Aquae Urbis Romae is the first
comprehensive study to examine
water as a living system related to the
2800 year history of the City of Rome. Focused on the intimate correlation between water, gravity,
and topography, the study investigates the relationships between natural water systems, and the delivery,
distribution, use, and display of imported water systems as they influenced urban growth and form. This
hydrological complex includes the Tiber river, springs, streams, marshes, sewers, aqueducts, wells,
conduits, cisterns, floods, and rainwater, all linked through topography. Together they provide the stimulus
and mechanism for all urban life. The focus of Aquae Urbis Romae is concerned with how this water
infrastructure impacts the public life of Rome--how it structures the larger landscape of streets, piazzas,
markets, neighborhoods, and public parks that define much of the unique character of the City of Rome.
With Aquae Urbis Romae it is
possible to study this complex urban system in both linear and lateral
modes including: typologically (aqueducts, fountains, floods, sewers, etc.); topographically (the Roman
Forum, the Velabrum, the Campus Martius, Trastevere, etc.); and chronologically from approximately
800 BC to the early 21st. century. The study is based on completely new computer maps created especially
for this project. The cartographic material is supplemented by historic photographs, maps, prints, and texts.
Modern topographic levels are included at one meter intervals for the intramural city, and all data will ultimately
be referenced by elevation, as well as location. This will allow the study of water movement through the city,
and will allow sections to be cut within the historic center. It will also be possible to refine and update
information as modern excavations reveal new data, and as the city itself makes changes to its infrastructure
system. In the near future we will convert this data to GIS format.
The goals of Aquae Urbis Romae are three-fold.
The first is to provide a body of contemporary
cartographic data that will be an analytical tool for use by architecture, landscape, planning, and urban design
students, particularly those using Rome as a design laboratory. In addition, historians, classicists, archaeologists,
hydrologists, engineers, and geographers should also find the material useful. The second goal is to create an
electronic archive of historic maps, texts, and images that deal specifically with Roman water history. Complete
texts of major writers such as Sextus Julius Frontinus, and image collections such as the seventeenth century fountain
prints of Gianbattista Falda, etc., will be available. A third goal is to develop a model for design and planning
professionals to examine the hydrological structure and history of other cities in order to inform design and policy
decisions at neighborhood, city, and regional levels. The project seeks to foster a richer understanding of urban
form, history, and technology in order to ground practice and theory more deeply in the real context of the city.
Water infrastructure is profoundly resonant with political, economic, and social implications for development in urban,
suburban, and rural environments in both developed and developing countries, and it is at the core of new theories
of infrastructural and landscape urbanism.
1. The research phase of every architectural project
begins with the site visit. Aquae Urbis Romae began
in 1992 with a comprehensive, four month long walk along the Tiber River and every street within the intramural
city to examine and map all existing water features. These include features such as fountains, aqueduct fragments,
flood markers, conduit access markers, drinking fountains, and sewer mouths, etc. Over four hundred features
were photographed, described, mapped, and sketched. This survey formed the basis for all subsequent work,
which has always relied on a synthesis of practical experience, observation, sectional analysis, archival research,
and critical readings of archaeological, mythological, anecdotal, historical, and cultural studies.
2. The new base map for Aquae Urbis Romae was
drawn by the author using "Canvas 5" computer drawing
program. It was based on the 1992 Cadastal Plan of Rome which was provided by Dott. Eugenio Baldari of the
Ufficio Speciale Centro Storico. The individual water features were then mapped. In addition, water elements
from numerous historic maps and archaeological reports were redrawn by hand, by the author at the same scale
and orientation for consistency. These elements include imperial baths, aqueducts, and other relevant archaeo-
logical fragments. They were then scanned and redrawn for the computer and incorporated into the base map.
3. Archival research was conducted in Rome at the following
institutions: the Azienda Comunale Energia ed
Ambiente (ACEA), Archivio di Stato di Roma, Archivio Capitolino, Ufficio Monumenti Mediovale e Moderni,
Museo di Roma, Ufficio Speciale Centro Storico, Gabinetto Nationle delle Stampe, and Museo del Folklore, as
well as the Biblioteca Casanatense, and the Biblioteca Corsiana. In addition the libraries of the Biblioteca Herz-
iana, the British School in Rome, and the American Academy in Rome, as well as the Getty Center and the
Library of Congress in the United States were also consulted.
4. Contemporary topographic data was derived from spot elevations
generated from aerial photography and
subsequent plotting by S.A.R.A. Nistri, and published in Atlante di Roma, Italo Novelli, editor, Marsilio Editori,
Venice, 1991. These were supplemented by data from scores of published archaeological reports. Interpolation
between points was created by hand, by the author, based on on-site observations. The intent is to show the
general flow of topography in the city, in order to better understand the relationship between water, topography,
gravity, and water distribution. The interactive topography was generated by Chris Jessee of the Institute for
Advanced Technology in the humanities using "Form Z" drawing program.
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Copyright, Katherine W. Rinne 1999