In the visual cortex of the cat and ferret, it is established that maturation of orientation selectivity is shaped by experience-dependent plasticity. However, recent experiments indicate that orientation maps are remarkably stable and experience-independent. We present a model to account for these seemingly paradoxical results. In this model, a scaffold consisting of nonisotropic lateral connections is laid down in horizontal circuitry prior to visual experience. These lateral connections provide an experience-independent framework for the developing orientation maps by inducing a broad orientation tuning bias in the model neurons. Experience-dependent plasticity of the thalamocortical connections sharpens the tuning while the preferred orientation of the neurons remains unchanged. This model is verified by computer simulations where the scaffolds are generated both artificially and inferred from experimental optical imaging data. The plasticity is modeled by the BCM synaptic pla..