Pertaining to the contiguous elements in Piranesi's Campo Marzio, I thought of a sucession of drawings that singles out the contiguous elements of a plan by x-hatching them and dotting or dashing the remaining plan elements. This drawing could be followed by another drawing where all but the contiguous elements are erased but are still within context of one another and connected by diagramatic drawings representing axes and circular or rectalinear motifs. It might be interesting to see this final drawing within the overall neighboring context in regular plan depiction. (I just thought--1996.06.24--that it might be interesting to do a larger context where each building complex is broken down into contiguous elements one after another, and the final stage of the series of drawings would only depict the contiguous elements.)
This could be an ongonig project eliciting a good number of drawings. The question remains, however, to what end? Are these drawings to form the better part of some sort of essay or chapter? What is the lesson to be learned? I will have to go back in my mind and see if I can remember why I thought of isolating contiguous elements in the first place. It had to do with the notion that perhaps there is a key to Piranesi's design methodolgy (and imagination) in looking at the contiguous elements and how they are usually repeated items constituting, through mirroring and copying, a greater whole. I felt that looking at--studying--the contiguous elements might shed some light into the workings of Piranesi's designing mind (methodology). This all relates to the various means of copying offered by Arris software, and that is no doubt the initial inspiration here. (I also have to add--1996.06.24--that I do analysis of the planning method by osmosis each time I redraw a part of the Campo, and it is this intimate knowledge of the make up of the various plans that also triggers my imagination and make me wonder about Piranesi's imaginative method.)
Upon looking at the contiguous elemets in October 1994, they appeared as fragments or more like ruins. This led to another idea that Piranesi was first inspired by the plans of Roman ruins and then proceeded (in designing the Campo Marzio) to design first plan fragments and then elaborated on the fragments using axial and circular copying motifs (similar to CAD copying techniques).
After writing the above, I am more confident that there is a reason for doing contiguous elements analysis and it is to investigate the theory of a possible way that Piranesi proceded in design.
new insights - key to the language of plans
This note concerns my new insight into Piranesi's Campo Marzio (and I had most of these ideas Friday night--1996.07.12). I hit upon a substantial key concerning the language of the plans within the Campo Marzio. In retrospect, I think it was an understanding of Piranesi's plan language that I was interested in finding out from the very beginning--at least since I learned CAD.
The key to the language of plan forms starts with the long 'spiritual' axis of Mars and the tiny temple/shrine to the union of Mars and Venus [sic; Rhea Silvia]. I will not go into the whole story of the long axis except to say that the Mars/Venus [sic; Rhea Silvia] shrine at the very end of the axis is the very basis of all the Piranesi plan forms. The plan of the shrine itself depicts, in simple planimetric forms, the union of the male sex organ with the female sex organ. The plan is plain and simple, and where it not for its small size, would also be percieved as vulgar and blunt. Yet there is an essential beauty in its fertile simplicity--the notion of elementary plan forms is enhanced a thousand fold by the symbolism of outside vs. inside--gives it the power to spawn every other plan formation deliniated.
The power and significance of the small shrine plan comes to the fore after an analysis of the second significant axis of the Campo Marzio--the original and still existant Corso. This axis represents the war/military aspect of Mars, and when compared with the axis running through the altar to Mars, the Corso, the race course, can be clearly considered the mundane axis (as opposed to the spiritual or sacred axis). The military character of the axis is quickly reinforced by the military offices and the military parade grounds that lie to the northmost end of the Corso. The fact that the Corso is a horse race course also reinforces the mundane/military character of the axis, and this mundane aspect is most clearly manifest with the dirt road reality of the axis itself. (Just as I am writing this note, it occurs to me that there may be the opportunity to call out a sacred vs. profane contrast between the two axes.)
Seeing how the first axis ends in sex, I was curious to see if the Corso axis also ends in sex. While there is no building plan that explicitly depicts the co-joining of sexual organs, the north end of the axis has another simple building (square and I don't know what its program is) made up of very few contiguous elements. I think this type of plan is the next step in the hierarchy after the sex temple. It is almost as if the sex temple starts something that quickly multiplies and mutates in the process. These two plans next to each other demonstrate the high order of symbolism in the first.
From the second order of plan, the next step up in the hierarchy is best exemplified by the gymnasium on the Tiber and the Villa Publics where the contiguous elements are still few yet numerously repeated, however there is a substantial addition of articulation in the individual contiguous pieces, especially in the carving out of space in the form of niches and thus heightening the issues of outside/inside, solid/void, figure/ground. This third type of plan formation is much more strongly related to the sex temple, yet the lesson of the second type of plan, the gemmation of a few parts, is a vital step in the evolutionary development of the plans. I wonder if I could here call it an embryonic development of the plan configuration. I also wonder if the second order of plan formation is to be considered profane vs. the sacred union of sex?
hierarchy of plans
I have some more ideas concerning Piranesi's plans. There is the small degree of hierarchy of the two three-sided series of sepulchers where one is a more advanced/developed form of the other. These are closely related to the repetition of the gymnasium but they also introduce a linear motif that has not been addressed yet. The linear repetition motif is also very evident in the Porticos; the punctuation of columns is introduced in the porticos as well. I am thnking that it is possible to think of the porticos as architectural introductions; I can also see them as stoas. I might be able to come up with some interesting notion concerning the permeability of the porticos as well.
Since I do not have the plan in front of me right now I cannot make mention of specific buildings and the ideas I have concerning them and there place in the plan formation hierarchy. I can mention the west bank of the Tiber, however, and how it is largely a cemetary with some very ritualistic stadiums and formal gardens. It is not what you would call the inhabited part of town. It is interesting to speculate here whether Piranesi is making some kind of planning/urban design commentary to the effect that there are some parts of the city that are more or less only for show. He is certainly delivering that message here in the Campo Marzio.
