c. 16 BC Augusta Treverorum
1682 the Plan of Philadelphia reenacts a Roman camp settlement.
1983 Welcome Park
If reenactment as a design prescription is still only a "weak hypothesis," your consideration of the notion so far certainly contributes supplemental vitality and strength. I assume (and hope) you've read my paper for Belgium and my Tafuri critique before writing your reply, because my response here works along those lines.
The evocation of Serlio's 'street scenes' is indeed apt--the notion of stage set is very much part of reenactment, i.e., the place upon which and within which to 'act' again (and again). For the record, Serlio drew three scenes, the third, Scena Rustica or Scena Satirica, is all natural /naturalistic (proto primitive hut? or proto romanticism?).
While reenactment certainly necessitates a contextual understanding, reenactment as a design paradigm is nonetheless not necessarily site specific. For example, theme parks everywhere are for the most part far removed for the 'actual' themes they reenact. On the other hand, the reenactments within Venturi (Rauch) and Scott Brown's Franklin Court (Philadelphia), Western Plaza (Wash. D.C.) and Welcome Park (Philadelphia) relate directly to their respective sites/environments. Reenactment then can (and indeed does) have it both ways in terms of context.
As to the "problem" of "exciting ideas" never getting developed due to being brightly spotlighted and then quickly moved on form, perhaps this 'trendy' behavior too is a form of reenactment, that is, a repetitious renewal, the continual process of putting on a new hat, but always putting on a hat nevertheless.
The best philosophy I've read so far that purports reenactment is within Collingwood's The Idea of History. Collingwood is much influenced by Croce, and Croce is much influenced by Vico. [I have yet to do extensive reading regarding of the philosophy of history, but I have done enough to see that there is a significant strand of it that addresses reenactment as a methodology. I suspect Vico's New Science to be the most important primary source--I have the book, but have only read a small part of it so far.] When I first began to redraw Piranesi's Campo Marzio using CAD, I was doing so to get as close to Piranesi as possible; essentially, I was reenacting his act of drawing as best I could. For me, this exercise, this reenactment, has provided enormous insight, albeit it took several years of continual work for this vision to develop. I am certainly not Piranesi, nor do I contend to possess his superior creative talent and imagination, but I deliberately attempted to do some of the same things he has done, and in so doing I honestly believe I removed several degrees of separation. Perhaps reenactments then are always a play with degrees of separation, sometimes seeing how close one can get to the 'original' and/or sometimes seeing how far one can stretch the 'truth', to name the extreme cases. [play - theater - reenactment]
My historiography of Piranesi's Campo Marzio (and here I include my paper for Belgium with the work so far in the Encyclopedia Ichnographica) aims to present the Ichnographia as a prime exemplar of architectural and urban design as reenactment--Piranesi's plan is not only a large architecturally drawn plan, but also a plan in the sense that it lays out a course of action, or, should I say, a course of reenaction. Taking the lessons of the Ichnographia('s virtuality) and utilizing [reenacting!] them in today's world is the 'real' challenge.
context (Quondam thinking?)
As much as Philadelphia is often called the cradle of democracy, a kind of New World Athens, at base (i.e., literally infrastructurally) Philadelphia is a Roman colonial camp reenactment (and you might even put camp in quotes, a la Learning from Las Vegas via Philadelphians). Philadelphia's original plan is a Roman grid complete with a real cardo and a real decumanus, and the plan is still very much intact today. Indeed, Broad Street, the north-south axis is the longest straight street (in an urban context) in the world, an ultimate cardo, primary axis if there ever is one.
Re: the dead end of urbanism as we know it
...just about any large city today, is part farcical staged phony history [etc.]
What parts or are there parts of any large city today that are un-farcical un-staged un-phony [history]?
I ask because I would like to see what might be the opposite of 'farcical staged phony history.'
[possible leads:] Is NY's Central Park a farcical, staged and phony history, hence a tragi-comedy reenactment? I'd say kinda-sorta, but it's very much liked nonetheless.
