piranesi

1999

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1999.01.09
Re: Quondam's agenda
Regarding archeology and archeological reconstructions, Quondam is already doing the architectural community a huge service in presenting the first full scale analysis of Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii, a plan that unfortunately most of the architectural and art historical world today believes to be, because of the writings and teaching of Tafuri, a fragmentary cacophony of architectural meaninglessness. It turns out that Tafuri was, as far as the Campo Marzio is concerned, almost entirely wrong, and therefore much of his polemic, which fuels a large portion of today's architectural theory and higher education, is seriously questionable.


1999.01.10
inbred fest - Nero buildings
The inbred-fest of ancient Rome--this relates to both mental illness and to the "genealogy" of Piranesi's Ichnographia plans. Pretty much all the plans of Nero and after are "inbred."


1999.01.16
eros & thanatos
After searching my Timepiece notes for something on metabolism, I (re)found Freud's quotations from Civilization and its Discontents which names eros and thanatos (the life and death instincts) as the basic operations of life. The whole notion is great for my idea of a metabolic imagination and it didn't take me long to make the connection to the Life and Death axes of the Campo Marzio. Oddly enough, it came as a revelation for me to see these cross axes as a manifestation of the metabolic process. Nonetheless, this connection is exactly what ties the two axes story together--this connection provides the ultimate outline and full meaning of Piranesi's design which is now undisputedly metabolic.
Of course, this story reinforces the metabolic imagination theory as well, and suddenly I have a connetion to the TPH, the BIA, and to the actual history of Berlin (and here Speer's plan is incredibly poignant!).
I will develop this whole analysis (story) in gallery 1999, starting with a link from the Freud quotation. I will include everything--life, death, sex, Rossi, Nero/St. Peter's, the Triumphal Way back and forth, City of God (new life), inside-outside, Tafuri wrong, cardo & decumanus, inversion, (schizophrenia?). ...I still have to redraw the Triumphal Way, and I am considering creating a 3d rendition of at least the two axes. ...it will be worth it precisely because of the metabolic theme (and all the work will be applicable to Encyclopedia Ichnographica as well).


1999.01.25
eros & thanatos
eros et thanatos ichnographiam campi martii - ...present the frontis[?] and end pieces[?] of this long chapter. Inbetween the two images a short provocative introduction. As to the rest of the chapter, the plan itself is the outline to follow. My earlier work on this subject is simply categorized as "rehersal."

Eros et Thanatos
1999.01.29     e2683


1999.02.23 12:44
Re: irrational architecture
...with regard to contemporary architecture's relationship with the rational and the irrational. The vital, albeit still largely missing, ingredient of this analysis/phenomenon, however, is the creative-destructive nature of the metabolic (imagination). To reinforce my "theories" here, I offer the following quotation, along with some further analysis/explanation.
from: Manfredo Tafuri, Architecture and Utopia - Design and Capitalist Development (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1976), pp. 15-16.
"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 demonstrate 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 possess 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."
Tafuri must here be taken to task because he comes extremely close to the truth about Piranesi and his large plan of the Campo Marzio, but he then falls fatally short of seeing the truth. Tafuri is absolutely wrong when he states, "Piranesi did not possess the means for translating the dynamic interrelationships of this contradiction into form." In truth, Piranesi worked very hard to "translate" the opposite yet necessarily linked notions of life and death (rational and irrational) within his great plan, and I have substantially documented Piranesi's (metabolic operations) in "Eros et Thanatos Ichnographia Campus Martius". Stated briefly, Eros names the life instinct and Thanatos names the death instinct, and Piranesi carefully delineates (between 1758-1762) both these "instincts" within the ancient city of Rome.
It is becoming more and more clear to me that any discussion of the rational and the irrational (in design and capitalism) tends to lead toward confusions unless they acceptingly incorporate the over riding creative-destructive nature of the metabolic (imagination).


1999.02.23 19:08
abstract done
"Inside the Density of G. B. Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii"
Albeit resolutely virtual, Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius nonetheless manifests a high degree of density not only in terms of architecture and urbanism, but with regard to symbolism, meaning, and narrative as well. The hundreds of individual building plans and their Latin labels within the Campo Marzio do not "reconstruct" ancient Rome as much as they "reenact" it. Thus Piranesi's overall large plan presents a design of Rome that reflects and narrates Rome's own imperial history. Given Rome's history then, the ultimate theme of Piranesi's design is inversion, specifically ancient Rome's inversion from (dense) pagan capital of the world to (dense) Christian capital of the world--a prime example of the proverbial "two sides to every story."
With the inversion theme, Piranesi also incorporates a number of sub-themes, such as life and death, love and war, satire, and even urban sprawl. Rendered largely independent, each sub-theme relates its own "story." Due to their innate reversal qualities, however, each sub-theme also reinforces the main inversion theme. Piranesi's Campo Marzio is not only dense, it is condensed.
In 2001, the finished Ichnographia Campus Martius will be 240 years old, yet Piranesi's truly unique urban paradigm--a city "reenacting" itself through all its physical, socio-political, and even metaphysical layers--may well become the most real urban paradigm of the next millennium.


1999.02.23
"Inside the Density of Piranesi's Campo Marzio"
"Inside the density of Piranesi's Campo Marzio" is the title of the abstract/paper I am submitting the Belgium colloquium.


1999.02.24 13:02
Re: irrational architecture
The Campo Marzio is a very cleverly designed time-capsule, and it is a coded message in virtual stone.


