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Hardcover | $62.00 Short | £51.95 | 358 pp. | 7 x 10 in | December 1990 | ISBN: 9780262022989
Paperback | $35.00 X | £27.95 | 358 pp. | 7 x 10 in | December 1990 | ISBN: 9780262527873
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From Signs to Design

Environmental Process and Reform in Renaissance Rome


Applying the latest practices from critical theory and discourse to the built environment of early Renaissance Rome, Charles Burroughs sees the city as a field of visual communication and rhetoric. He explores the symbolic dimension of the cultural landscape and the operation of architectural and other visual signs in the urban environment. The result is a profound reconceiving of the implications for the study of Renaissance Rome of the notion of the city as "text." Central to Burrough's project is the articulation of a model of cultural mediation and production that is distinct from the standard notion of patronage as a unilateral transaction.

On one level From Signs to Design focuses on the production of social meaning in and through environmental process during the pontificate of Nicholas V, celebrated for his intimate links to the new culture of humanism and as an archetypal patron of the arts and literature. On another, it is an elucidation of the origins and the ideological impact of architectural and urbanistic motifs and conceptions of spatial order that were central to the Western tradition of monumental city planning.

Burroughs brings an especially wide range of explanatory models—from social history, cultural anthropology, iconology and semiotics—to bear in his analysis of urban reform and the shifts in architectural design that emerged in early Renaissance Rome. He focuses in particular on the material basis and context of these shifts, which he studies through the examination of contrasting neighborhoods, social milieus, and institutions, as well as of individuals prominently involved with important building projects or with the general maintenance and improvement of urban facilities and infrastructure. Burroughs provides a concrete and differentiated picture of the intersection of papal/ecclesiastical and local interest and initiatives, placing this within the context of marked political changes. And he devotes extensive discussions to the artistic expression of papal agendas and concerns in Nicholas's private chapel and in Alberti's Tempio Malatestiano.

Urban Pattern and Symbolic Landscapes
Interior Architectures: Discordance and Resolution in the Frescoes of Nicholas's Private Chapel
Far and Near Perspectives: Urban Ordering and Neighborhood Change in Nicholan Rome
Middlemen: Lines of Contact, Mutual Advantage, and Command
The Other Rome: Sacrality and Ideology in the Holy Quarter
Mirror and Frame: The Surrounding Region and the Long Road
Epilogue: The River, the Book, and the Basilica

About the Author

Charles Burroughs is Associate Professor of Art History at the State University of New York at Binghamton.


“Pope Nicholas V was the father of modern urban planning. Burroughs's fine study of the Rome that Nicholas and his contemporaries planned is authoritative in its scholarship and innovative in its interpretation.”
James Ackerman, Kingsley Porter Professor of Fine Arts, Emeritus Harvard University
“More than a history of fifteenth century Rome during its early modern formation, Burroughs outlines a new theroy of urbanism, relating architecture and the built environment to the land and to human processes of communication. This book is a unique synthesis of semiotic theory, documentary research, and interpretation of urban image, form and function -- an important contribution to renaissance studies and the history of art.”
George L. Gorse, Viola Horton Associate Professor of the History of Art, Pomona and Scripps Colleges