Study Aid 9: Renaissance Urbanism and Gardens

As in the Middle Ages, Renaissance urban planning was often limited to small redesign projects within the existing fabric of a city. One of the most notable of these projects was Pienza, Italy, (1460-, for Pope Pius II, Bernardo Rossellino architect), which featured a planned square (piazza) and a coordnated ensemble of surrounding buildings. The piazza at Vigevano, Italy, (1492-94) probably by Donato Bramante features a public piazza surrounded by a colonnade, an idea that the Renaissance theorists traced back to antiquity. Michelangelo's Piazza del Campidoglio (Rome, 1537-60s) was a remodeling of preexisting public space, that was further enlivened by the architects Mannerist conceits. The Italian ideal of a unified square surrounded by colonnades was exported to other countries in Europe including England (Covent Garden, London by Inigo Jones, 1630s), Spain (Plaza Major, Madrid by Juan Gomez de Mora, 1617-19), and France (Place des Vosges, originally Place Royale in Paris, 1605-12, possilby designed by Claude Chastillon).

More comprehensive planned ideas were nearly always limited to unbuilt projects or paintings. "Sforzinda" (architect: Filarete (Antonio Averlino), c. 1461-1464) was a utopian plan featuring an enclosed, radially planned city with visionary structures. Radial schemes are largely impractical, but they reflect a belief in the perfection of geometry and the perfectibility of humans. The first radially-planned city erected in Italy was Palma Nova, 1593-1623, designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi as a fortified outpost for the Republic of Venice.

The basic grid/bastide form was improved and codified during the Renaissance when the Spanish constructed their innumerable towns and cities (e.g. Sonoma, CA, 1835) in the "New World". The Laws of the Indies, issued by King Philip II in 1573 consisted of a thorough series of planning ordinances that covered such issues as: the selection of town sites, town form and dimensions, the provision of urban aesthetics, aesthetic unity, and the treatment of natives.

The design of gardens in the 15th and 16th centuries sometimes demonstrated the planning ideals evidenced by buildings and cities. Medieval gardens tended to be small, walled retreats. Renaissance gardens were often larger with a series of formal plots or beds, sometimes with an overall centralized plan. The creativity, dynamism and wit of Mannerism also influenced garden designs where movement and a variety of experiences or "events" came to be valued, e.g.: the Villa Lante, Bagnaia, Italy 1560s-70s, designed by da Vignola; the extraordinary Villa d'Este, Tivoli, Italy, 1557-1565, created for the Cardinal d'Este by Pirro Ligorio; and Bosco Sacro, Bomarzo, Italy, 1552-1580.


Date: 1460-
Location: Italy
Architect: Bernardo Rossellino
Patron: Pope Pius II


Palazzo Piccolomini

Prior's Office

Bishop's Palace

New Housing for Workers


Piazza del Campidoglio

Date: 1537-1560s
Location: Rome
Architect: Michelangelo


Axonometric View of the Piazza

Aerial View of the Piazza

Aerial View of the Piazza

Front Elevation

Side Elevation

Etching - Bird's-Eye View of the Piazza

Palazzo de Conservatori

Place des Vosges

Date: 1605-12
Location: Paris, France
Architect: Chastillon?
Patron: Henry IV

Birds-Eye Drawing of Square

Exterior View

Exterior View with King's Pavilion

View of Townhouses Around the Square

Ground Floor Arcade


Date: 1461-1464
Architect: Filarete

City Plan

Market Plan

Hospital Plan

House of Vice and Virtue

Palma Nova

Date: 1593-1623
Location: Italy
Architect: Vincenzo Scamozzi?

Birds Eye View

Aerial View

"The Laws of the Indies"

Date: 1830
Location: Sonoma, California
Architect: Mariano Vallejo

Plan of Sonoma in 1875 with Vallejo's Original Plan in the Center with Larger American Blocks Around it

Date: 1830
Location: Sonoma, California
Architect: Unknown

Mid 19th Century Drawing of the Plaza

Location: Michoacan, Mexico
Architect: Unknown

S. Francisco Uricho

View of Street with Adobe Houses

Location: Michoacan, Mexico
Architect: Unknown

S. Fe de Laguna

Central Plaza

Location: Michoacan, Mexico
Architect: Unknown


Colonnade on the Central Plaza

Location: Morelia, Mexico
Architect: Unknown

Public Arcades Around the Central Plaza

Location: Peru
Architect: Unknown

Aerial View of Town in Peru

Villa d'Este

Date: 1557-1564
Location: Tivoli, Italy
Architect: Ligorio
Patron: Cardinal Ippolito d'Este

Printed Birds-Eye View of Gardens and Villa in 1573

Printed View of "The Rometta" in 1685

Printed View of the Fish Pools in 1685

The Villa Set Above the Garden

View Through Archway

Printed View of
"The Avenue of a Hundred Fountains"
in 1685

The Avenue of a Hundred Fountains

Oval Fountain

Garden Axis with Water Stairs

Printed View of
"The Fountain of the Dragons"
in 1685

The Fountain of the Dragons

Water Organ