Sites of Contest: Power and Politics in Urban Rome


Mussolini demolishing buildings surrounding the Mausoleum of Augustus, from the Journal Capitolium.

Rome’s many rulers—emperors, popes, kings, dictators, presidents and prime ministers—have all attempted to shape and reshape the city as an expression of their power.  Sites in the city have been subject to serving political needs on the world stage that is Rome; architecture and urbanism have been used to represent, codify, and solidify power.  This course examines the sites that have been the focal point for such expressions from ancient through modern times.  Our study will range from ancient sites such as the Imperial For a and Hadrian’s Villa, to Papal constructions during the counter-reformation such as Piazza del Popolo, as well as more modern projects including the EUR, a city district designed to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Fascism.  Additionally, we’ll explore the periphery and surroundings of the city including sites such as the Centocelle Airport, and the Fascist New Towns outside of Rome.

Through readings, writing, discussions, and site visits students will analyze and deconstruct these sites in order to understand how architecture and urbanism can be used to express political intentions.  We’ll examine sites where intended meanings have been transformed and changed by the people who use them through resistance, new constructions, and the development of collective memories.

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