• In spite of the dispute between Saverio Muratori and Manfredo Tafuri, and of the ever-widening split that has characterised the global scholarship of architecture ever since, Italy gave rise to several methods of typo- morphological studies founded upon both rigorous historiography and a coherent theory underpinning the operative use of this historical knowledge in architectural design. This paper argues that the Italian ‘school’—for want of a better word—is perhaps unique insofar as it defines a clear scope of objects and methods pertaining to the disciplinary field of architecture as a whole, thus providing a unified framework for both historiography and design.

    Yet, this Italian ‘school’ of typo-morphological history and theory is diverse, exposing rifts between traditionalists and modernists. The former are tributary of Aldo Rossi’s postmodernist formal relationships derived from a concept of ‘collective memory,’ whereas the latter adopt Saverio Muratori’s ‘procedural typology’ as a tool for generating abstract spatial relationships. This paper will focus on recent historical studies in nineteenth century architecture as well as new projects in the cities of the river Po plains—Alessandria, Parma, Bologna—that clarify these theoretical conflicts, yet show the way forward for an ‘operative’ dialogue between historiography and typological design theory. These recent contributions have displaced, ever so slightly but significantly, the long-standing Italian emphasis on Medieval and Renaissance historiography and on the iconic post-war building campaigns in Rome, Milan, and Venice.