The Digital Roman Forum Project of the Cultural Virtual Reality Laboratory:
Remediating the Traditions of Roman Topography

[Preprint from: 2nd Italy-United States Workshop, Rome, Italy, November 3-6, 2003: The Reconstruction of Archaeological Landscapes through Digital Technologies, Organized by CNR-ITABC, Virtual Heritage Network, ECAI, University of California, Berkeley CDV,Field Museum of Chicago, UCLA Cultural Virtual Reality Laboratory]

Bernard Frischer, Director
Virtual World Heritage Laboratory

University of Virginia

Copyright 2004 by Bernard Frischer

From 1997 to 2003, the Cultural Virtual Laboratory (CVRLab) created a digital, real-time model of the Roman Forum as it may have appeared on June 21, 400 A.D. (see Frischer, Favro, et al. 2003).[1] In this paper, I will focus on the Roman Forum and use it to address this conference’s theme—reconstructing the archaeological landscape with digital technology—by presenting it as a case study of the relationship between digital and what might be called “pre-digital” archaeological reconstruction.

The CVRLab was founded in 1997 with the dual mission of creating scientifically authenticated 3D computer models of cultural heritage sites, and of exploring ways of utilizing these models in research and instruction. Thus far, the lab has created models of sites from Lake Titicaca in Peru to Ani in Turkey, and from the Iron Age in Israel to the colonial period in the Caribbean. Our largest project to date is a digital model of the Roman Forum, the civic center of ancient Rome. For several reasons, this model can serve as an excellent example of the technologies and methodology typically used by the lab in its various projects around the world (on the history, mission, and methods of the lab see Frischer 2004; for additional information, see the lab’s Web site at

Before delving into the details of our digital Roman Forum project, I think it useful to mention why we think creating 3D computer models is a worthwhile activity and a legitimate part of digital archaeology. As Guidi notes in his recent book on archaeological methods, reconstructions used to be considered less important than other forms of archaeological activity and were thought to be mainly useful in teaching and site presentation (Guidi 1999: 103; for a good example see Clark et al. 2003).[2] Guidi disputes this appraisal, arguing against any disparagement of archaeologists’ didactic role. He asserts that reconstruction is in fact the natural outcome of most archaeological research.

From our experience, I would mention a few other points that further develop what Guidi has written. First, didactic activity is indeed an important part of the archaeologist’s job description. In the past—as we can see evidenced in, for example, the Venice Charter of 1964[3]—physical reconstruction and restoration of sites was considered justifiable precisely for this reason. But, as the work of Vaccaro made clear, physical restoration is highly problematic: it changes and sometimes even ruins the monument in the act of allegedly preserving it (Vaccaro 2000). For this reason, Vaccaro herself suggested that digital restoration is often preferable to physical reconstruction, and this insight has been incorporated into the newly proposed Ename Charter on the presentation of cultural heritage sites and landscapes.[4]

Secondly, we generally find that the act of modeling is itself a process of discovery, and not just a passive translation from one medium to another of things we already knew. This is because no matter how much a scholar has thought about a site, until he can experience it in three dimensions, he will frequently ignore issues that simply do not arise when work is done in two-dimensional media. Thus, the members of our Scientific Committee for the project to model the Basilica of S. Maria Maggiore in Rome had never considered the problem of the covering and coloring of the interior space of the building; nor had they thought much about the nature and design of the pavement. Yet they had spent a collective total of several decades excavating, researching, and superintending the church (for further details, see Frischer et al. 2000: 159). Their experience is typical of that of almost every one of our Scientific Committees. In fact, it is analogous to what has been happening with physical architectural models since the time of Leon Battista Alberti, who, in his De re aedificatoria (1450), wrote that such models had often helped him to discover errors that he had made on paper in the design phase.[5]

Finally, the models are not only experiential but also analytical tools (cf., in general, Barcelò 2000: 9). As is the case with digital corpora of texts, they make it practical to ask questions that, before they existed, would have taken an inordinate amount of time to answer, if we could have answered them at all. Thus, for example, our model of the Colosseum in Rome enabled us to challenge the validity of the commonplace that the building was an efficient people mover. In fact, we discovered a bottleneck that would have slowed down progress to the seats where the poorer spectators sat. In other analytical studies, VR technology has permitted scholars to test theories about the possible alignments of built features in the landscape with natural phenomena such as sunrise or sunset on an equinox or solstice (for an example, see Beex and Peterson 2003).