I will conclude here with some general ideas I have concerning drawings that might be of interest. First I am thinking of doing a series of Campo plans that isolates the buildings according to type. I have already done this out of context, but I have not done this in context. The idea originally came to me because I thought I thought of doing a drawing where only the tombs and sepulchers are depicted throughtout the plan. I came up with this idea because of what I mentioned previous of how the area around the Area Martis is like a giant, ornamental, showpiece cemetary. I am now thinking that I could do the same for all the various building types like gardens, porticos, and temples.
Finally I will finish by mentioning a plan that I probably mentioned some time before, and that is a plan of all the water ways and the large bodies of water. This will probably be the first plan that I do that the type plans will be on top of.
personal type of document
The first new inspiration I had concerning Piranesi was in terms of a very personal type of document concerning the Campo Marzio and my personal experience in redrawing it. I imagine the document as almost being stream of consciousness--both flighty and factual--allowing me to relate in words and drawings all the various ideas that have come into my mind concerning the Campo Marzio. I don't think that it would be a particularly easy document, i.e., one that I could really do in a slapdash fashion especially since I will be writing text the whole time I am working on it. I will also be doing much graphic manipulation and that takes time as well.
Well just like all my other notes and proposed projects, here is just another idea for a book that I want to write and who knows if I ever will write it.
The strange part is though that I have so much material already that I could compose and at least I would have a record document of what I have personally experimented with and in turn experienced. The fineline I have to avoid, however, is not to steal all the ideas I have for the straight forward documentation of the Campo Marzio. (It's my call though.)
life and death axes
Along with the analysis to the sacred and the profane axes, I will also be doing an analysis and comparison between the long sacred axis and the Hadrian tomb axis. The main point being the contrast between the nympheums at the ends of the long axis and the tombs situated at the ends of the Hadrian axis. In simple terms the first axis celebrates life (nympheums) while the second (cross) axis celebrates death (tombs). The still goes with the notion of these axes being of a more scared (higher - godlike) realm, and, furthermore, it is significant that the life and death axes cross each other at right angles.
From: Manfredo Tafuri, Architecture and Utopia - Design and Capitalist Development (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1976).
p. 13: "It was Piranesi who carried out Laugier's theoretical intuitions to their extreme conclusions. His ambiguous evocation of the Campo Marzio is the graphic monument of that tentative opening of late Baroque culture to revolutionary ideas."
p. 14-16: "In Piranesi's Campo Marzio the late Baroque principle of variety is completely rejected. Since Roman antiquity is not only a recollection imbued with nostalgic ideologies and revolutionary expectations, but also a myth to be contested, all forms of classical derivation are treated as mere fragments, as deformed symbols, as hallucinating organisms of an "order" in a state of decay.
Here the order in the details does not produce a simple "tumult in the whole." Rather, it creates a monstrous pullulation of symbols devoid of significance. Like the sadistic atmosphere of his Carceri, Piranesi's "forest" demonstrates that it is not only the sleep of reason" that conjures up monsters, but that even the "wakefulness of reason" can lead to deformation: even if its goal be the Sublime.
Piranesi's critical interpretation of the Campo Marzio was not without a phrophetic quality. In this work the most advanced point of Enlightenment architecture seems precisely and emphatically to warn of the imminent danger of losing altogether the organic quality of form. It was not the idea of totality and universality that was in crisis.
Architecture might make the effort to maintain its completeness and preserve itself from total destruction, but such an effort is nullified by the assemblage of architectural pieces in the city. It is in the city that these fragments are pitilessly absorbed and deprived of any autonomy, and this situation cannot be reversed by obstinately forcing the fragments to assume articulated, composite configurations. In the Campo Marzio we witness an epic representation of the battle of architecture waged against itself. This historically developed language of building types is affirmed here as a superior principle of order, but the configuration of the single building types tends to destroy the very concept of the historically developed language as a whole. History is here invoked as an inherent "value," but Piranesi's paradoxical rejection of historical, archeological reality makes the civic potential of the total image very doubtful. Formal invention seems to declare its own primacy, but the obsessive reiteration of the inventions reduces the whole organism to a sort of gigantic "useless machine."
Rationalism would seem thus to reveal its own irrationality. In the attempt to absorb all its own contradictions, architectural "reasoning" applies the technique of shock to its very foundations. Individual architectural fragments push one against the other, each indifferent to jolts, while as an accumulation they domonstrate the uselessness of the inventive effort expended on their formal definition.
The archeological mask of Piranesi's Campo Marzio fools no one: this is an experimental design and the city, therefore, remains an unknown. Nor is the act of designing capable of defining new constants of order. This colossal piece of bricolage conveys nothing but a self-evident truth: irrational and rational are no longer to be mutually exclusive. Piranesi did not pocess the means for translating the dynamic interrelationships of this contradiction into form. He had, therefore, to limit himself to enunciating emphatically that the great new problem was that of the equilibrium of opposites, which in the city find its appointed place: failure to resolve this problem would mean the destruction of the very concept of architecture.
Essentially it is the struggle between architecture and the city, between the demand for order and the will to formlessness, that assumes epic tone in Piranesi's Campo Marzio. Here the "Enlightenment dialectic" on architecture reached an unsurpassed height; but at the same time it reached an ideal tension so violent that it could not be understood as such by Piranesi's contemporaries. Piranesi's excess--as otherwise the excesses of libertine literature of the era of the philosophes--becomes, just through its excessiveness, the revalation of a truth. But the developments of Enlightenment architecture and city planning were quickly to hide that truth."