The Discovery of Piranesi's Final Project
Stephen Lauf



30 August 1771
"The name Francesco Piranesi followed by the date 1771, documents the presence of the artist's son, thirteen at the time ... and support Legrand's assertion that Piranesi's great plan of the villa, published posthumously by Francesco in 1781, was the fruit of ten years work."


30 August 1778
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30 August 1977
Tuesday     Hadrian's Villa     Villa d'Este



I carried Edmund Bacon's Design of Cities open to pages 90 and 91 throughout my tour of Hadrian's Villa because of the plan of Hadrian's Villa in the book. "Professor Pron" followed me throughout the villa because I had an actual plan of the place. Directly behind the Canopus was a fence marking the edge of the park, but the plan in Design of Cities showed some plans further beyond the fence. Pron jumped the fence and started walking through the overgrown field toward a cluster of trees. I followed but also asked myself, "Do we really think we're going to find something?" We're both probably lucky we didn't just get bit by something.
At Villa d'Este there are two busty sphinxes with water spouting out their nipples at the top of the railings either side the cascading central axis. Just as I suspected, if you stop the flow of one nipple, then the water projects twice as far out the other nipple.


30 August 1997
Collingwood texts
The following quotes are from: R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
p. 282:
How, or on what conditions, can the historian know the past? In considering this question, the first point to notice is that the past is never a given fact which he can apprehend empirically by perception. Ex Hypothesi, the historian is not an eyewitness of the facts he desires to know. Nor does the historian fancy that he is; he knows quite well that his only possible knowledge of the past is mediate or inferential or indirect, never empirical. The second point is that this mediation cannot be effected by testimony. The historian does not know the past by simply believing a witness who saw the events in question and has left his evidence on record. That kind of mediation would give at most not knowledge but belief, and very ill-founded and improbable belief. And the historian, once more, knows very well that this is not the way in which he proceeds; he is aware that what he does to his so-called authorities is not to believe them but to criticize them. If then the historian has no direct or empirical knowledge of them, what kind of knowledge has he: in other words, what must the historian do in order that he may know them?
p. 282-3:
In a general way, the meaning of the conception is easily understood. When a man thinks historically, he has before him certain documents or relics of the past. His business is to discover what the past was which has left these relics behind it. For example, the relics are certain written words; and in that case he has to discover what the person who wrote those words meant by them. This means discovering the thought (in the widest sense of that word: we shall look into its preciser meaning in sec. 5) which he expressed by them. To discover what his thought was, the historian must think it again for himself.
** I could paraphrase this entire paragraph in terms of drawings versus written words. **
p. 283:
Suppose, for example, he is reading the Theodosian Code, and has before him a certain edict of an emperor. Merely reading the words and being able to translate them does not amount to knowing their historical significance. In order to do that he must envision the situation with which the emperor was trying to deal, and he must envision it as that emperor envisioned it. Then he must see for himself, just as if the emperor's situation was his own, how such a situation might be dealt with; he must see the possible alternatives, and the reasons for choosing one rather than another; and thus he must go through the process which the emperor went through in deciding on this particular course. Thus he is re-enacting in his own mind the experience of the emperor; and only in so far as he does this has he any historical knowledge, as distinct from a merely philosophical knowledge, of the meaning of the edict.
** This explains my process once I started to "read" the plan (after I achieved a critical mass of drawing). Moreover, it describes what I'm doing now in terms of "archeological" research. **
p: 283: (the steps of the reŽnactment process)
Or again, suppose he is reading a passage of an ancient philosopher. Once more, he must know the language in a philosophical sense and be able to construe; but by doing that he has not yet understood the passage as an historian of philosophy must understand it. In order to do that, he must see what the philosophical problem was, of which his author is here stating his solution. He must think that problem out for himself, see what possible solutions of it might be offered, and see why this particular philosopher chose that solution instead of another. This means re-thinking for himself the thought of his author, and nothing short of that will make him the historian of that author's philosophy.
p. 283:
Such as objector might begin by saying that the whole conception is ambiguous. It implies either too little or too much. To re-enact an experience or re-think a thought, he might argue, may mean either of two things. Either it means enacting an experience or performing an act of thought resembling the first, or it means enacting an experience or performing an act of thought literally identical with the first. But no one experience can be literally identical with another, therefore presumably the relation intended is one of resemblance only. But in that case the doctrine that we know the past by re-enacting it is only a version of the familiar and discredited copy-theory of knowledge, which vainly professes to explain how a thing (in this case an experience or act of thought) is known by saying that the knower has a copy of it in his mind. And in the second place, suppose it granted that an experience could be identically repeated, the result would only be an immediate identity between the historian and the person he was trying to understand, so far as that experience was concerned. The object (in this case the past) would be simply incorporated in the subject (in this case the present, the historian's own thought); and instead of answering the question how the past is known we should be maintaining that the past is not known, but only the present. And, it may be asked, has not Croce himself admitted this with his doctrine of the contemporaneity of history?
** I could paraphrase this whole paragraph to explain my personal experience in the redrawing process. It also relates to the subtitle of my proposed book. I should become familiar with Croce. **
p. 289:
We now pass to the second objection. It will be said: "Has not this argument proved too much? It has shown that an act of thought can be not only performed at an instant but sustained over a lapse of time; not only sustained, but revived; not only revived in the experience of the same mind but (on pain of solipsism) re-enacted in another's. But this does not prove the possibility of history. For that, we must be able not only to re-enact another's thought but also to know that the thought we are enacting is his. But so far as we re-enact it, it becomes our own; it is merely as our own as we perform it and are aware of it in the performance; it has become subjective, but for that very reason it has ceased to be objective; become present and ceased to be past. This indeed is just what Oakeshott has explicitly maintained in his doctrine that the historian only arranges sub specie praeteritorum what is in reality his own present experience, and what Croce in effect admits when he says that all history is contemporary history.
** It will be helpful to bring up this second argument in relation to my own "reŽnactment." It also relate to the new presence of the Campo Marzio due to my redrawing of the Ichnographia in an entirely new medium. **
p. 300:
To disengage ourselves from these two complementary errors, we must attack the false dilemma from which they both spring. That dilemma rests on the disjunction that thought is either pure immediacy, in which case it is inextricably involved in the flow of consciousness, or pure mediation, in which case it is utterly detached from that flow. Actually it is both immediacy and mediation. Every act of thought, as it actually happens, happens in a context out of which it arises and in which it lives, like any other experience, as an organic part of the thinker's life. Its relations with its context are not those of an item in a collection, but those of a special function in the total activity of an organism. So far, not only is the doctrine of the so-called idealist correct, but even that of the pragmatists who have developed that side of it to an extreme. But an act of thought, in addition to actually happening, is capable of sustaining itself and being revived or repeated without loss of its identity. So far, those who have opposed the 'idealists' are in the right, when they maintain that what we think is not altered by alterations of the context in which we think it. But it cannot repeat itself in vacuo, as the disembodied ghost of a past experience. However often it happens, it must always happen in some context, and the new context must be just as appropriate to it as the old. Thus, the mere fact that someone has expressed his thoughts in writing, and that we possess his works, does not enable us to understand his thoughts. In order that we may be able to do so, we must come to the reading of them prepared with an experience sufficiently like his own to make those thoughts organic to it.


