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New Building in Old Cities: Writings by Gustavo Giovannoni on Architectural and Urban Conservation


Available July 2024

Gustavo Giovannoni

Edited by Steven W. Semes, Francesco Siravo, and Jeff Cody; translated by Steven W. Semes

The highly influential writings by an important early advocate for the conservation of historic cities are made available for the first time in English.

The Italian architect, historian, and restorer Gustavo Giovannoni (1873–1947) was a key figure in the fields of architecture, urbanism, and conservation during the first half of the twentieth century. A traditionalist largely neglected by the proponents of modernist architecture following World War II, he remains little known internationally. His writings, however, until now unavailable in English, represent a significant step toward the full appreciation of the historic city, and his insights are directly relevant today to the protection of historic resources in urban contexts worldwide. 

This abundantly illustrated critical anthology is a representative sample of Giovannoni's seminal texts related to the appreciation, understanding, and planning of historic cities. The thirty readings, which appear with their original illustrations, are grouped thematically into six parts organized around key concepts in Giovannoni’s conservation theory—urban building, respect for the setting or context, a thinning out of the urban fabric, conservation and restoration treatments, the grafting of the new upon the old, and reconstruction. Each part is preceded by an introduction, and each individual reading is prefaced by succinct remarks explaining the rationale for its selection and the principal matters covered. Six plate sections further illustrate the readings’ main concepts and themes.

Steven W. Semes, a practicing architect, is professor at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture and director of its graduate program in historic preservation. Francesco Siravo is an Italian architect specializing in town planning and historic preservation. Jeff Cody is an architectural historian with a background in historic preservation planning. He was a senior project specialist at the Getty Conservation Institute from 2004 to 2022. 

“Superbly translated and edited, this timely anthology of polymath Gustavo Giovannoni’s writings is most welcome. Giovannoni’s forward-looking reflections and experiences in the formulation and pursuit of a comprehensive ethic rooted in historic city continuity, respect, and care are connected to environmental and socioeconomic sustainability. Multidisciplinary in essence, it embraces issues that expand the traditionally architecture-dominated understanding of urban conservation. These issues are of direct relevance today to the wise use of inherited urban resources worldwide.”
—Dennis Rodwell, architect-planner, cultural heritage and sustainable urban development consultant

“This long-awaited translation of Gustavo Giovannoni's writings marks a significant milestone in conservation literature. It was through Giovannoni's innovative ideas and hands-on experiments that the pursuit of urban conservation emerged in the early twentieth century; his work became the foundation upon which contemporary architectural restoration theory was laid. This publication introduces his clear and prescient insights to a global audience, enriching the field with his powerful contributions.”
—Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO World Heritage Director and Assistant Director-General of UNESCO for Culture, 2000–2018

408 pages
7 × 10 inches
63 color and 94 b/w illustrations
ISBN 978-1-60606-875-5

Getty Publications
Imprint: Getty Conservation Institute