, and monumental buildings were more than grand backdrops to civic ritual. Parma’s squares were also agents in the production of the city-state’s mechanisms of control. They deployed brick, marble, and mortar according to both ancient Roman and contemporary courtly modes to create a physical embodiment of the modern, syncretic authority of the city’s leaders. By weaving together traditional formal and iconographic approaches with newer concepts of the symbolic, social, and political meanings of urban space, Marina reframes the complex relationship between late medieval Italy’s civic culture and the carefully crafted piazzas from which it emerged.

    eISBN: 978-0-271-05562-6
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvii)
    Areli Marina
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xviii-xviii)
  6. About the Reconstruction Diagrams
    (pp. xix-xix)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. xx-21)

    In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, cities dispersed across Italy’s Lombard plain achieved political independence and transformed their urban centers in rapid succession (fig. 1).¹ In Parma, a midsized city sited in the plain’s heartland, between superpowers Milan and Bologna, the ruling elites created two magnificent civic squares framed by nine imposing new structures, including a freestanding baptistery, two bell towers, and six palaces, between 1196 and 1296 (fig. 2). These spaces survive today as the Piazza del Duomo and Piazza Garibaldi (figs. 3 and 4).² Parma achieved this remarkable transformation in unlikely circumstances, as the thirteenth century was marked...

  8. Part I: The Production of Order

    • CHAPTER 1 (Re)constructing the Piazza del Duomo
      (pp. 24-59)

      Of Parma’s two great medieval piazzas, the Piazza del Duomo has historical precedence (figs. 3 and 10).¹ In 1149, when the site that was to become the Piazza Comunale functioned as little more than a busy intersection, Parma’s episcopal precinct already comprised a bishop’s palace, a cathedral, and a chapter house. It had served as the seat of emperors, popes, bishops, counts, and kings. Over the course of the thirteenth century, the leaders of the church faction transformed this prestigious but inchoate site into a coherent urbanistic ensemble. In this chapter, I reconstruct the piazza’s transformation and recover its formal...

    • CHAPTER 2 (Re)constructing the Communal Piazza
      (pp. 60-103)

      While the Piazza del Duomo is now at the margins of modern Parma’s political and economic life, the site of the communal piazza remains its center (figs. 4 and 47). The town hall, most local and regional government offices, the most important banks, the city’s greatest concentration of cafes, its primary commercial artery, and its chicest promenade—all surround or converge upon the enormous square-shaped site, which has been renamed Piazza Garibaldi. Despite the changes wrought by the intervening centuries on the buildings and streets that form the communal piazza’s perimeter, the piazza retains the vitality, grandeur, and essential form...

  9. Part II: The Piazza and Public Life

    • CHAPTER 3 The Legislation of Order
      (pp. 106-113)

      The last two chapters have demonstrated how Parma’s administrators and builders transformed two heterogeneous, fragmented sites at the heart of the city into monumental, geometrically ordered squares. The desire for order evinced by the construction of the episcopal and communal piazzas was not limited to these two projects, however. It formed part of a larger urbanistic program encompassing many aspects of urban life, as evidenced by communal legislation ensuring the cleanliness, navigability, defensibility, and decorum of the city as a whole. Parma’s program was not unique; the urbanistic “will to order” manifested in the legislation of the city-states of thirteenth-century...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Eloquent Piazza
      (pp. 114-136)

      Jacques Le Goff has identified two basic approaches to the study of Europe’s urban elites: investigation of their political history and analysis of what he calls the urban imaginary. As Le Goff defines it, the urban imaginary comprises all the fields of “symbolic” production, including literature and the visual arts. (Although imperfect, Le Goff’s conception is nonetheless useful because it acknowledges the fundamental role of artistic production in the formation of culture.) In the previous chapter, I have shown how Parma’s communal government used its legislative capacity to preserve the form and decorum of the city’s new public spaces. Here,...

  10. Epilogue: Parma’s Spatial Practice Compared
    (pp. 137-139)

    The panoptic quality of Parma’s aesthetic differentiates it substantially from the better-known urbanistic aesthetics of Pisa, Siena, and Florence. In these Tuscan cities, piazza spaces act as buffers between individual monuments and the remaining city fabric and as stage sets framing the monument for the viewer. Even when close formal relationships between individual monuments on a site exist, such as in Pisa’s Piazza del Duomo, the piazza surrounds its principal monuments (fig. 107); the monuments do not surround the piazza.¹ The viewer is “outside” in the piazza, looking “in” at the monuments. This effect may be a consequence of the...

  11. Appendixes

    • Appendix I On Measurement, Module, and Geometry in Medieval Parma
      (pp. 140-143)
    • Appendix II The Communal Buildings of Parma: Evidence and Interpretation
      (pp. 144-153)
    • Appendix III Salimbene de Adam’s Account of Parma’s Late Thirteenth-Century Architectural Projects
      (pp. 154-154)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 155-174)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 175-188)
  14. Index
    (pp. 189-198)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 199-199)