quondam piranesi

Stephen Lauf

Inside the Density of G. B. Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii

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Ichnographia Campi Martii

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Albeit resolutely virtual, Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii 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 Campi Martii will be 240 years old, yet Piranesi's truly unique urban paradigm -- a city "reenacting" itself through all its physical, sociopolitical, and even metaphysical layers -- may well become the most real urban paradigm of the next millennium.

» abstract
» virtual
» density
» reenactment vs. reconstruction
» inversion
» pagan - christian - triumphal way
» life and death
» love and war
» satire
» urban sprawl
» reenactment architectures

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