Winner, Alice Davis Hitchcock Award, Society of Architectural Historians.
The city of Florence came late to the process of town foundation that reshaped Europe at the end of the Middle Ages, yet the five towns it created are the most complex and artistically accomplished of the entire new town tradition.
Florentine New Towns is an original and comprehensive study of an important episode in late Medieval urbanism. It uncovers the root of urban phenomena familiar since the Renaissance but shown here to have developed much earlier. On the basis of archival evidence unknown for any other medieval founded towns, Friedman demonstrates that the Tuscan new towns of San Giovanni, Castelfranco di Sopra, Terranuova, Scarperia, and Firenzuola were created by men recognized as professional designers by 14th-century Florence. He identifies them and analyzes their design process, including the geometry of sines and chords on which two of the new towns are based.
During the period from 1299 to 1350 when Florence undertook its foundation of towns, it was in the process of a transformation that was central to the formation of the modern European city. This was a time when the merchant class gained control of government and when government took charge of the physical environment of the city. A new urban ideal emerged, Friedman points out, that was only partly realized in Florence but which found its fullest expression in the planners' comprehensive schemes for these new towns.
David Friedman is Associate Professor of History in the Architecture Department at MIT. An Architectural History Foundation Book.