Encyclopedia Ichnographica


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from The Art of Memory
"It is not difficult to get hold of the general principles of the mnemonic. The first step was to imprint on the memory a series of loci or places. The commonest, though not the only, type of mnemonic place system used was the architectural type. The clearest description of the process is that given by Quintilian. In order to form a series of places in memory, he says, a building is to be remembered, as spacious and varied a one as possible, the forecourt, the living room, the bedrooms, and parlours, not omitting statues and other ornaments with which the rooms are decorated. The images by which the speech is to be remembered--as an example of these Quintilian says one may use and anchor or a weapon--are then placed in imagination on the places which have been memorized in the building. This done, as soon as the memory of the facts requires to be revived, all these places are visited in turn and the various deposits demanded of their custodians. We have to think of the ancient orator as moving in imagination through his memory building whilst he is making his speech, drawing from the memorized places the images he has placed on them. The method ensures that the points are remembered in the right order, since the order is fixed by the sequence of places in the building."
Frances A. Yates, The Art of Memory, (1966).

from The Limits of Interpretation
"To show examples of flexible criteria of resemblance, let me quote, not the most radical occult and Hermetic theories, but rather some instances of a very reasonable semiotic technique, the one recommended by the authors of the arts of memory. Those authors were neither Kabbalists nor sorcerers summoning spirits. They simply wanted to build systems for remembering a series of ideas, objects, or names through another series of names, objects, or images of objects. Other authors (Rossi 1960; Yates 1966) have studied and described the complex constructions of loci, that is, of real architectural, sculptural, and pictorial structures that those theorists built in order to provide a systematic plane of expression for the contents to be memorized, signified, and recalled. It is clear, however, that these mnemotechnic apparatuses were something more than a practical devise for remembering notions: it is not by chance or for decorative purposes that the systems of loci frequently assume the form of a Theater of the World or emulate cosmological models. They aim at representing an organic imago mundi, an image of a world which is the result of a divine textual strategy. Thus, to be semiotically efficient, they reproduce the presumed tangle of signatures on which the Universe as a significant Whole is based. As Ramus (1581) has remarked, memory is the shadow of the order (of the dispositio), and order is the syntax of the universe.
But even though an ars memoriae was conceived as a mere practical devise, it had in any case to find recognizable links between a given image and the thing to be evoked. In order to establish such a relationship it was advisable to follow the same criteria that held for the interpretation of cosmic analogies. In this sense these artes tell us something about various socially and culturally established semiotic rules."
Umberto Eco, The Limits of Interpretation (1990), p. 25.

1999.11.07 20:43
Encyclopedia Ichnographica
As it stands now, my ongoing investigation and redrawing of the Ichnographia has led to the 'discovery' of a whole new aspect of Piranesi's work that so far no one else has found, namely that the large plan of the Campo Marzio is a readable narrative of Ancient Rome's political and architectural history--but in order to grasp this delineated 'text' one must 'read' in unison the individual plans, the plans in relationship to each other, the plans in relation to where the actual buildings really were, and (this is perhaps the most important) the Latin labels Piranesi gives to each plan.

The City of Collective Memory
Piranesi also borrowed the devices of Baroque scenographers, heightening the impact of his fantastical compositions of Rome by twisting and turning their viewpoints, creating a confused montage of fragments and spaces, of exaggerated proportions and depth. If Greek architecture was the epitome of purity and restraint, then Roman architecture, so Piranesi surmised, had been erected by plunderers and despoilers, and its compositional forms were not only eroded by time but compromised by choice. Roman ruins were exceptions to the ideals of purity, existing beyond any order that classicists might impose. Their mysterious allure resided instead within irrational and archaic realms. So Piranesi, a bricoleur in search of new orders and new inventions, turned away from those who poked around for the origins of architecture among its ornaments and stones and reached beyond the contemporary zeal for restoration. He moved instead into an arbitrary, utopian, and entirely imaginary sphere of subjective experience. Fantasy holds an essential role in any "analogous city" view, for fantasy is the mediator between an archeologist's mind bent on exploring roots and remnants of antiquity and a creative imagination that quotes and remembers only arbitrary and unrelated fragments and traces. Through incongruous recombinations and imaginary superimpositions, Piranesi diverted architectural symbols from their original meaning. He played an enigmatic game of architectural writing in which reality and the imaginary are confused.
M. Christian Boyer, The City of Collective Memory : its historical imagry and architectural entertainments (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1994), pp. 176-8.

