Teacher | Student
Originally produced in: France
Also available in: en


  1. Rome, memory city. [JPG Images]
  2. Rome, a network. [JPG and PNG Images]
  3. A roman transect. [JPG and PNG Images]

Curricular level

4th grade (geography): « Cities in Europe ». France


A feature of the geography of Europe lies in an early and extensive urbanization. As early as in the antiquity, the city of Roma was the first and most famous illustration. Therefore we can be tempted to consider it as the archetypal European city so far without ignoring its irreducible originality. In this town, sometimes called "Urbs", the city, is it possible to find a little of all cities in Europe. One can search why they look alike when they are all unique. This fundamental duality is what we seek the students to feel in the three pedagogical moments of the sequence "Roma, the city".

The first time seeks to find traces of the past of a city observing its monuments from different epochs, in the shape, orientation and layout of streets in different times and in the names that load places with cultural references sometimes mysterious but always in memory, at least as traces. The time depth of the urban material is what we want to make understand and it's rather easy to do it in Roma, this incomparable place of memory and concentrate of the traces of European civilization.

The second time encourages to recognize that a city is also and always a technical organization to link men with multiple relationships by establishing specialized networks. Of special interest is the observation of the underground network which often constitutes the heart of urban mobility. We also examine how the roads give the city its fluidity and irrigate its expansion.

The third time, by a special technique in images of the urban area of Roma, attempts to concretely illustrate the diversity of habitats, lifestyles and activities while seeking to show the impact of certain organization factors of urban space in all cities in Europe. This is the moment to compare the appearance, functions and density of different habitats and areas with the building policy of the municipality. As often, elsewhere in Europe, this one takes a long time to catch up and correct the imperfections of a socially segregated space.

Conceptual Objectives

Our educational proposal aims to make students think:

  1. on the historical dimension of any city because it is clearly visible in the cities of Europe that, like Roma, often are jewels of the cultural heritage.
  2. but also on the technological functioning of any urban system, especially when it has the size of a capital city.
  3. a systematic approach to urban landscapes in order to recognize, under the apparent diversity of concrete forms of urban life, patterns of spatial radioconcentric and selective organization of urban space.

We have the ambition, by the way of this method crossing the observations, to perceive some characteristic aspects of a large city rather emblematic of the historical depth of landscape and of the civilization in Europe.

But also, more generally, it is to understand the complexity of the urban phenomenon by diversifying the analytical points of view in order to consider it as an historical and spatial system of evolving relationships between individuals and political authorities.

Methodological Objectives and Skills

First we encourage students to carefully observe the different types of information that can give a map about the numerous traces of past the urban body is made of to stimulate a thorough reading of the several meanings of maps.

Then draw the eyes on the geometric qualities of an urban area characterized by a global form, structured by the poles and lines of force that energize it and in which men are distributed selectively in a complex hierarchy of functional, economic or symbolic criteria.

The approach of three different types of maps will prepare to the specificity of urban mapping and facilitate control including the implementation of comparisons to highlight the thematic complementarities and, moreover, to observe the effects the change of scale (from local to that of a metropolitan area).

The approach of the photographs will be more unusual in that it attempts to be both more subjective and more logical. More subjective in the expression of mental representations, iconographic and symbolic of the city of Roma but still systematic in their collection by a search engine supposed to guarantee their statistical significance. More subjective in the observation of selected urban landscapes photographed from the ground, at a very large scale and more rigorous by their location in an urban transect permitting an approach to urban space, distanced because vertical.

The transect is an interesting methodology coming from the natural sciences. It is relatively simple and now easily to be reused in other cities or other areas by the way of satellite picture libraries. As for the comparison of maps and photographs about the same city, it may constitute a methodology for collecting information about any city in Europe and in the world: therefore useful "urbi et orbi."

Suggestion of Activities

In the first lesson, students will be guided by the questions to watch the map of central Roma. They may need to use a dictionary of proper names (digital or paper) to answer the questions about the meaning of street names in Italian. The observation of the photographs selected by the Google search engine to the query "Rome" certainly invites students to make similar requests for other names of the same city (“Roma” in particular) but also to the names of other cities. This research could usefully prepare or continue the implementation of the conclusions drawn from the study of Roma. In this case, the comparison of pictures obtained makes understand the objective: the monumentality as brand image and memory function of the centers of European cities. The links will be then easily established with issues relating to tourism and property management.

More classic, the second lesson motivates students to a methodical analysis of transport networks and then to put them in relation with the urban space that they structure. Having defined a priori, the apparent qualities and defects of the metropolitan network, the comparison with the map of the city will try to establish various implications for preparing minds for the next lesson.

The third lesson will be more complex to implement but richer of a diversified reinvestment potential. It will be necessary to explain to students the methodological interest and the preparation of a transect. As for the photo interpretation of photographs, it must permit both to observe regularities in the radio-concentric urban structure of European cities while relying on the effects of subjective perceptions that accompany the fact of living in town. No doubt it will be also interesting to observe the points of view adopted (individual, national, aesthetic, moral) and the nature of the comparisons carried out and selected support points (colors, architecture, traffic, cleanliness, vegetation, buildings, etc.).

Suggestion of Evaluation

Except the last question which attempts to generalize to the European level, the questions of this test focus student attention on the urban fact of Roma, its history, its geography and therefore its specificity. The possible comparisons, transpositions and generalizations of the proposed work would not have found in this reduced form a proper assessment.