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Description: The Waters of Rome: Aqueducts, Fountains, and the Birth of the Baroque City
~The water flowing into Rome's Fountains is part of the hydrological cycle. Rain falls and, via a long, slow process, percolates through the ground until it reaches impermeable soils far below the earth’s crust. It is at this point that the steady accumulation of water begins to seek release and another slow...
PublisherYale University Press
The water flowing into Rome's Fountains is part of the hydrological cycle. Rain falls and, via a long, slow process, percolates through the ground until it reaches impermeable soils far below the earth’s crust. It is at this point that the steady accumulation of water begins to seek release and another slow process—gravity—begins to force the water out of the earth as a spring that can be tapped and find its way to a fountain. This book, while not as elegant as the hydrological cycle, nonetheless mimics this process of accumulation as small drops—in this case of information—slowly find their way into the light of day.
The Waters of Rome represents many years of research, much of it spent in the various archives and libraries of Rome. As valuable as that patient work was, my dawning awareness of the meaning of my research came from looking at Rome through my professional eye. What could I, an architect and urban designer, tell from looking at the fountains? What could I see that other scholars might miss? In 1992, I took a four-month-long walk through Rome. I began on 1 September and did not stop until 31 December. In that time I walked every street within Rome’s walls, block by block, starting at Piazza del Popolo and ending at Testaccio (the artificial hill made from ancient pottery shards), then circling the walls, both inside and out. I carried photocopies of three maps with me—the 1748 plan of Rome by Giambattista Nolli, the 1893–1901 topographical and archaeological atlas by Rodolfo Lanciani, and the 1992 Roman cadastral plan—at that time the official property and street map of the city. I walked nearly every day, eight to ten hours, stopping only for lunch and coffee. I visited every neighborhood many times, on different days and at different hours. Along the way, I mapped every water feature I saw: aqueduct fragments, drinking fountains, flood markers. I made sketches and maps, took photographs and notes, and tried to envision the ways in which the fountains and other water features I encountered might connect to one another and to the larger landscape. The first conclusion I reached—one that stands as the foundation for all my subsequent work—was that to understand gravity flow, I would need a reliable, fine-grained, topographic base map. That such a map did not exist forced me to make my own, and it became the foundation for all the original maps included in this book and for a related Web project that I developed at the MIT School of Architecture and Planning and the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia ( My long walk and my new topographic map, both of which allowed me to look at water infrastructure at the scale of the city, enabled me to formulate new interpretations from information that had already passed through the hands of far more able scholars than I.
My approach is largely topographic, and much of the discussion will focus on the design and location of each fountain as a site-specific response to a set of limitations placed by gravity on the water that flows to it and by the social conditions that surround it. Discussions of iconography will be limited, and except for a focus on the sixteenth-century fountain architect Giacomo della Porta and his assistant Bartolomeo Gritti there will be little discussion of authorship, although patronage will receive its due. The book may therefore generate some skepticism among more traditional scholars, but perhaps it will lead to fresh thinking about technology and society, and about how Rome’s fountain art related to urban development and urban infrastructure.
What began in 1992 as a four-month sojourn to think about the baroque fountains of Rome turned into an eighteen-year journey of appreciation for Rome’s nearly three-thousand-year water history. What began as a short article for architects about fountains and contemporary space in Rome evolved into a multi-year computer project, Aquae Urbis Romae: The Waters of the City of Rome, several essays, and this book. Along the way I received intellectual, critical, and emotional support from countless individuals and financial support from numerous organizations. To name those friends and colleagues here (whose number astounds me) would exhaust the short space allotted to this preface and the patience of both editor and reader. Nonetheless, my debt will never be paid to Elaine Jones and Charles Moore, who planted the seed for this book in 1993, and to Paul Barolsky, Mirka Beneš, Daniela Lamberini, Pamela O. Long, and Rabun Taylor, who nourished its growth. Their critical observations, lively discussion, generosity, and good humor helped me see the flaws in my logic and the lacunae in my arguments.