1999.02.27 17:24
27 February - the 1st Equiria
The Equria is the annual horse-races held on the 27th of February and the 14th of March in the Campus Martius, in honor of Mars.

1999.03.02
inside the density - redrawing the Campo Marzio
"Inside the Density...." ...the abstract and forthcoming paper, with its main thesis of "reenacted cities" is without question a highly charged idea that is might to become a next issue. This is potentially how to make architectural history through Piraneis's Campo Marzio. It is because of what I write on this topic that firmly (and finally) establishes the writing substantial architectural texts.
The paper itself will be written within schizophrenia + architectures and therefore I have all the room and leyway for an "experimental" and free-form-connected presentation. The outline for the paper is the abstract itself--there is really no need to address any issues not mentioned in the abstract (except, of course, the metabolic). There are probably a number of notes on "density" still to come.
Redrawing the Campo Marzio - I have decided that I will now generate a complete Ichnographia beginning with drawing a basic geometric outline of all the plans that remain to be drawn.


1999.04.14
alter-ego (for Quondam)
...I started to think about creating an alternative Quondam environment, one that is accessed through Quondam's main page, and utilizes the same collection and themes as Quondam, but nonetheless affords Quondam a "place" to be much more liberal, uninhibited, and all out revolutionary(?). At first it may appear that I am borrowing the theme of schizophrenia + architectures, but that is really not what I intend at all. My main objective is to apply all the new dexterity implications inherent in CAD and the digital revolution vis--vis architecture and representation. Perhaps I can go so far as to present the notion of an alter-ego to architectural history as well.
I would like to begin this "alter-ego" virtual museum through presenting any number of cad model distortions and collisions. These new "models" will in turn offer the opportunity to create and engage in new architectural environments that will come to represent a totally new and unprecedented world of architecture--and an infinite new world at that.
I suppose this alter-ego museum will most resemble schizophrenia + architectures in that really anything will go there. I can actively indulge in taking up any of more unconventional ideas and take them to whatever mean or extreme I so choose. Perhaps the correct term for this other Quondam place is super-ego Quondam, a place where architecture enjoys the virtuality of digital infinitude. This could really take off, especially once I go through all my past notes and pick up on the many projects-ideas that I have yet to carry out. This could become somewhat revolutionary, and thus a perfect entry into the next millennium.
I just thought that what I may ultimately produce here is exactly what Piranesi continually produced through his engravings and texts.


1999.04.21
21 April 1999 (Rome's birthday)
The path that ultimately lead me to Helena began with my learning about a deliberate connection between Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius and Saint Agnes of Rome. According to ancient tradition, the first "structure" within the Campus Martius was an altar erected by Romulus in honor of his father Mars. Piranesi situates the Ara Martis within the generally accepted location of the original altar, that is, within the area between the present day Piazza Navona and the Tiber to the west. In Piranesi's plan, the altar of Mars is within a circular pool in front of a Temple of Mars and is furthermore surrounded by an extensively curvilinear porticus. Additionally, the Domus Alexandri Severus (1) flanked by two Sessorium (2) is to the west.

Investigating the meaning of Piranesi's Ara Martis layout, I looked to Nolli's 1748 Plan of Rome for a possible connection. I chose this approach because I had already learned that Piranesi indeed sometimes cleverly disguised links between his Ichnographia and Nolli's plan. The only potential tie between the two maps at the Ara Martis juncture is the coinciding position of the Templum Martis and the baroque church of St. Agnes on the Piazza Navona. At this point it became necessary for me to investigate the story of Saint Agnes.
Saint Agnes died in Rome circa 249 as a thirteen year old virgin and martyr. "Her riches and beauty excited the young noblemen of the first families of Rome to contend as rivals for her hand. Agnes answered them all that she had consecrated her virginity to a heavenly husband, who could not be beheld by mortal eyes. Her suitors, finding her resolution unshakable, accused her to the governor as a Christian, not doubting that threats and torments would prove more effective with one of her tender years on whom allurements could make no impression."1 As a form of torture, Agnes was sent to a brothel where her vow of virginity would be threatened and almost certainly eradicated. According to the legend, however, an angel protected Agnes while she was in the brothel, and subsequently Agnes was put to death. The traditional location of the brothel of Agnes' torture is the site of St. Agnes on the Piazza Navona. Moreover, the subsequent execution of Agnes sent shockwaves throughout both pagan and Christian Rome because the worst possible thing any Roman could do was to kill a virgin. Suddenly, and ironically, the Roman persecution of Christians took on the guise of a pagan moral dilemma.
The martyrdom of Agnes signifies a pivotal point of pagan-Christian inversion, and this inversion is precisely what Piranesi delineates within the complex of the Ara Martis. First, the co-positioning of the Templum Martis and the church of St. Agnes represents the origin of Rome itself when Mars raped the Vestal Virgin Rhea, who subsequently became mother to Romulus and Remus. Second, the emperor Alexander Severus is known for having been very interested and sympathetic towards Christianity, to the point where he seriously considered proclaiming Jesus as one of the official Roman gods as well as carving the (inverting) words "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" over the door of his house. Third, Sessorium is a direct reference to the Palatium Sessorianum, the imperial estate that became Helena's residence in Rome after 312, and soon thereafter the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. It seems quite evident that Piranesi was well aware of early Christian history, including its architectural history.
Personally, I wonder whether Piranesi recognized Helena as an architect as well.
1 Herbert Thurston, S.J. and Donald Attwater, editors, "St Agnes" in Butler's Lives of the Saints (New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1956), v. 1, pp. 133-4.

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