Fig 1: The Roman Forum today (view from east to west).

Let us turn to our digital model of the Roman Forum. The Forum stood at the literal and metaphorical center of ancient Rome. In the Forum were located from early times some of the major cult centers of the state religion as well as the places where important organs of government, such as the Senate, had their headquarters. The open plaza of the Forum was used at various times for markets, meetings, games and spectacles; and it was also the place where a number of important monuments and memorials were erected (see Purcell 1995).

Today, the Forum is largely in ruins (fig. 1). The best preserved structures are the Senate House and the Arch of Septimius Severus, but even these monuments have been greatly damaged with the passage of time. Of the great temples surrounding the plaza of the Forum, at most, only a few columns of the front or side porch survive. The Encyclopedia Britannica has aptly called the Forum the “confusing boneyard of history.”[6] It is thus not surprising that, given its central importance in Roman studies, since the fifteenth century scholars have tried to reconstruct all or part of the Forum in an attempt to bring clarity and order to the jumble of remains that happen to be preserved. To do so, they have used words, two-dimensional views printed in books and engravings, or small-scale three-dimensional models made of materials like cork, wood, or plaster-of-Paris. It is worth recounting at least the outlines of the history of reconstructing ancient Rome because it will enable us to see how our new project consciously brings together the various approaches that have been used in the past and integrates them into a new synthesis.

The earliest urban historians of ancient Rome were Renaissance humanists such as Poggio Bracciolini and Flavio Biondo. Poggio was a papal secretary and a famous discoverer of Latin texts, including seven speeches of Cicero. His interests were not only literary: he found the famous ninth-century Einsiedeln Itinerary, with its description of early medieval Rome; and, as early as 1430, he compiled a collection of inscriptions from the city. His essay, De varietate fortunae, was begun around the same time and is considered the founding text of Roman topographical studies. As Burckhardt lamented, “wäre nur Poggios Arbeit viel ausgedehnter und mit Abbildungen versehen!“[7] But despite its limitations, it encouraged others to study the ancient ruins.

Poggio’s slightly younger colleague in the papal chancellery, Flavio Biondo, continued these topographical studies with the publication in the late 1440s of Roma Instaurata, or Rome Restored. This has been justly called the first scholarly topography of Rome (Callmer 1954: 42; Malina and Vašíček 1990: 18). It marks progress beyond Poggio since Biondo cites his sources and because he presents the sites and monuments of the ancient city in a systematic fashion.

If we still look back to Poggio and Biondo, it is not simply because they were the pioneers of our field; they are also forerunners of the so-called “philological” approach to archaeology, which was to be explicitly formulated by Eduard Gerhard in the mid-nineteenth century (Schnapp 1996: 304-310) and which is still very much alive and well today. The philological approach implies two things: first, that the visible remains are interpreted in the light of historical texts; and secondly, that the goal of archaeological study—as of philological investigation—is an accurate reconstruction of the object of study and of its transmission over time.

It is unknown whether Biondo planned to enhance his verbal reconstruction of ancient Rome with illustrations or at least a map. If so, no evidence survives, and in general we may say that philological archaeology by humanists and actual survey of the ancient remains by architects were two unrelated activities throughout the Renaissance and were, not coincidentally, to remain so when centuries later Gerhard founded the school of philological archaeology at the University of Berlin (Schnapp 1996: 309).

Fig. 2: Leon Battista Alberti’s Descriptio urbis Romae.