Ruth Barolsky, Ann Barrett, Don Bartlett, Karen Bermann, Allan Ceen, Dora Crouch, Laura Flusche, Sandra Forrest, Korje Guttormsen, David Karmon, Patricia Osmund, Sandra Phillips, Victoria Reed, Lisa Reilly, Susan Sanders, Pia Schneider, Donna Vaccarino, Mike Waters, and scores of Fellows and Residents from the American Academy in Rome, including Robert Campbell, Bill Fain, Sharon Horvath, Kristin Jones, Jessica Maier, Betsey Robinson, Stephen Tobriner, Peter Waldman, Bill Wallace, James Wescoat, and Nichole Wiedemann, accompanied me numerous times as I walked the streets of Rome trying to explain how and why the water system works as it does. Their questions and insights generated many of the arguments developed here, and their friendship helped sustain my enthusiasm and commitment to this project. Other friends, including Gary Brown, Marco Cenzatti, Margaret Crawford, Anne Hartmere, Carla Kevaynian, and Sandy Liebermann, provided me with space to live and work over the years that I have been involved with this project. Among my friends, Bruno Leoni seemed to have inexhaustible patience, explaining hydraulic formulas, translating seventeenth-century technical texts, and running last-minute interference when I could not be in Rome. For his heroic efforts he deserves to have a new Roman fountain named for him.
In addition to challenging me to explain my ideas about water, Bruno Carraciolo, John N. Hopkins, Bruno Leoni, Morna Livingston, Leonardo Lombardi, Rossella Nastri, Edward O’Neill, Mike O’Neill, and Michael Odum have also kindly provided me with photographs and drawings, while Elizabeth Cohen, Tom Cohen, Ronald Delph, and Patricia Waddy generously directed my attention to obscure documents that have greatly enriched my work. Bill Mitchell provided the initial impetus for the computer project and Chris Jessee helped me create the one-meter topographic base for the original maps in this book. Kenneth Stow kindly helped translate documents that referred to the Jewish Ghetto and its residents. I owe special thanks to Vincent Buonanno, who not only continues to share his enthusiasm for Rome with me, but who also generously allowed me to reproduce images from his splendid collection of sixteenth-, seventeenth-, and eighteenth-century prints and books. His liberality was greatly facilitated by the staff of the Brown University Digital Library.
On three occasions I had the privilege of working at the American Academy in Rome as a Visiting Scholar, and I have used the Academy library countless times over the years. The entire staff of the Academy deserves special thanks. I have also kept my nose buried in the rich resources at the Archivio di Stato di Roma, the Archivio Storico Capitolino, the Biblioteca Casanatense, the Bibliotheca Hertziana, the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, the Archivio Segreto Vaticano, and the Biblioteca di Archeologia e Storia dellArte. While the staff members at these institutions and libraries have been exceptionally helpful, Barbara Jatta at the Vatican Library and Pina Pasquantonio at the American Academy are owed special thanks. In the United States I made extensive use of the Burndy Library at MIT (now part of the Huntington Library) and the Orsini Archive in the Special Collections Department at UCLA; I wish to thank the staff members of both institutions for their assistance. The staff of the Azienda Communale Energia ed Ambiente (ACEA), Rome’s water and electricity department, gave me behind-the-scene access to aqueducts, springs, castelli, and fountains, and shared facts, drawings, and books that were enormously helpful, particularly in the early days of my research. In spite of my patient labor and the generous help these individuals provided, there will inevitably be errors and omissions, for which I take complete responsibility.
The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) at the University of Virginia, the John Anson Kittredge Educational Trust, and most recently the Guggenheim Foundation provided me with funding or technical support to create the computer base maps that provide the foundation for my research. The Fulbright Commission, the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology at MIT, the Getty Research Center, the Prince Charitable Trusts, and the National Science Foundation helped with research and travel funding, while the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts (CASVA) at the National Gallery of Art generously provided support while I wrote the earliest draft of this book. I am forever in the debt of these institutions and the people who administer them, without whom this project would not have been possible. In particular, the staff members at CASVA (2003–4), the Dibner Institute (1998–99), and IATH (1997–98) pampered me and my cohorts by providing us with office space, technical support, vast libraries, delicious lunches, and stimulating conversation—all necessary ingredients to tap the springs of creativity.
Over the past fifteen years it has been my privilege to share my research at many conferences, symposia, and professional and cultural organizations, and also to lecture and teach at schools of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning in the United States and Italy. Without fail, questions have been raised and insights voiced by students, faculty, and members of the audience that shed light on my work. I am especially grateful for these opportunities and to those persons who facilitated my participation.
Finally, to my anonymous readers (whoever they may be), and to the editors at Yale University Press, I extend my deepest thanks: to Patricia Fidler and Michelle Komie who saw promise in my topic and signed my book up; to Susan Laity, whose patient attention throughout the editing process was truly exemplary, and to Sarah Henry who oversaw the images and their editing. Their enthusiasm and support smoothed the process and my flow of words.