Rome: Eternal City or Evolving Metropolis? [2nd-Place Winning Poster at the 2017 American Planning Association's National Planning Conference - New York City]


This project analyzes the development and planning strategies employed in Rome from the Risorginemto (Italian Reunification, 1871) to the present. It focuses on a region of Rome known as Fori - EUR. This region stretches southward from the historical center, including the Fori, Coliseum, and Piazza Venezia, following the outward expansion of the city.

The expansion includes areas such as Testaccio, Ostiense, Garbatella, and the EUR. This area was chosen to represent the city, and Italian planning practice generally during this time period, because it showcases the sequential objectives and specific urban projects which exemplify the various strategies and methods of planning instituted across this time period. Fori - EUR, in this sense, is a perfect microcosm of Rome.


During the past 150 years, Rome underwent a series of distinct planning phases, each characterized by a unique approach to defining the identity of the city, and a balance between enhancing what had come before and investing in what would follow. This engagement between past and future was at the heart of Rome’s modern development, and continues to be a major issue moving forward today.

Here, Rome’s historical planning phases are defined according to the sequence of planning phases, or generations, described by Italian urban theorist Guiseppe Campos-Venuti. The first set of maps documents the structures (edifici), opens spaces (spazi aperti), and transit infrastructure (viabilita') which were completed during each planning phase of contemporary Rome's history, from reunification (Risorgimento), modernization (modernizzazione), the post-war reconstruction (ricostruzione), the mid-century expansion (espansione) which followed the 'economic miracle' in Italy during the 1950s and 1960s, until the contemporary generation of transformation and metropolitanization (trasformazione/metropolizzazione).

These planning phases were born out of the series of official Master Plans in Rome, known as the Piani Regolatori (PR) and later Piani Regolatori Generali (PRG). The first substantial PR was established in 1883, with an 1885 variant. In 1909 an extended plan was drawn up. This plan saw the first centrally sanctioned extension beyond the city's ancient Aurelian walls, which had been considered the conventional boundaries. While these are all distinct, they fit within the early stage of Italy's modernization, which saw many cities develop new industrial and residential neighborhood typologies.



The first series of PR’s (Piani Regolatori) exhibit early planners’ desires to modernize Rome along the lines of other major European cities, which had seen major infrastructural and socio-economic growth in the decades prior to Italian industrialization.

 Plan for the Industrial Zone of Ostiense - 1916

Plan for the Industrial Zone of Ostiense - 1916

In addition to new major boulevards and neighborhoods, in the zone of Fori - EUR industrial and residential projects began. These special projects, modifications to the existing PR’s, included the large-scale industrial zone of Ostiense, and the adjoining “garden-city” style residential neighborhood of Garbatella (shown below), both to the south of the historic center.



During the Fascist period in Rome, the continued modernization took on a more authoritarian approach, with an expansive plan being drawn up by Marcello Piacentini (no relation), perhaps Italy's most influential architect and urbanist of the early 20th century.

The plan included the continued modification of the Fori area. The creation of large boulevards such as Via dei Fori Imperiali, which connected the Altar to the Nation and the Coliseum, cut directly through the Forum. Additionally, expansion continued southward, encompassing and modifying the areas of Ostiense and Garbatella, among others.

A major project begun during this period was the EUR (below), a massive, rigorously planned district originally intended to house the 1942 World’s Fair. This area was envisioned to become a new economic and cultural “center” for Rome, replete with a hyper-rational plan and sleek marble-facade corporate and cultural architecture, though much of it was left unfinished when WWII began.



Post WWII, Rome’s reconstruction saw a massive expansion far beyond the original boundaries of the historic city. Thus, the 1962/65 PRG was the first to detail the full Comune di Roma, extending far beyond the original border of the city and encompassing more diversified housing and neighborhood design strategies.

This shift meant that planning in Rome had to focus on incorporating and integrating many parts of the periphery which had developed unplanned since the end of the second world war. Additionally, this increased connectivity meant that planners had to be much more conscious about the relationships between historical spaces and new ones, particularly when choosing areas for conservation, adaptive reuse, and new development based on pre-existing plans, such as new growth in the EUR district, and the reuse of Porta San Paolo (below).



The current PRG, modified last in 2008, seeks to organize and classify Rome as a inclusive system, a network of connected centralities which create a "city of cities." The primary tool for organizing the city becomes classifying areas for various uses with the larger region in mind.