As far as we know, the great Florentine architect, Leon Battista Alberti, was not aware of the work of Poggio or Biondo when he wrote his Descriptio urbis Romae in the 1440s. This little book describes how to measure the distances between buildings in Rome and how to plot them on a map. In fig. 2 can be seen the circle that Alberti lays out surrounding the city so that all points within it can be referenced precisely by the circle’s coordinates. No map of Rome from Alberti’s hand survives, but it was not long before Pietro del Massaio illustrated a Florentine edition of Ptolemy’s Geography with a map of Rome drawn according to Alberti’s method (fig. 3).

Fig. 3: Pietro del Massaio, map of Rome Ptolemy’s Geography.

The map reflects its author’s interests, and–despite the presence of St. Peter’s at the bottom right as well as a few nondescript churches scattered throughout the city—del Massaio’s attention appears to have been directed very much toward the ancient pagan monuments such as the aqueducts, the Colosseum, Pantheon, and the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius. But, important as the del Massaio map may be because it is the first “modern” plan of the city, in the end it leaves much to be desired: to mention only a few of its major shortcomings, it pays short shrift to the road system; and it never decides whether it wants to be a state plan of the city as it was in the mid-fifteenth century, or a reconstruction of the city as it appeared in antiquity.

Fig. 4: Pirro Ligorio, Imago antiquae urbis.

These gaps and many more were filled by Pirro Ligorio, in his impressively large and detailed “image of the ancient city” (Antiquae urbis imago), which he published with Michele Tramezzino in 1561 (fig. 4; cf. Coffin 2003). Consisting of twelve plates that fit seamlessly together, Ligorio’s map is firmly set in antiquity; it shows the roads of ancient Rome; and it also shows detailed reconstructions of several thousand ancient buildings. As can be seen in fig. 5 showing the area around the Colosseum, many of the sites are even labeled, so that the user can easily identify what he is looking at. Impressive as Ligorio’s achievement is, it still leaves us dissatisfied because there was no commentary accompanying the map. So we do not know what evidence inspired Ligorio’s identifications, or what buildings he has restored on the basis of solid evidence and which ones on the basis of pure guesswork.

Fig. 5: Detail of Pirro Ligorio’s Imago antiquae urbis showing Colosseum area.

Precisely the same problem is encountered with the next great reconstructer of ancient Rome, the Venetian architect, Giambattista Piranesi. If anything, Piranesi represents a decline into unbridled fantasy, as compared to Ligorio. For example, in his plan of the area around the Pantheon in his 1762 publication of the Campus Martius (fig. 6), except for the Pantheon itself in the center, everything else is pure hypothesis and there is no accompanying text offering Piranesi’s reasoning.

Fig. 6: Giambattista Piranesi, Detail of Campus Martius showing Pantheon area.
We had to wait until 1901 with the publication of Lanciani’s classic Forma Urbis to get a map of the ancient remains that was not only acccurate but presented with an overlay of the modern street plan.

Progress was just as slow on the philological side. For example, in the same decade in which Piranesi reconstructed the Campus Martius, the exiled French abbot Bertrand Capmartin de Chaupy undertook studies and excavations at the alleged site of Horace’s Sabine Villa, 35 miles northeast of Rome (De Chaupy 1767-69). In the three stubby volumes he published on the problem, he could not spare a single page for an illustration of the site and what he found there. For this, he was to be mercilessly sent up by Piranesi, who in a satirical sketch (fig. 7)—known among Piranesi experts as “the turd engraving”—showed what he thought of De Chaupy and his site.

Fig. 7: Giambattista Piranesi, tailpiece to Diverse maniere d’adornare i cammini.

However humorous we find this, it also reflects a pernicious division of labor in our field. Piranesi made his awareness of the methodological issue explicit in his famous “aut….aut” engraving on the title page to his letter against M. Mariette (Piranesi 2002 [originally published in 1765]).

Fig. 8: Title of Giambattista Piranesi’s Osservazioni sopra la lettre de M. Mariette.