homo ludens and the Ichnographia
There are certain passages within Homo Ludens that relate to Piranesi's "play" of the Ichnographia Campus Martius, especially with regard to reenactment, the Scenographia, and the double theater. There are also connections between ritual and play that relate to the Triumphal Way.

The whole interpretation of the Ichnographia via The Art of Memory as exercised by the ancients. The Ichnographia as placement of memory and memory as progenitor of reenactment.

2001.12.04 12:26
Re: TX2/Plato's Spelunking
Last week I started reading Yates' The Art of Memory. The first chapter describes how the ancient Romans "taught" memory (now known as mnemonics). Briefly, there was/is this whole operation of setting up something like a (house) "plan" in your mind and then placing what you want to remember in designated "rooms". After somewhat understanding the principle, it dawned on me that the Ichnographia Campus Martius is very much such a "memory plan". I freely admit that my present retention of data relative to ancient Rome is greatly aided (if not in fact generated) by my "hands-on" knowledge of Piranesi's plan. It seems that I was actually practicing (albeit unwittingly) a type of mnemonics as I was CAD redrawing the Ichnographia.
This leads to wondering if there are other "memory places" being created out there.

2002.12.25 15:17
Re: These Muschampian NYTimes
When I first read the above [quotation, 1966] and its accompanying text, it quickly dawned on me that Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius is indeed a mnemonic structure, one that imaginatively contains a broad, yet finely detailed, history/memory of Imperial Rome. I even go so far as to believe that Piranesi had in fact intentionally utilized the principles of mnemonic in delineating the great plan--this thinking, moreover, is only reinforced by mnemonic itself being a Roman rhetoric 'invention' in the first place.

2003.01.19 17:26
abstract for Studium Urbis
Mnemonically Delineating Veracity
"Authenticity is one thing, veracity another."
Marguerite Yourcenar, "Faces of History in the Historia Augusta" in The Dark Brain of Piranesi and Other Essays.
An apparent lack of veracity has always been at issue within modern interpretations G. B. Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius (1757-62) despite Piranesi's extraordinary 'scientific' knowledge of ancient Rome and it's remains as evident throughout the four volumes of Le Antichitā Romane (1756), as well as throughout Piranesi's other archaeological publications, including the Il Campo Marzio dell'Antica Roma. Contemporary architectural theorists from historian Manfredo Tafuri to architect Peter Eisenman view the Ichnographia as a city devoid of its own history, thus a plan prognosticating autonomous urbanism, yet that is exactly what the <Ichnographia Campus Martius is not.
Beginning with comparisons between select portions of the Piranesi's Ichnographia and Giambattista Nolli's Pianta Grande di Roma, it becomes clear that the Ichnographia is an elaborate mnemonic devise. Like the imaginary building plans that Roman orators created in their minds as an aid toward the memorization of their speeches, the Ichnographia is literally an imaginary plan manifest as an aid toward the memorization of virtually all of ancient Rome's [architectural] history. Thus the Ichnographia is not a fantastical reconstruction, rather, like the art of memory itself, the Ichnographia is a reenactment.
Mnemonically Delineating Veracity concludes with a brief reenactment of how an independent artist from Philadelphia came to discover a heretofore unnoticed initial(?) printing of the Ichnographia Campus Martius.

2003.05.28 11:20
Re: story telling
Piranesi very much utilized/executed a 'narrative' approach to design via the Ichnographia Campus Martius, which predates Cooper Union/Hejduk by about two centuries. Moreover, Piranesi's approach may well have been inspired/influenced by the mnemonic design methodology of Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli, which comes from 1900 years ago. Story telling/weaving/fabricating (like the above) is a very basic form of reenactionary architecturism.
Is reenactionary architecturism essentially an architecture that does not forget?

