outline - long[est] axis
--the triumphant way as the start of the long axis.
--its extremes and the sexual connotations displayed by the buildings at the center of the long axis (Templum Martis) and the buildings at the two extremes of the axis (the two nympheums and the little intercourse building on the west bank of the Tiber).
new insights - key to the language of plans
...a substantial key concerning the language of the plans within the Campo Marzio.
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 Rhea Silvia. I will not here go into the whole story of the long axis except to say that the Mars/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 form, the union of the male sex organ with the female sex organ. The plan is plain and simple, and, were it not for its small size, would also be perceived 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 delineated.
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 Equiria. This axis represents the war/military aspect of Mars, and, when compared with the long axis running through the altar to Mars, the Equiria, 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 northern end of the Equiria. The fact that the Equiria 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. (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 Equiria 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 a pair of simple buildings--Vivaria Fulvii and Cochlearum Hirpini--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 Publicus 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. An embryonic development of plan configuration?
"The Key Plan"
"The Key Plan"... ...about the tiny unnamed intercourse building at the end of the axis of life.
...unlocking secrets, gaining access to knowledge.
...the plan as depicting conception, and therefore the intentional starting point for meaning (and hence interpretation as well).
...the symbolism regarding the conception of Romulus and Remus--Mars and the royal Vestal Virgin as the parents.
...the tiny plan as the generator of all the subsequent plans; the beginning of the "embryonic development" of all the other plan formations.
...the signifying effect of inside vs. outside and of solid vs. void.
errors in "speaking architecture"
...a "display [that generally] deals with the 'language' and meaning of architectural planimetric forms, while specifically [displaying] the 'master key' that unlocks the long held mysteriousness of Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius. ...you see a 'building' [aedicula intercorse] that is both literally and figuratively conception. This tiny building is indeed one of the few plans within the Ichnographia that Piranesi does not provide with a Latin label, and that is because the building, through its plan, already speaks for itself, and, moreover, it speaks of all the 'concepts' there involved, namely, Piranesi's conception of architectural language, and the very conception of Rome--Romulus--itself. Piranesi's architectural intensification here is so tight to the point that indeed the medium is the message.
Essentially, Piranesi designed a building deliniating conception, which also represents Piranesi's conception of the large Campo Marzio plan, which also represents the beginning/conception of Rome itself.
It rocked Eisenman in his chair...
My opinion of Bloomer's book, as far as it relates specifically to reading Piranesi's Ichnographia of the Campo Marzio, is that it is indeed wrong and [somewhat] trite--almost all of what Bloomer writes about the Ichnographia is taken virtually verbatim from Tafuri; she does, however, include some original material relative to the "pit of the underworld" citing it as the entry way into understanding the Ichnographia as a labyrinth, but she misses the real key to the large plan (the tiny intercourse building) which is directly across the Tiber from the pit. Bloomer's book may be fun, but it is not good scholarship in that she really did not come to read and understand the whole plan at all--she went on to seek meaning "underneath" the plan while what she really did was avoid the actual plan itself. Can you honestly say that you now know what the Ichnographia is about after reading Bloomer's book?