As can be seen in figure 8, Piranesi consciously perceived the stark contrast between the tools available to a surveyor-architect, like himself, and the pen on which an antiquarian like Mariette had to rely. Appropriately enough, Piranesi uses the visual medium to drive home the point that his tools overwhelm those of his nemesis in terms of precision and sheer number.

This gap between the visual and philological traditions can be traced far into the twentieth century when, for example, the two standard reference works on Roman topography were for a long time Ernest Nash’s illustrated Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Rome, published in two editions in the 1960s; and Platner-Ashby’s Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, published in the 1920s. The latter has no photos, while the former has virtually no text and no citation of the ancient literary and epigraphic sources.

Even Steinby’s justly renowned Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae, which was published in six volumes in the 1990s, suffers from a privileging of text over image: its illustrations are of poor quality, as the reviewers noted, and they are rarely sufficient, in and of themselves, to enable a scholar to have at his fingertips all the visual evidence associated with a monument.

Of course, in the field of Roman topography I hasten to add that there are many examples of how excellent textual and graphic documentation of a site should be combined, at least in the study of individual monuments. To cite just one recent example of dozens one might mention Joachim Ganzert’s monograph on the Temple of Mars Ultor, published in 1996. My point is that what has long since been done for individual monuments has not yet been done for our major reference works—and this of course means that Roman urban history, as a whole, is lacking in an overall synthesis.

Admittedly, the compartmentalization of approaches has resulted in the compilation of many specialized monuments of scholarship which still serve us today. Thus, as far as texts are concerned, we have a massive collection of all the inscriptions found in Rome and, indeed, in the whole Roman empire: the Corpus inscriptionum latinarum, founded by Theodor Mommsen; and we have Giuseppe Lugli’s eight-volume work with all the ancient sources mentioning sites and monuments in ancient Rome. As for visual resources, we have Frutaz’s three-volume work with all the maps of Rome, and Bartoli’s six-volume work with artists’ views of the monuments.

Among the most useful visual resources for studying the ancient city are the physical models which, since the eighteenth century, architects started to provide to help scholars and students better understand the ancient remains. The pioneer was the famous cork-modeler, Antonio Chichi, who lived from 1743 to 1816. He created a set of 36 of the great sites of ancient Rome. Sold to Grand Tourists, they served as souvenirs but also as study aids (cf. Wilton and Bignamini 1996: 298) analogous to plaster casts of famous Greek and Roman statues, which, not coincidentally, as Giuseppe Pucci has shown, also came into vogue at this time (Pucci 1997). As can be seen in the case of the model of the Arch of Titus (fig. 9), Chichi’s reproductions were state models, not reconstructions: that is, they showed the current condition of the monument. In the example at hand, we thus see the arch still embedded within the Frangipane tower before Valadier’s restoration of the early nineteenth century.

Fig. 9: Antonio Chichi’s cork model of the Arch of Titus.
Despite the strong start provided by Chichi, modelmaking barely advanced in the nineteenth century.[8] To be sure, toward the end of the century Pitt Rivers created the first models of archaeological sites (Malina and Vašíček 1990: 49) and Fiorelli built his famous state model of the excavations of Pompeii (fig. 10; see De Caro 1996: 105), but the great age of reconstructive modelmaking was to be the twentieth century. Henry Millon notes a parallel development in the history of the architectural model. And, just as Millon could observe a revival of the architectural model in the twentieth century in the work of architects such as Gaudi, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Frank Lloyd Wright (Millon 1994: 72), so, too, in our field the 1900s saw two reconstructions of ancient Rome that continued and vastly extended the modelmaking work of Chichi, Pitt Rivers and Fiorelli.

Fig. 10: Giuseppe Fiorelli, state model of Pompeii (1:100), National Archaeological Museum, Naples.

The first was a bronze model at a scale of 1:400 made in the 1920s and 30s by Paul Bigot (fig. 11). The second model, inspired by Bigot, was the great “Plastico di Roma Antica” in the Museum of Roman Civilization in Rome. It was created in plaster-of-Paris by Italo Gismondi (1887-1974) at a scale of 1:250 over a period of thirty years from the 1930s to the 1960s (cf. Liberati 2003).