30 August 2003
Re: FW Evolutionary theory and architecture
In response to Alex's posting:
1. I discovered the other printing of Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius, something undetected by architectural theorists and historians for close to two and a half centuries. 2. I wonder how many brain cells it took to figure out the latest legend of St. Helena. 3. Alex, I too can list my credentials (and put down others) as a form of evading questions.
How much does architectural history have to henceforth change/evolve because there are now known to be two Ichnographia Campus Martius? Certainly, Wilton-Eli's and Ficacci' "Complete" Piranesi publications are actually not complete. Likewise, what Tafuri, Allen, Bloomer, Aitkens, and Eisenman wrote about Piranesi's Campo Marzio was done without knowledge of two Ichnographias--what good are theories if they are not based on correct history, i.e., reality?
Alex, you started this thread with the statement, "In my continuing research into the history of architecture I am continually surprised by the lack of an adequate theory of change to explain the shift from style to style." It was my ongoing research of Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius that unexpectedly led me to, and via Helena I found that architectural history so far lacked recognition of her predominant role in the empire-wide spread of Christian (church) architecture. Helena's 'building' activities coincided with Constantine's legalization of Christianity, and after Helena's death (c. 28 July 326), Constantine began a selective, but ongoing, outlawing/destruction of Pagan cults/temples--here architectural 'style' changed because of a very intentional metabolic, i.e., simultaneous creative/destructive, process.
Aside from strictly religious (temple and church) architecture, the case can be made that classical Roman architecture, in general, reached its climax during the reign of Maxentius, and ended 28 October 312, when Maxentius lost his life in battle with Constantine at the Milvian Bridge--Maxentius became (usurpative) emperor of Italy and North Africa 28 October 306, and Constantine attributes his Christian conversion to events that occurred the eve of 28 October 312. The architecture built in Rome under Maxentius is of the utmost refinement, e.g., the Circus of Maxentius manifests the most precisely designed of all Roman circuses. [Incidentally, the Circus of Maxentius plays a key role in the manifestation of two Ichnographia Campus Martius.] Records indicate that it may have been only a month after Constantine's triumph at the Milvian Bridge that the first Christian Basilica in Rome, first named after Constantine and today St. John Lateran, began construction. The architecture of Rome executed under Constantine (312-330) further includes (at least), St. Peter's at the Vatican, separate Basilicas of St. Lawrence, Agnes, and Peter et Marcellinus, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (which is all that remains today of Elegabalus' Sessorian Palace, where Helena took up subsequent residence in Rome), the Arch of Constantine (which reused pieces of the Arch of Trajan), the Baths of Constantine, the Baths of Helena, and the Mausoleum of Helena (whose ruins exhibit construction very similar to the ruins of the great Constantinian Bath of Treves (Trier, 306-312), which were the largest Roman Baths outside Rome).
It is important to remember that during Constantine's 31 years as first partial and then sole ruler of the Roman Empire, the amount of time he actually stayed in the city of Rome amounts to only several months. [I'll have to check, but it appears that, when Emperor, Constantine spent the most time at Constantinople, and the second most time at Treves.] Nonetheless, the architecture of Rome (the city) began to change dramatically under his rule, and this is due to Helena's sustained presence in Rome. Moreover, Constantine can be credited with beginning the Byzantine 'style' when he ultimately moved the capital of the Roman Empire to a whole new and Christian city, Constantinople (founded 324 and dedicated 330).
By the end of the 4th century, Paganism was completely outlawed under Theodosius, and thus Pagan temples were no longer to be built.
The 'paradigm shift' from Pagan architecture to Christian architecture does not need a "theory of change" for it to be "coherently" explained. What it requires is a full knowledge of the history of the time when the change occurred.


30 August 2022
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