From the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries, military engineers in the Mediterranean devised a new strategy for defending a city built on a peninsular site: a navigable canal was excavated through the neck of the landmass, severing the city from the coast and isolating it within the sea. In Building with Water: The Rise of the Island-City in the Early Modern Mediterranean, Elizabeth Kassler-Taub traces the development and dissemination of this overlooked urban type. She details how the “island-city” first emerged in the Adriatic and Ionian territories of the Venetian stato da mar and later swept across Spanish and Portuguese outposts in the western Mediterranean basin, where it was absorbed into a shared Iberian vernacular. By reconstructing the circulation of the island-city through this sprawling network of colonial frontiers, Kassler-Taub argues, we can chart an alternative path of architectural influence in the region, one that shifts our attention beyond the Italian and Spanish mainlands.

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