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The Nolli Web Site

The Nolli Web Site presents the 1748 Nolli map of Rome as a dynamic, interactive, hands-on tool. The public now has access to cataloged information about the map in both written and graphical form. The map not only provides rich information, but it has the ability to be updated with new data over time to embrace expanding knowledge.

The interactive Nolli Map Web Site intends to:

1) resurrect the integrity of the original Nolli map,
2) greatly enhance the quality and flexibility of its visual display
3) grant easy access for scholars and students alike to a vast body of information.

Conception and Definition of the Project

The 1748 Nolli map of Rome, regarded by scholars and cartographers as one of the most important historical documents of the city, serves to geo-reference a vast body of information to better understand the Eternal City and its key role in shaping Western Civilization. The Nolli Map Web Site introduces students to Rome and the structure of its urban form; it illustrates the evolution of the city over time; and it reveals diverse factors that determined its development. Above all, the Nolli Web Site is intended to provide a vehicle for students and teachers around the world to explore and facilitate creative thought.


Giambattista Nolli (1701-1756) was an architect and surveyor who lived in Rome and devoted his life to documenting the architectural and urban foundations of the city. The fruit of his labor, La Pianta Grande di Roma ("the great plan of Rome") is one of the most revealing and artistically designed urban plans of all time. The Nolli map is an ichnographic plan map of the city, as opposed to a bird’s eye perspective, which was the dominant cartographic representation style prevalent before his work. Not only was Nolli one of the first people to construct an ichnographic map of Rome, his unique perspective has been copied ever since.

The map depicts the city in astonishing detail. Nolli accomplished this by using scientific surveying techniques, careful base drawings, and minutely prepared engravings. The map's graphic representations include a precise architectural scale, as well as a prominent compass rose, which notes both magnetic and astronomical north. The Nolli map is the first accurate map of Rome since antiquity and captures the city at the height of its cultural and artistic achievements. The historic center of Rome has changed little over the last 250 years; therefore, the Nolli map remains one of the best sources for understanding the contemporary city.

The intention of this website is to reveal both the historical significance of the map and the principles of urban form that may influence city design in the future. During the last half of the 20th century, architects and urban designers have shown a renewed interest in what the Nolli map has to offer, leading to new urban theories and a model for the study of all cities.

Features of the Nolli Map

The Nolli map consists of twelve exquisitely engraved copper plates that measure approximately six feet high and seven feet wide when combined (176 cm by 208 cm). The map includes almost eight square miles of the densely-built city as well as the surrounding terrain. It also identifies nearly two thousand sites of cultural significance. Nolli’s map is an extraordinary technical achievement that represents a milestone in the art and science of cartography. Modern surveys and sophisticated satellite images have confirmed the accuracy of Nolli’s map within the very smallest margin of error. The map not only records the streets, squares and public urban spaces of Rome, but Nolli carefully renders hundreds of building interiors with detailed plans. The detail of the map representation ensures the map's continuing value as a unique historical document, and it gives the viewer a glimpse into the ancient metropolitan center during one of its most illustrious periods.

Key Features of the Web Site

The website features a digitally mastered, high resolution interactive Nolli map, designed for broadband connections. The Map Engine may be accessed from any page of the website, allowing you to navigate through the city at a variety of scales. Using the Map Engine, the user can pan in any direction and zoom in or out from the macro-scale of the city to the micro-scale of the building. Layers have been created to focus on particular topics, for example " gardens.” The layers in this first edition will be updated and expanded to include many more topics. The topics that will be added include topographic and hydrographic information, specific building types, and census data by Rioni. Layers may be turned on and off, and blended with map below to provide for the best viewing conditions.

Thematic Modules

Thematic modules organize the city’s many features into four broad areas of investigation.
They are:

I Natural Features and Landscape Elements
II Architecture and Urban Design
III Social Factors
IV Cartography

Within each module, we investigate topics of interest, using the Nolli map as context. Feature Articles address well-documented aspects of the map, chronicling the richness of the history and significance of the work through cross-disciplinary themes. Interpretive Essays are more loosely-structured pieces that explore less formal aspects of the map and its impact on a field.

Indexing/Search Mechanism

The Web site provides a versatile indexing system that allows the user to quickly and easily locate all 1,320 sites noted by number in the original Nolli map. The Nolli map includes dual listings which include both a numerical list by topographic location and a second alphabetical list which provides a typological frame of reference. In addition the search mechanism provides annotations for all sites including modern name and location, type, architect, time period, and references. A simple search will provide results that match in any of these categories, as well as retrieve entries in the glossary, bibliography, and any articles that appear on the site. City locations that appear are directly linked to the Map Engine, allowing you to see each location in the context of its surroundings.

Notes on the Principal Contributors

James Tice, principal investigator, is an Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Oregon and a Research Fellow at Studium Urbis. As a teacher, scholar and architect, he has devoted 30 years to the study of Italian architecture and urbanism. He has lived in Rome for three years, one of which was spent studying at the American Academy, and has taught a variety of courses specifically focusing on the architecture and urbanism of Rome. He has served as Director for the Department of Architecture's Rome Summer Program where he has also participated as a visiting faculty on several occasions. The author has established his expertise on Giambattista Nolli through his writings and international conference presentations. He has co-authored two books on architecture the latter devoted to computer generated visualization techniques for teaching.

Erik Steiner holds the title of 'Dynamic Cartography Researcher' at the InfoGraphics Lab in the Department of Geography at the University of Oregon. His design and research work has won multiple national and international awards. Specializing in interactive cartography, he has given several workshops and taught courses on the topic, as well as publishing the Atlas of Oregon CD-ROM in 2002 and Oregon Geographic Names CD-ROM in 2003. His research interests are in cognitive science, particularly related to the theory behind and usability of geovisualization tools.

Dr. Allan Ceen is Professor of Urban Studies at Pennsylvania State University, sede di Roma and is the Director of Studium Urbis. He has written extensively on the subject of Giambattista Nolli and is recognized as one of the world’s foremost authorities on the subject.

Mark Brenneman is a Graduate Student in Architecture with 15 years experience in computer graphics and applications.

Also contributing:

Virginia Cartwright, Dept. of Architecture, for design consultation and encouragement

Ben Humphrey, InfoGraphics Lab, for his role in building core database and web functionality

Stephen Lamb, Lamb Consulting, for assistance in designing an online data management tool

Eric Sproles, InfoGraphics Lab, for his help in designing and implementing the geodatabase data model and contributions to the web design

Jacob Bartruff, Dept. of Geography, for his technical support and general know-how


We would like to acknowledge the following for their generous support:

North West Academic Computing Consortium (NWACC)

The Board of Visitors at the School of Architecture and Allied Arts

The Office of the President at the University of Oregon under the auspices
of the Instructional Technology Initiative

Space Imaging, who generously provided a high-resolution satellite image for use in data compilation, registration, and display.

We would also like to thank:

John Reynolds, Professor Emeritus for the generous use of his original Nolli map print.

The InfoGraphics Lab in the Department of Geography and especially Jim Meacham, the Director of the InfoGraphics Lab for expert advice, consultations and encouragement.

The Department of Architecture and the Office of the Dean at the School of Architecture and Allied Arts and especially to Karen Johnson for her encouragement during the early stages of this project.

The Office of the President, and especially Russ Tomlin for his encouragement.

Earl Moursund for the exchange of ideas about Rome and his patient and insightful advice and encouragement in Rome during the early phases of this project.