Festina Lente and Escargot : Camillo Sitte’s Winged Snail

Marcia Feuerstein


In his conclusion of Der Städtbau, his treatise on city design, Camillo Sitte added a tiny winged snail at the end of the text.  Sitte’s colophon, his finishing touch is, at first glance, a conundrum. Yet this winged snail signifies his urgent wish that Vienna’s city designers engage in the practice of festina lente while designing modern cities and, especially, Vienna’s Ringstraße.  Festina lente (hasten slowly) a seemingly contradictory idea is, in Erasmus’s words, elegantly and in “succinct brevity, …  applicable to every activity of life … [the words] ought to be carved on columns. … to be seen on all monuments everywhere…”  The idea represents arrested speed, or prudence, as well as stability. It is also a paradigm for design — slow design — as an efficient and effective way of following intertwining quickness with careful and deliberate practice.  This presentation traces Sitte’s winged snail as well as the idea of festina lente in design.



Marcia Feuerstein is an Architect and Associate Professor at Virginia Tech’s Washington Alexandria Architecture Center.  Dr. Feuerstein earned a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, a M.Arch from SUNY at Buffalo and B.S. from Tufts University. Her research and teaching consider design through theories of the body, embodiment in architecture, performance, and theater.  Her drawings, writings, images, and photographs have been published in a number of architectural and academic texts and she co-edited Architecture as a Performing Art (Ashgate, 2013) and Changing Places: ReMaking Institutional Buildings (White Pine Press, 1992).