Siena DNA

Kruf, J.P. (2006) Siena DNA [fine art print]. Breda: Civitas Naturalis.
The striking light in one of the streets of Siena, makes the DNA of this city visible. This palette of grey, beige and taupe colours and the fibers of the wall is a small piece of art in itself. This photo I took in 2006 near Piazza del Campo, in the city center. It has so many details that you almost can read how the city is governed and managed, what its rules and regulations are and even how the urban policy plans guide the city infrastructure. Sherlock Holmes doubtlessly is able to complete the whole story.

This photo tells the story of the holistic principle on which every ecosystem has been built. The street tells the story of the city and its governance. It is an exponent of it. A quote by one of the greatest ecologists John Muir (Gilford, 2006) makes us understand the principle of holism – the idea that the whole of something must be considered in order to understand its different parts (Oxford) – in just one simple sentence:

When we try to pick out anything by itself we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.


Siena is maybe the city where public governance was invented. In fact, it can be considered as the Mecca for city managers, mayors and aldermen. History has been written in the painting in the Town Hall of the City of Siena (at that time it was a republic by the way). It is The Allegory of Good and Bad Government, a series of three fresco panels painted in the Sala Dei Nove by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in 1338/1339. A glimpse of both is visible in this simple and shaded street view.

Lorenzetti, Ambrogio (1338/1339) The Allegory of Good and Bad Government [Fresco). Siena, Sala Dei Nove.

The only way to get to the high level of good government seems to be by coordination, expressed in all forms and tonalities in this beautiful fresco of Lorenzetti, almost 700 years ago. The importance of coordination – Siena was a very well-run city at that time – is explained very clearly in this video by Charles Fried, professor at Harvard Law School, underlining the holistic principles of city governance.


Gilford, Terry (2006) Reconnecting with John Muir. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 216 pp.

Oxford Learners’ Dictionaries, Holism.