Fig. 11: Detail of Paul Bigot’s model of imperial Rome; Université de Caen.

Whatever the merits of these models, they both suffer from a complete lack of written documentation. As was the case in the 16th century with Ligorio and in the 18th with Piranesi, it apparently did not occur to Bigot or Gismondi to publish their sources and to argue the case for the way they filled in the enormous gaps in the archaeological record.

The UCLA Cultural Virtual Reality Lab initiated its project to make a digital model of the Forum in 1997 with the support of Intel. The project was completed in December of 2002 with the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Fig. 12: Reconstruction sketch of the Roman Forum, imperial phase, by F. Cairoli Giuliani and P. Verduchi.

The lab undertook its model because of the great cultural importance of the site and the limitations of previous modeling attempts in various media. For example, the Plastico di Roma Antica and the Bigot bronze model were not only made at a small scale, they of course also had to leave out the interior spaces of the buildings they reproduced. As far as immediate predecessors of our model, the most recent reconstruction of the Forum was made by Giuliani and Verduchi 1980 (fig. 12). It is a disappointingly vague sketch, but it does have the merit of accompanying an extremely detailed publication of the plaza area of the Forum.

Fig. 13: View of the CVRLab model of the late-antique Roman Forum.

Figure 13 shows a view of the new CVRLab digital model shot from aproximately the same position as we saw in the reconstruction of Giuliani and Verduchi. A digital model, like a reconstruction drawing, can be derived from highly accurate archaeological data. It can depict in color and with accurate lighting the interiors as well as the exteriors of buildings. It can be explored at will in the three dimensions of space and even in the fourth dimension of time. Its scale can be 1:1, or even greater than 1:1. A digital model can be accompanied with an easily accessible database of textual and graphical information that gives the key evidence for each element in the reconstruction.

In short, a digital model, such as the CVRLab’s Forum reconstruction, can reflect the best practice in modeling Rome that, mutatis mutandis, has long since been employed in printed monographs about the ancient city. For all these reasons, the UCLA Cultural Virtual Reality Lab considered it worthwhile to create a new model of the Forum.

In terms of time, the model depicts the Forum as it might have appeared at 10:00 a.m. on June 21 of the year 400 A.D. This moment was selected because it comes more or less at the peak of the urban development of the ancient city and represents the period for which the archaeological record is the richest, thus permitting reconstructions that can be based on strong evidence or at least highly probable hypotheses. The time and date were chosen in order to maximize the play of light and shadows across the Forum.

The digital Forum includes not only a recreation of the built space of the city center of Rome, but it also offers two user aids that make understanding the Forum easier and more analytical. The first aid is the Navigator (fig. 14), which shows the user his exact location in the Forum by means of a red dot placed onto a plan of the Forum that includes 22 numbered features, all of which have been georeferenced to within 2 centimeters of accuracy. The numbered features are linked to a second user aid: the Metadata Window (fig. 15). This window provides basic information about each feature in the digital Forum

Fig. 14: View over the Lapis Niger of CVRLab Forum model from point with the Navigator window open.

Fig. 15: Typical metadata window of the CVRLab Forum model.

model. But it also provides information about the scholars responsible for scientific oversight of the model; the elements of the model that are certain versus those that are hypothetical; the reasons for the hypotheses; bibliography; etc. This is exactly the kind of information whose absence we regretted in the work of Ligorio, Piranesi, Bigot, and Gismondi.

In including metadata, our goal has been to offer transparency to the user in a way analogous to notes, commentary, and bibliography in a traditional academic print publication. Our philosophy about modeling a cultural heritage site from the past like the Roman Forum is that it is impossible to claim that you have achieved complete accuracy with respect to what the ancient monument originally looked like. But we can and should, on the other hand, offer total transparency about our data and decision-making process.

