For the defence of Florence: site-specific urbanism versus sanitary planning

Thomas Renard


This paper focuses on reactions to the modernization and hygienist plans that transformed the city centre of Florence during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Particular attention is paid to the Associazione di Difesa di Firenze Antica, founded in 1898 to counter the second phase of the risanamento (sanitary planning) of the historic centre, and in close collaboration with the foreign communities living in the city. The protest against the destruction of ancient buildings gave rise to a new awareness, with the notion of heritage going beyond individual monuments to include the city as a whole. The article studies both the arguments advanced and the political and cultural context which were favourable to the preservation of the old urban fabric. Beyond conservation, the fight to save Florence provided an opportunity to outline an urban project based on the historical analysis of the existing buildings and the enhancement of local characteristics. The specificities of Florence – one of the first ‘art cities’, considered in the peninsula to be the Athens of Italy and linked early on to international tourism – made it one of the laboratories of a heritage urbanism linked to the international Art Public movement.

Renard, T. “For the defence of Florence: site-specific urbanism versus sanitary planning.” Planning Perspectives 37, no.3 (2022): 529-550. Published online: 22 Mar 2022.

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