Palaces and the Street in Late-Medieval and Renaissance Italy
By David Friedman
Urban Landscapes: International Perspectives, edited by J.W.R. Whitehead and P.J. Larkham (London, 1992)
Introduction: The relationship between the private house and the environment of public space in the Italian city underwent a fundamental reordering in the late Middle Ages. The catalysts were, simultaneously, the new prominence given to the street as an instrument of spatial organization by the merchant-artisan regimes that gained control of the state in this period and the monumentalization of the private residence by builders from the class of men that formed the government.
Despite the fact that the officials who commission the new streets and the men who raised palaces were sometimes the same people, the two urban types did not, at first, enjoy an untroubled relationship. The new ruling class discovered the ideal form of the street well before they were willing, as individuals, to give up some traditional privileges associated with property ownership that contradicted it. It is not until the Renaissance that street and palace – and this statement is also true for modest architecture – were set into the more or less symbiotic relationship in which they continued until the twentieth century.