Any attempt at representing the city essentially means ‘presenting it’ through visual systems capable of capturing the city’s identity and transforming it into an image. In this sense, despite using different codes, coats of arms can be considered representations of the city as indeed are postcards, maps and guidebooks, and in more recent times regional brands, logos and wikicities... However, the state of the contemporary city seems to require new forms of representation capable of grasping change, representing complexity, and capturing the moods and sense of bewilderment or astonishment which often accompany the experience of a constantly changing situation. These communicative devices offer new and multiple ‘viewpoints’ and are capable of grasping links so that sensations and descriptions become intertwined; in order to create narrative structures of the local area, rather like modern-day flâneurs, they give priority to the experience of places rather than to their interpretation. They map the discontinuous traces of memory through the production of communicative artifacts which may occasionally be unusual but which are capable of guiding the exploration of reality and turning it into a possible and desirable experience. This is the terrain on which experimental work in the specific field of communication design is being carried out, and the scenario in which the representation of the city is testing the effectiveness of its own expressive forms. This is the direction being pursued by the research work into the ‘vision of the city’ of contemporary Pompei; this essay provides a brief summary of the research. The work originated from a concerted attempt by the Pompei city council to rethink the city, supported by BENECON, the Regional Centre of Competence of the Second University of Naples. The research represented an extraordinary opportunity to set in motion processes of local development – rendered more effective by being underpinned by processes of knowledge – and to reflect on the theme of the identity, distinctiveness and communication of the idea of the city.
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