In producing the Forum model, we see ourselves as deeply rooted in the Roman topographical tradition and as contributing to its renewal in two ways: first, and most obviously, we are recasting the analogue monuments of the scholarly tradition into digital format. And secondly, we view our project as a conscious attempt to integrate on the urban level the visual and textual approaches to the discipline, as has long been the case in the best scholarly print publications of individual monuments. As we have seen, model-making has lagged behind, yet today the role of modeling in archaeology and many other branches of knowledge is more prominent than ever.

Bolter and Grusin 1999 argue that remediation entails a merging of two or more “traditional” media with the goal of representing the world in a more realistic and authentic way than can any single medium on its own. They point out that “for many virtual reality enthusiasts, the computer so far surpasses other technologies in its power to make the world present that the history of earlier media has little relevance” (Bolter and Grusin 1999: 24).

While obviously strongly supporting VR technology, the team at the CVRLab believes that it has not fallen into the error of a-historicism against which Bolter and Grusin rightly warn. We believe that digital technology now permits us to integrate the best of both branches of the Roman topographical tradition into a new synthesis that was impossible when texts had to be printed on paper and models built with materials such as cork, wood, or plaster-of-Paris. The sum of this remediation is much more than its individual parts. Moreover, it involves not only content–taking the best information and repurposing it–but also the very media themselves. They have left their traces, and our Roman Forum project is not a simple example of VR technology. It is also a hybrid, incorporating, at a minimum, 2D maps in the form of the Map window; and textual and 2D graphical media in the form of the Metadata window. When these windows are opened, the illusion of immersion and immediacy, which, as Bolter and Grusin rightly point out are key characteristics of virtual reality, is dispelled. Through an intentional Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt, the CVRLab Forum model jolts the user back from the world of illusory first-person participation into a world of third-person analytical detachment.

The CVRLab Forum project thus strives to exemplify exactly those qualities that Bolter and Grusin 1999 attribute to a remediated digital experience. As they put it, “…a medium is that which remediates. It is that which appropriates the techniques, forms, and social significance of other media and attempts to rival or refashion them in the name of the real” (Bolter and Grusin 1999: 65). Though they later suggest that such remediation may entail an implicit or explicit attack on earlier media (Bolter and Grusin 1999: 87), they also grant that the purpose can also be to honor and acknowledge earlier forms of expression. With their emphasis on commercial media such as film, television, and theme parks, it was perhaps inevitable that Bolter and Grusin would focus on the former almost to the exclusion of the latter in their thought-provoking study. The digital Roman Forum project can, we think, serve as a case study of how new media can both remediate and pay homage to the old.


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Fig. 1: The Roman Forum today. Photo: Bernard Frischer.

Fig. 2: Leon Battista Alberti, Descriptio urbis Romae, paper; 1440s; Chigi M VII 149, fol. 3 recto. Source: Grafton 1993.

Fig. 3: Pietro del Massaio, view of Rome from Ptolemy, Geography, 1469; Vat. Lat. 5699, fol. 127 r. Source: Grafton 1993.

Fig. 4: Pirro Ligorio, Antiquae urbis imago. Source: Grafton 1993.

Fig. 5: Pirro Ligorio, Anteiquae urbis imago (detail of area around the Colosseum). Source: Grafton 1993.

Fig. 6: Piranesi: Campus Martius (detail with area around the Pantheon), from Joannis Baptistae Piranesii antiquariorum Regiae Societatis Londinensis Socii Campus Martius Antiquae Urbis, Romae 1762, p. 38b. Source: Opere di Giovani Battista Piranesi, copyright 2003 by Masanori Aoyagi, available online at

Fig. 7: Giambattista Piranesi’s send-up of De Chaupy from Diverse maniere d’adornare i cammini (1769).

Fig. 8: Giambattista Piranesi’s “Aut-aut” engraving, title page of Osservazioni sopra la letre de M. Mariete (Rome, 1765).

Fig. 9: Antonio Chichi, Arch of Titus, ca. 1787. Source: Wilton and Bignamini, 1996.

