A Tale of Two Cities

Studio Project

A year long project completed in the first year of my Masters at the Royal College of Art.

The Ponte Rotto located on the River Tiber (Rome) and the New Welfare Island (Manhattan) can both be considered as microcosms which portray both the triumph and failures of their retrospective cities. Both projects can be represented through naval metaphors with “Tiber island portrayed as a ship” and “The Raft of the Medusa” referencing both states of the Rome and Manhattan city models respectively. Both city models offer contrasting methods on how to live.
Rome was built upon seven hills, taking advantage of its natural landscape with a focus on proportion and relation to other built environments and the rituals that occurred within its cities. Manhattan, on the other hand, is famously defined by its city-grid, an organizational system based on exercising control and order in the city of “chaos” with individuality only achievable through each block’s vertical axis. Within my research I have looked at both the Ponte Rotto and Welfare Island as isolated islands detached from the mainland on which they comment. My research has lead me to analyse both these city typologies and their distinguishing use of the landscape to build their city upon: one using it for its advantage, the other destroying it for spatial control. 

As a result, the project encompasses a series of comments on both cities, culminating in speculative projects such as “The Connection” in which the fundamental elements of each city are brought together and freely distributed in a spatially controlled manner.  “Romehattan” in which the defining architecture of Ancient Rome is recreated within the natural topography of Manhattan, and “Manhattan consumed by the grid” in which the natural Manhattan landscape is penetrated by the build up of a series of connected bridges, inverting the current grid system, as well as “New Tiber Island” in which Tiber island becomes the centre of recreating the “lost elements of Ancient Rome”. 

Laura Duffey