2005.04.17 14:47
...and Piranesi
Piranesi did a whole lot more than visually represent "improbable and imagined" spaces. Piranesi was primarily an ur-archaeologist, and his hands-on understanding of "history" manifests an unprecedented delineation of how history coalesces with (architectural) design. Even Piranesi's personal design history manifests a coalescence, e.g., Prima Parti di Architetture e Prospettive through the Carceri through the Osservazioni sopra la Lettre de M. Mariette through the Diverse Maniere d'Adornare i Cammini through the Vasi, Candelabri, Cippi.
...remember when you responded with:
"Xavier Costa, in a class he taught at the AA while I was there, related it [the Ichnographia Campus Martius] to museological strategies/memory aids. Not sure that this is what you are asking, and I don't know if he ever published such a thing."
Could it be that Costa received his information from Marcel Baumgartner's "Topographie als Medium der Erinnerung in Piranesi's 'Campo Marzio dell' Antica Roma'"? published in 2000? Baumgartner at least admits/footnotes his knowledge of the Encyclopedia Ichnographica as published at www.quondam.com from 1 July 1998 to 20 March 2000.

2005.10.10 09:30
"Inside the Density of G.B. Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius"
It's all about the co-joining of memory (i.e., mental reenactment) and architecture.
I wonder if Robbe-Grillet began Jealousy with a floor plan because that's how the ancient Roman art of mnemonics was taught? The Ichnographia Campus Martius is certainly Piranesi's greatest mnemonic floor plan.
Are people without good memories instinctually jealous of those that have good memories?
Does having a good memory also make for having a better phenomenology?

2012.06.12 14:36
Why is architectural theory so hard to read?
Lotus International 19 happens to be the first Lotus magazine I ever bought, so its contents are (still) fairly well ingrained within my memory. Looking over "Cities within the city" (again) last night reminded me of another subsequent Ungers essay--"Architecture of the Collective Memory"--also published within Lotus, this time Lotus International 24 (1979). I personally remember this essay as something I really connected with, something that I really liked the idea of, but I don't think I've (re)read the essay in many years. Of course, I reread "Architecture of the Collective Memory--The infinite catalogue of urban forms" last night, and wow, it like blew me away because what Ungers relates is exactly how I've come to see Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius, that is, as a whole city of architecture of collective memory, indeed an infinite catalogue of urban forms. Interestingly, such a view of the Ichnographia Campus Martius is what Aureli (and Eisenman) do not (want [you] to) see the Ichnographia Campus Martius as.
Being restless, I continued to read more of The Possibility of Absolute Architecture. I read the Boullče chapter and stated the Ungers/OMA chapter (five). Ten pages into chapter five you encounter material on the Havellandshaft, which is how Ungers ends "Architecture of the Collective Memory," yet Aureli nowhere mentions the "collective memory" aspect of the Havellandshaft (nor does Aureli footnote reference "Architecture of the Collective Memory--The infinite catalogue of urban forms" in Lotus International 24).
I now feel inspired to write a book entitled The Reality of Convenient Memory Architecture, theory even.
"Architecture of the Collective Memory" begins with these passages:
In his book Invisible Cities Italo Calvino invented an imaginary conversation between the Venetian traveler Marco Polo and the great emperor of a distant country. "At this point Kublai Khan interrupted him or imagined interrupting him, or Marco Polo imagined himself interrupted, with a question such as: 'You advance always with your head turned back?' or 'Is what you see always behind you?' or rather 'Does your journey take place only in the past?'"
All this so that Marco Polo could explain or imagine explaining or succeed finally in explaining to himself that what he sought was always something lying ahead, and even if it was a matter of the past it was a past that changed gradually as he advanced on his journey, because the traveler's past changes according to the route he has followed: not the immediate past, that is, to which each day that goes by adds a day, but the more remote past. Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreigness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign unpossessed places.




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