Fig. 10: Fiorelli’s model of Pompeii at a scale of 1:100, dated 1879; Naples Archaeological Museum. Photo: Bernard Frischer.

Fig. 11: View of Paul Bigot’s model of imperial Rome at MRSH, Université de Caen. Photo: Bernard Frischer.

Fig. 12: Reconstruction sketch of the Roman Forum in late antiquity by F. Cairoli Giuliani in Giuliani-Verduchi 1980.

Fig. 13: The CVRLab digital model seen from approximately the same viewpoint as the reconstruction by Giuliani-Verduchi 1980.

Fig. 14: The CVRLab model of the Forum with the Navigator window open.

Fig. 15: The CVRLab Forum model with the Metadata Window open.

[1] It is a pleasure to acknowledge the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which gave the UCLA Cultural Virtual Reality Laboratory a generous grant in 2001-2002 that enabled it to complete the bulk of the Roman Forum model. Earlier sponsors and clients of the lab made it possible for preliminary work on the Forum model to commence as early as 1997. It is a pleasure to thank the following: the Creative Kids Education Foundation, Dr. Stephen Hunt, Intel, Dr. Jama Laurent, Mr. Kirk Mathews, Microsoft, and the Steinmetz Family of Los Angeles. For their tireless contributions and responses to our inquiries, we are also grateful to the external members of our Roman Forum Scientific Committee (Prof. Russell T. Scott, Bryn Mawr College; and Prof. Cairoli Giuliani, University of Rome “La Sapienza”). Finally, we express our thanks to the following units at UCLA with which the Cultural Virtual Reality is affiliated and whose help and support have been crucial: Academic Technology Services, the Center for Digital Humanities, the Department of Architecture, the Institute of Social Science Research, and the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology.

[2] On the didactic function of early modern urban models, see F. Marias 1999: 228 and 228n17.

[3] International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites (Venice Charter, 1964); for the text see centre_documentation/ chartes_ eng.htm (seen February 1, 2004).

[4] International Guidelines for Authenticity, Intellectual Integrity and Sustainable Development in the Public Presentation of Archaeological and Historical Sites and Landscapes (Ename Charter, 2002 [draft 2]); for the text see (seen February 1, 2004). On the articles of the Ename Charter pertaining to digital reconstruction and restoration, see Frischer and Stinson 2004.

[5] Alberti 1966: vol. II, pp. 860-862: “Per quanto mi riguarda, debbo dire che molto frequentemente mi è venuto fatto di concepire delle opere in forme ch a tutta prima mi parevano lodevolissime, mentre invece una volta disegnate, rivelavano errori, e gravissimi, proprio in quella parte che più mi era piaciuta; tornando poi di nuovo con la meditazione su quanto avevo disegnato, e misurandone le proporzioni, riconoscevo e deploravo la mia incuria; infine avendo fabricato i modelli, spesso, esaminandone partitamente gli elementi, mi accorgevo di essedrmi sbagliato anche sul numero.” Cf. also the remarks on the importance of architectural models for visualization and planning in Habsburg Vienna in M. Krapf 1999: 410.

[6] “Rome,” Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service; accessed February 10, 2004 at
[7] “If only Poggio’s work had been more expansive and illustrated!” (Burkhardt no date [originally published in 1860 ]: 118).

[8] In the nineteenth century we may even glimpse a conscious deprecation of architectural models parallel to what we find with ancient casts in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Cf. Krapf 1999: 397. Krapf notes that “it is an astonishing but hitherto neglected fact that, although the Baroque model, as this essay will try to show, is a standard tool of everyday building in the extant eighteenth-century sources, not a single model of ‘imperial Vienna,’ of ‘Vienna gloriosa Hasburgica,’ has survived…As to why this should be so, one can only advance hypotheses: one is that carelessness and indolence are to blame; that the models were preserved for a while, but then, especially during the nineteenth-century contempt for the Baroque, simply ‘disposed of’ because of their relative bulk and fragility….”