quondam piranesi

Stephen Lauf

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

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life
1 c
(1) : the state of a material complex or individual characterized by the capacity to perform certain functional activities including metabolism, growth, repreduction, and some form of responsiveness and adaptability

death
1 :
the ending of all vital functions without possibility of recovery either in animals or plants or any parts of them : the end of life : the act , process, or fact of dying     5 : the passing or destruction of something inanimate

life and death 6.0

Within the Horti Neroniani and the Horti Domitiani, the Gardens of Nero and Domitia respectively, Piranesi establishes two axes that cross perpendicular to each other. One axis is immediately obvious within the large plan in that it coincides with the bilateral symmetry of the Bustum Hadriani, the gigantic crematorium and burial place adjacent to Hadrian's own enormous tomb. It then quickly becomes also obvious that this axis literally delineates death -- at one end there is Hadrian's tomb, and at the other end there is the Sepulchra Familiae Domitiorum, the Sepulchers of the Domitian family, while the middle of the axis contains a mammoth funerary machine.


1. Sepulchrum Hadriani
2. Bustum Hadriani
3. Sepulchra Familiea Domitiorum
4. Nymphaeum
5. Templum & Area Martis
6. Nympheum Neronis
The yellow line indicates the axis of life. The purple line indicates the axis of death. The red line indicates the Triumphal Way.


The opposing axis, on the other hand, is rather obscure in that it only partially aligns with a bilateral symmetry, and, indeed, a large segment of this axis acquiesces to the opposing symmetry of the Hadrianic bustum. Nonetheless, this axis takes precedence both symbolically and in meaning. Near the center and perfectly aligned with this axis sits the Templum Martis and the Area Martis, thus the initial route of the Triumphal Way. This nucleus of beginnings and victory then counters the Bustum Hadriani's central position along the axis of death. Furthermore, two nympheum anchor each end of this axis, hence also countering the two giant sepulchers of the axis of death. Piranesi's design of this axis then is in every way opposite the axis of death, thus delineating an axis of life.


life and death 6.1 »»

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