Rome’s energy is different. This isn’t Venice — it’s not about meandering, getting lost, looking for order in chaos. Rome feels like a pinball machine. Points of intense energy, connect the dots, grab a bus and shoot down Via Vittorio from A to B. These high-energy spots are incredible — full of wattage. The piazzas, the monuments, the church facades — history and power and significance at each turn. Any one of them is an opportunity to enter an epic story.
My first few encounters already set my direction. Each is somehow based on a circle, tells a story, contains typographic treasures. Each extends out into the city in orders of 4, 8, 12 and 16.
Castel Sant’Angelo — The heliocoidal ramp spirals down into Hadrian’s mausoleum. At each of 4 corners, battalions point out to the city (with cannons). The center of this circle marks the emperor (his remains) and the 4 ordinates protects power of the city.
Pantheon — a perfect circle at the center of 8 chapels. Center of circle marks eye of god.
Campidoglio — Michaelangelo’s piazza is a stretched circle (egg-shaped) with a 12-pointed star at the center. The church wouldn’t install the paving pattern in the 16th century because they believed the 12 points referred to celestial thought (science vs religion). But Mussolini had it installed in 1940 according to Michaelangelo’s original plans. Each arm of the star points to SPQRs on wall surfaces or statues. Center of circle marks geo-spatial idea about earth, with man at center.
Piazza San Pietro — The obelisk at the center of the split circle is surrounded by 16 wind reliefs embedded in the paving, marking all of the major coordinates from East to West. Each depicts air as the “face” of wind. Incredible caricatured faces blowing wind, with names in a whimsical serif type, wild hair, expressions. These are from 1852. This circle stands at the entry to the church’s power.
The split circle forms an S.
The perfect circle forms a P.
The curving ramp forms a Q.
The distorted circle with diagonals forms an R.
A new SPQR. Four letterforms, suggesting a new way to see Rome.
4, 8, 12 and 16 pointed stars.
The Roman pinball machine: 4 circles in Rome, revealing stars, stories, points of origin.