Philadelphia's original grid plan is patently a reenactment of ancient Roman military/colonial urbanism. When I worked downtown in the 1980s I never tired of the street theater, which I surmised was engendered by the average street widths (just a tad too narrow for a modern metropolis), but I never saw the plan as farcical, staged, or phony. Or did I just contradict myself? I'm again reminded that where there's real reenactment, there's usually inversion as well.
Philadelphia's Fairmount Park is the largest urban park in the world, and it has a large collection of historic homes, indeed country estates from the 18th century when what is now Fairmount Park actually was 'out in the country' relative to Philadelphia. None of this is farcical, staged, or phony, rather true history. When you are at Mount Pleasant, for example, a true Georgian Manor, and you look at the adjacent ball-playing fields of today, what you are also looking at is a very old field where crops used to be grown.
Philadelphia's Independence Mall is today being newly reconstructed. Pretty much all the new stuff is (going to be) farcical, staged, and phony history, but none of it is reenactment.
Re: Evolutionary theory and architecture
Regarding paradigm, the dictionary definition is that of being a model, which is not exactly the same as a "meme". For example, the shift in antique Roman culture from Paganism to Christianity is a paradigm shift that occurred largely because of the legalizing of Christianity and the outlawing of Paganism. One could say that Christianity spread within the antique world via "meme", which in modern terms would be called evangelism, but the cultural shift from Paganism to Christian is very much based on legal paradigms.
I forgot mention in my last post the close relation between "meme" and reenactment (and what I have occasionally referred to as reenactionary architecturism). Reenactment as a pure function precedes "meme" in that the function of (human/individual) memory itself is a mental reenactment, thus "memes", more than anything are the spreading of mental reenactments, just like viruses replicate/reenact themselves.
When it come to "style", one could ask "What (if anything) is the style reenacting?" In Meaning In Western Architecture, without specifying reenactment, Norberg-Schulz nonetheless explains how the axiality of Egyptian temples as analogous to the axiality of the Nile, etc. Likewise, the cardo and decumanus of Roman town plans represent (reenact) the axis of the Earth and the motion of the sun respectively. One could even ask what (if anything) does symmetry in design reenact? Does symmetry in design stem largely from the overwhelming symmetrical design of the human body?
If one takes the design of the human body as a paradigm, can one then say that corporAl symmetry was then reenacted corporEAlly, and thereafter symmetry in design was spread as paradigm via meme?
Is it fair to say that A. is (or appears to be) taking the theory of evolution as a paradigm and via meme applying it to the history of architecture? Or is a theory of evolution already manifest as a paradigm within the history of architecture, and A. is (the first?) detecting it? Oddly, if A. is successful in his pursuits, the answer to both questions will be yes.
All of the above regarding reenactment stem from the logical hypothesis that a reenactment can never be as original as that which it reenacts, and that reenactment come with degrees of separation between the reenactment and that which is being reenacted. Thus (I see) paradigm as closer in degrees to something original and meme as closer in degrees to reenactment.
Here's one of my favorite examples of reenactionary architecturism: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constituted originated, but the design of the city itself is very much a reenactment--there are other historical cities named Philadelphia (today's Amman, Jordan, for example), and Holme's survey/plan reenacts a Roman camp town precisely, even to the point where the cardo here today, Broad Street, is the longest straight urban street in the world. After the American Revolution, Philadelphia became the first, albeit interim, capital of the USA, and it's architecture then began to reenact the architecture of ancient Greece, which was used a paradigm of "democratic" design.
In the beginning of the 20th century, the design of Philadelphia's new Benjamin Franklin Parkway set out to reenact the Champs Elysees of Paris, and there indeed are replicas of the palaces of the Place de la Concorde at Logan Circle, the centerpiece of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The design of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway as reenactment becomes even more compounding when it is recognized that its design, as unwittingly manifest today, matches exactly Piranesi's design of an axis of life within the Ichnographia Campus Martius.