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Camillo Sitte: Romantic or Realist? the Picturesque City Reconsidered

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image of East Central Europe

Austrian architect Camillo Sitte, author of the important treatise on urban design, Der Städtebau nach seinen künstlerischen Grundsätzen (1889), is known as the founder of romantic "picturesque" urbanism. One has to differentiate, however, between the two meanings of the German term das Malerische: "picturesque" and "painterly." Sitte is clearly connected with the representatives of modem picturesque urbanism. In his "Townscape Casebook," Gordon Cullen published a collection of photos and sketches to reinvigorate a picturesque way of seeing and thus set forth a basis for the design of the environment based on picturesque principles. Cullen proposed the concept of the townscape to develop a comprehensive "field of vision" that gathered heterogeneous elements into a unified whole - an idea that influenced the work of the American urban theorist Kevin Lynch. In fact, populist arguments could be detected in those representations of the picturesque as a way of seeing that corresponded to the supposed "national character." Sitte himself expected a "unified national work of art" to emerge as a result of the "popular synthesizing" of all the visual arts.


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