Pienza - The first "Ideal City" becomes real

Youth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

How Pienza city centre started a urban approach used in modern cities

The Ideal City
That of an “ideal city” is a concept conceived during the Italian Renaissance, in accordance with the dictates of a rational objective. This concept is deeply rooted in the so-called Umanesimo [Renaissance Humanism], a system focusing on humans and their values, capacities, and worth which represented a cultural, social and artistic revolution. In this context the human being at the centre of this system, while the environment in which he lived underwent a revolution too. For the first time the idea of an ideal city came to its definitive design—casting its huge influence on contemporary urban planning.

An harmonious city plan

The ideal Renaissance town was a symmetric, harmonic settlement built around a central square, similar to that depicted in the anonymous painting The Ideal City.

An ideal model of life and government

From the main square, the entire urban tissue developed, with its regular geography aimed at making life easy and harmonious, conceived to maximise the interactions and the happiness of its inhabitants. This eventually came to embody a model of ideal living and government based on the concept of a self-sufficient, peaceful and hardworking population.

The square at the heart of the city

You may think of this just as a theory, but in fact the perfect Renaissance city exists and it’s called Pienza.

The symbol of urban planning

Renaissance brought a new way of seeing the world along: the "Umanesimo", a system that focused on humans and their values, capacities, and worth.
In this context, urban architecture evolved too, and the square became the centre of the urban life. From the square, the entire urban tissue developed, with its regular geography aimed at making life easy and harmonious.
Pienza is one of the first and most symbolic examples of urban planning. It perfectly represents the idea of the Renaissance town, a town built around, and for, its inhabitants. See for example the main square: each side of the square has seats so that people can see each other and spend time together. Here is where parents sit.

While children play in the square.

Papa Pio II and Bernardo Rossellino

This small town, which counts less than 3000 inhabitants, was strongly sought after by Pope Pio II, who put one of the greatest Renaissance's architects in charge of building this universal prototype of the ideal city. Bernardo Rossellino, student of Leon Battista Alberti, and other architects of the time teamed up with some 20,000 workers to complete the construction, which took just three years, between 1459 and 1462.

Not just a Renaissance model

But if Pienza represents an avanguardistic urban model, it is not only for the unequivocally Renaissance structure of its buildings and streets;

In fact it was also one of the first architectural projects to feature a public housing system.

The concept of the Ideal City after Pienza

After Pienza, the very idea that a city should reflect some “golden standards”, matching perfectly its territory and time has become a founding principle in the architectural thinking. The quest for efficient, organized and well functioning cities continued through the ages with many great modern and contemporary architects all over the world and through the ages.

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