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Nolli Map, A Comparative Study: Giambattista Nolli was an Italian architect and surveyor, best known for his very detailed map of Rome, first published in 1748. The map showed the city’s layout in stark contrast: buildings are presented as solid matter, rendered in dark gray, while open spaces, such as streets, plazas, and even the interiors of major buildings, are presented as voids. As James Tice notes in his book, The Nolli Map and Urban Theory, this kind of figure-ground study “provides an immediate and intuitive understanding of the city’s urban form.”

In dense cities like Rome, buildings appear first and foremost to be part of a continuous whole. By contrast, in most American cities and towns, buildings exist as disconnected objects in space, with void spaces more often used as streets and parking lots for cars. In Paradise, the spatial disconnect in the sprawling physical form of the town before the fire was quite pronounced.

In order to make this notion manifest, the students were asked to prepare Nolli-esque drawings of Paradise as well as their more organized, compact precedent studies. The intent was to provide a basis for discussion about ways to impart a more cohesive environment to Paradise.



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