New and old centralities, urban projects, and connective transportation all serve to strengthen individual areas with the primary goal of strengthening Rome overall as a region. External centers such as EUR Sud (Castellaccio) are to be invested in, while consolidation and re-qualification in areas such as the former slaughterhouse in Testaccio and existing structures in Ostiense allow for continued development across the layers of the city’s infrastructure. Projects such as the reclamation of the Gazometro (former industrial gas silo) into a venue for summer concerns, and the development of a third metro line also seek to connect the peripheral areas to the center more directly, and to give Rome a realisitic chance to be competitive in Europe and globally in the 21st century.

These combined efforts operate to create a more integrated urban network, both at the neighborhood and regional scale, as well as provide opportunity for additional investment and development in a city infamous for being obstinate to development and construction projects.



After the modernization of the industrial age, the post-war reconstruction, the expansion during the 1960s, and the transformation (re-use) at the end of the 20th century, the city has entered a period of metropolitanization. Planners and urban policy-makers are now tasked with organizing Rome the region, not just Rome the city, and with integrating internal and peripheral centralities into a single and robust network of urban communities.

An important part of the 2008 PRG is the incorporation and execution of neighborhood-scale Urban Projects which seek to connect and develop key urban centers throughout the city and the larger region.

In the Fori-EUR zone, two important centralities are EUR Sud and Ostiense. While EUR Sud, primarily developing with high-rise office and commercial spaces lacks a cohesive public atmosphere, The Ostiense Marconi Urban Project, begun in the 1990s is quite the opposite. The official plans from 1999 and 2005 are shown here.

With the inclusion of various private and public program, including the newest University Roma 3, this re-qualification of existing space has created a newly active and lush public environment. The Urban Project here, seen in the city documents at the upper right, is both in line with the PRG, as well as a distinct collection of individual yet unified projects. This type of organization can be seen as the type of “Best Practices” planning to strive for in Rome.



essential to showcase the primary systems of organization present in the PRG. The three primary systems for analyzing the city, and particuarly this area are the Sistema Insediativo, Sistema dei Servizi e delle Infrastrutture, and the Sistema Ambientale. These highlight the various lenses through which to view the progression and current state of the city’s infrastructure, as well as allow us to locate opportunities for analysis and reflection. By using these systems, we can understand how the PRG of 2008 has integrated and modified the plans which came before, and further understand the current and future city.


The Sistema Insediativo charts the historical urban fabric, highlighting various ‘tessuti’ or urban textures across planning generations. The city is separated into four primary categories, Historical City, Consolidated City, Restructured City, and City of the Transformation.

In each of these, we can see a unique approach to categorizing and appreciating areas of the city that represent certain interests. In the zone of Fori - EUR, this allows us to understand periods of growth and reuse, as well as to view how public spaces, areas of special importance, and urban and local centralities, such as Ostiense and EUR Sud interact with these tessuti.

Another important role of the Sistema Insediativo is to document, through these tessuti, the relationship between urban centralities, in this case, the centralities of Ostiense and EUR Sud.


The Sistema dei Servizi e delle Infrastrutture shows the various public and private services, and primary transportation infrastructure.

Analyzing the relationship between these two systems allows us to compare access and functionality. For example, In Ostiense, we can see a high amount of public services, but a high reliance on public transit as parking is extremely limited in the area.

Thus, improved focus on public viabilita’ is essential. Exterior centralities, such as EUR Sud, exist in areas that are already very dependent on car access, so adequate parking is essential.

Improving connection within peripheral centralities as well as connection to the center of the city is expremently important to achieving the goals of the new PRG.


The Sistema Ambientale provides a particular picture of the relationship between environmental structures, such as the river, and important urban and architectural structures.

These components are separated into categories which allow us to see the pattern of growth from the center of the city outward toward the periphery, and to understand the regional relationship between these components.

In this way, the Fori - EUR zone acts as a perfect microcosm for the city’s growth in general. It contains the true heart of the historic center, with a dense archaeological region.

Spreading south, various degrees of urban and architectural growth expand according to the motives and structures put in place by planners of their respective times.



Below is a color-composite of the previously-described phases, or generations, of urbanism in the Fori - EUR zone. As with the first sequence of maps, this map traces three urban elements across each generation: structures (edifici), open spaces (spazi aperti), and transit infrastructure (viabilita').



I would like to thank the Fulbright U.S. Student Program for funding this research project, which lasted from September 2015 to July 2016, and took place in Rome, Italy.

I would also like to thank Professoressa Laura Ricci, Chiara Ravagnan, and Irene Poli of the Dipartimento di Pianificazione Design Tecnologia Dell'Architettura at La Sapienza University in Rome for their guidance, hospitality, and support during the project.