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9 - From Street to Territory: Projections of the Urban Facade

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 March 2010

Charles Burroughs
Affiliation:
State University of New York, Binghamton
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Summary

TRANSCENDED CONTRASTS

The Palazzo dei Conservatori (Fig. 9) is crucial in any account of the Renaissance facade, though, as so often with Michelangelo's work, it troubles descriptive categories, including the idea of “facade.” There has been considerable controversy about the date of Michelangelo's design for the palace itself, not least because construction did not begin until 1563, shortly before the architect's death. By then much had been done in the environs of the palace, which, as seat of the main officers (conservatori) and deliberative body of civic government, was the effective city hall of Rome. In October 1537 the municipal government appointed a committee of eminent Roman patricians to oversee work on “the palace and the piazza,” both of which urgently needed modernization, and to select a contractor for the project. The palace in question was clearly that of the government itself (i.e., the Palazzo dei Conservatori), though in the 1540s attention shifted to the adjacent Senator's Palace, which housed judicial tribunals. The committee initiated substantial landscaping work, which surely included the famous oval ordering the surface of the piazza (Fig. 59), documented in drawings of the 1550s.

The three men named to the committee were all experienced in government and in the administration of architectural and planning projects. One was Pietro de'Massimi, who perhaps owed his appointment in part to the striking architecture of his new palace, which was rising not far away (Fig. 54).

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The Italian Renaissance Palace Façade
Structures of Authority, Surfaces of Sense
, pp. 176 - 194
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2002

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