In campo verde: The project of the Piazza Nuova in Ferrara

David Michael Strauss, University of Pennsylvania


The late fifteenth century project of the Piazza Nuova in Ferrara provides an early example of the movement of political action from public space toward increasingly private spaces. The separation of the court and aristocracy from the larger population was represented in the development of the Addizione Erculea and the Piazza Nuova. Planned, civic spectacles remained in Ferrara's medieval core preserving the Addizione Erculea for a semi-rustic, suburban and aristocratic life. The Piazza Nuova's size and it's situation among productive lands and gardens, manifested and concentrated the project of an imagined or idealized city of which it became an intelligible symbol. This dissertation aims to interpret the Piazza Nuova on the basis of physical and typological characteristics with reference to the theoretical, literary and built works familiar to the court of Ercole I d'Este. Spectacula, a summary of architectural theory concerning sites for mutual observation, written by the court astrologer, Pellegrino Prisciani, figures significantly in comprehending the Piazza Nuova. Court chronicles and histories as well as treatises concerning architecture and health describe the particular environment of Ferrara during the reign of Ercole I d'Este. Among city sites, the green field— campo verde—was the topos of both the mythological Hercules and of Ercole I viewed as both the founder and protector of a remade Ferrara. The Piazza Nuova was projected as a xystus, recalling the Greek site where philosophers strolled and athletes trained. While the medieval center of the city remained the locus of court and church ceremony and justice, the Piazza Nuova provided a site for a local nobility to walk safely at a distance from the din, smells, illnesses and common residents of Ferrara's medieval center.

Subject Area

Architecture|Art History|Urban planning|Area planning & development|European history

Recommended Citation

Strauss, David Michael, "In campo verde: The project of the Piazza Nuova in Ferrara" (1999). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9926206.