Encyclopedia Ichnographica

virtual realm

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virtual realm


Precedent XII
1997.03.20

It is obvious that Stirling cared deeply for his unbuilt works, and he was no doubt well aware of the unfortunate dormancy of architectural designs destined to exist only as drawings. It is quite natural to ponder a "what if" world when looking at the plans and elevations of buildings that were never built. Similar to Michel Foucault's "archeological" methodology, which penetrates into the past seeking thoughts that are no more but perhaps once were, Stirling unearthed a "virtual city/museum" of his own architecture within the context of eighteenth-century Rome. The scheme is like a temporal inversion of Piranesi's Ichnographia of the Campo Marzio where, instead of a past Rome that never was, the plan presents a future Rome that will never be.
Stephen Lauf, Precedent XII (Quondam: seeking precedents... ...finding inspiration exhibit, 1997.03.20).




Redrawing the Campo Marzio
1997.08.08

After rereading some of Tafuri's text on the Campo Marzio, for some reason it occurred to me that my redrawing of the Campo Marzio is an attempt to "walk in Piranesi's footsteps," meaning, I am trying to learn how Piranesi's imagination operated by doing the same thing he did--literally (re)drawing the plan. I am trying to get as close to Piranesi's own drawing/designing procedure as possible.

I then thought of what Collingwood said about not being able to truly learn from history because we are not able to actually experience history. In this sense, I am trying to re-experience a specific historic occurrence, albeit over 200 years later and with a different drawing technology. Besides the use of CAD, which is actually related to engraving in that it is a type of "drawing" that is readily reproducible, the major difference between what Piranesi did and what I am doing is that Piranesi was designing the plan(s) as he was drawing them, he was producing with his imagination and with his graphic dexterity. Whereas I am only measuring his work and then digitally inputting the data. I am learning through osmosis, however.

"Redrawing History: G.B.Piranesi's Campo Marzio in the Present"
...the opportunity to delve into the virtual realm and how reality and the virtual very much cross paths in the Campo Marzio.




Redrawing History - outline
1997.08.12

...breaks away and manifests a new realm, the virtual realm.

The virtual realm is both real and unreal; it is like osmosis and perhaps the Ichnographia Campus Martius is the membrane through which the real and the unreal reach an equilibrium.

sex, Mars, reenactment
1997.11.20

...the phrase, "back to daddy's balls, architecture halls"... ...a connection between this line and the Ichnographia. ...Mars being the father of Romulus--the founder of Rome, and the connection of sex and conception within plans... ... the "testicles" of the Templum Martis as generators...

...the prominence of Mars... ...Piranesi actively redesigned Imperial Rome as he came to understand it. Piranesi assimilated all the knowledge about this part of the city, and through that assimilation he delineated an optimal synthesis. Piranesi's plan of the Campo Marzio is not an architectural reconstruction, but an archeological redesign. Piranesi's plan is not a rendition of what was, rather a rendition of what could have been. Piranesi's plan is not a reconstruction, but an historical reenactment.

The Ichnographia is a powerful reenactment of the architectural history of the Campo Marzio. The history, moreover, is not limited to Imperial Rome. Although the buildings are named for those primarily of the late Empire, Piranesi also very cleverly and extremely subtlely reenacts the architectural history of the Campo Marzio beyond the Imperial Age, specifically the inversion/conversion of Rome from pagan state to Christian state.

The opening stage for the reenactment is the Scenographia (whose very title has obvious theatrical connotations)...

...regarding the Ichnographia as a stone fragment: a reenactment of the Forma Urbis--a virtual reenactment of discovering the great missing piece of the "puzzle" that will bring all the other piece to a grand cohesion. (...here reminded of Tafuri's opening comments to The Sphere and the Labyrinth: "There comes a moment (though not always) in research when all the pieces begin to fall into place, as in a jig-saw puzzle, where all the pieces are near at hand and only one figure can be assembled (and thus the correctness of each move be determined immediately)..."




the Ichnographia as "theme park"
1998.04.23

...the notion of the Ichnographia being used (perhaps for the first time) as a "guide map." Using the Ichnographia as a guide would seem ridiculous to most because the large plan has always been dismissed as a pure fantasy. It can act as a guide, however, especially if one is aware of the textual background of the plan, meaning the historical texts which describe ancient Rome.

...looking at the Ichnographia as an ancient Roman theme park--a virtual place where one can vicariously experience the ancient city as well as learn about the history of the city.

The themes Piranesi uses are numerous:
a. the Imperial genealogy of both the Bustum Augusti and the Bustum Hadriani.
b. the forward and backward "ride" of the Triumphal Way.
c. the military themes along the Equiria.
d. the numerous garden designs
. e. the nemus Caesarum.

The whole typological catalogue is nothing but one variation on a theme after another.

Hadrian, Plotina, and Paulina Domitia, etc.
1998.06.02

According to the biography of Hadrian, he was a favorite of Plotina. In fact, there is some cause to believe that it was Plotina that got Hadrian named as sucessor at Trajan's deathbed. ...more symbolism along the axis of life.

Hadrian's birth mother's name was Paulina Domitia, and this fact lead to further speculation as to the meaning of the Sepulchra Familiae Domitorum at the end of the axis of death--the counter point of Hadrian's tomb. There is reference to both Hadrian's real mother and to his adoptive mother within the axes of life and death.

...sheds light on Piranesi's overall intention in (re-)designing (not reconstructing) the Campo Marzio. Piranesi was redrawing/redesigning the Campo Marzio, a redesign not at all capricious, but one based wholeheartedly on a vast amouint of historical facts. That is to say, Piranesi set out to improve the ancient Campo Marzio's "urban plan" without changing the region's existing program.

...reminded of Stirling's notion of evolutionary designing, and his statements about what could or should be considered when designing a house for K.F. Schinkel 200 years after Schinkel's birth. I am also reminded of Tafuri's wrongness in calling the Ichnographia of the Campo Marzio an "experimental design and therefore an unknown."

Piranesi operated on a few planes when generating his plan of the Campo Marzio--there is the redesigned plane, the Pagan-Christian narrative plane, and the plane of (composite?) temporal palimpsest. To make matters difficult, however, none of these planes complies completely with the other two, nor can any of the planes be viewed completely independent of the other two. In essence, Piranesi's (design) methodology emulates the very nature of Rome itself. The Ichnographia is a plan of many layers of meanings and messages which ultimately aptly represents Rome the city of many physical and historical layers.

As an archeologist, Piranesi "redraws" all the layers of Rome's ancient past. As a well educated 18th century Roman Catholic, he "drafts" the narrative of Rome's Pagan to Christian inversion (conversion), and as a highly evolved architect-designer he displays the "Eternal City" with infinite virtuality.




abstract done
1999.02.23 19:08

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

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




Re: irrational architecture
1999.02.24 13:02

The Campo Marzio is a very cleverly designed time-capsule, and it is a coded message in virtual stone.



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