Manfredo Tafuri

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1999.05.17 19:44
Re: Piranesi
I went through Tafuri's first chapter in The Sphere . . . and his Theories . . ., and Piranesi, it seems, was after the perspective as a symbolic form. A kind of meta-language. I think you would agree there, in spite of your disagreements with Tafuri.
It seems to me, also, that the architect's task is to build meta-languages, represented as drawings, CAD, or buildings (the representation bearer doesn't really matter). As a matter of fact, this would be a good way of separating architecture from building (meta- from language). It does make architecture a second-order (some would prefer to call it a 'higher') practice, exegetical, just as Piranesi's prisons is included in the Societies of Control project: as an exegesis.

1999.06.07 23:49
the more real Piranesi-effect
The more real 'Piranesi-effect' of our time is the continual confusion and misinterpretation of Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius by architects, architectural historians, and architectural theorists over the last forty-three years.
Beginning with major factual errors within Vicenzo Fasolo's "The CAMPOMARZIO of G.B. Piranesi," which first appeared in Quaderni dell'Instituto di Storia dell'Architettura, n.15, 1956, Piranesi's large plan of the Campo Marzio has received one misinterpretation after another.
After Fasolo, the Campo Marzio's greatest misinterpreter is Manfredo Tafuri, who wrote eloquently, albeit incorrectly, about the Campo Marzio in both Architecture and Utopia - Design and Capitalist Development, 1976 and The Sphere and the Labyrinth - Avant-Gardes and Architecture from Piranesi to the 1970s, 1987. Outside of the strictly historical accounts of Piranesi's Campo Marzio printing by John Wilton-Ely in The Mind and Art of Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 1978 and by Jonathan Scott in Piranesi, 1975, Tafuri's texts were the only written interpretations of the Campo Marzio readily available to architectural thinkers throughout most of the [20th] century's last quarter. Tafuri's well respected position as the Director of the Department of History of Architecture at the Instituto Universitario di Architettura in Venice led to an unquestioned acceptance of Tafuri's words regarding the Campo Marzio.
Taking Tafuri's false lead, a string of contemporary architects and/or architectural theorists consistently paraphrase Tafuri's texts, thus further procreating subsequent generations of ill-bred Campo Marzio interpretations. The (architectural) authors and texts are:
Stanley Allen, "Piranesi's Campo Marzio: An Experimental Design" in Assemblage (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press Journals, December, 1989), pp. 71-109.
Jennifer Bloomer, Architecture and the text: the (s)crypts of Joyce and Piranesi (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993).
Peter Eisenman, "Autonomy and the Avant-Garde" in Autonomy and Ideology: positioning the avant-garde in America (New York: Monacelli Press, 1997), pp. 70-9.
Alex Kreiger, "Between The Cursader's Jerusalem and Piranesi's Rome" in Form, Modernism, and History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Graduate School of Design, 1996), pp. 151-164.
Rafael Moneo, "Recent Architectural Paradigms and a Personal Alternative" in Harvard Design Magazine (Summer 1998).
Sanford Kwinter, "Can One Go Beyond Piranesi?" in Eleven Authors in Search of a Building (New York: The Monicelli Press, 1996).
Using the Kwinter quotation, "the effect of unforeseeable complexity that arises from multiple interfering structures blindly pursuing their own clockwork logic," as a case in point, one only has to compare it to the following Tafuri quotation, "The clash of the formal organisms, immersed in a sea of formal fragments, dissolves even the remotest memory of the city as a place of Form," and "the whole organism seems to be a clockwork mechanism," to see that Tafuri's misinterpretations of the Campo Marzio still guide those that do not know better.
Perhaps the Kwinter quotation really defines the 'Tafuri misinterpretation of Piranesi-effect.'

1999.06.08 13:37
Re: the more real Piranesi-effect
In the context of Eisenman's Aronoff Center then, the term Piranesi-effect more likely references Piranesi's Carceri (Prisons) perspectives as opposed to the large plan of the Campo Marzio. It is still worth noting, however, that Tafuri's (mis)interpretation of the Campo Marzio informed Kwinter's (written) observations of the Eisenman building.
(I believe) Piranesi's work to be too vast and varied for there to be just one 'Piranesi-effect', therefore, for any such definition(s) to be of use, it must clarify the finer points as well as the gross points.

1999.06.08 17:43
Re: the more real Piranesi-effect
Brian asks:
Could the two interpretations of the Campo Marzio be considered each a certain schizophrenia and a certain sanity, between the two Piranesi-effects, one fragmentary, the other integrated..?

Or even, in some sense metabolic..?
Steve further asks:
Which two interpretations of the Campo Marzio are you referring to? Which one is fragmented and which one is integrated?
As to the CM and the metabolic, see Eros et Thanatos Ichnographia Campi Martii.
Why is it so difficult to see that what Tafuri says about the Campo Marzio is just plain wrong?

1999.06.09 16:16
Re: the Piranesi-effect?
It MUST be remembered that J. Gregory Wharton was the first to post a corrective objection to the definition of 'the Piranesi-effect' newly submitted to the Design-List Glossalalia project by sghosh.
Gregory presented an all important observation/enhancement to the definition, which afterwards I presented an all important observation/subtraction. Gregory, moreover, singled out the newest ingredient to the 'effect", i.e., his naming of "Tectonic Emergence" ['instead']. This emergence concept adds substantial constitution to the real Piranesi effect, as well as to any number of architectural phenomena at large today. [Perhaps Gregory will himself find several additional cases in architecture that 'embody' emergence.]
In a more foregoing post Re: the Piranesi-effect, Brian Carroll raised the definitive limits of 'the Piranesi-effect' when he applied the notion of the metabolic to this observational 'design-talk' discussion. It wasn't Tafuri and Kwinter, however, who were manifesting the metabolic here, but rather Wharton and Lauf in that each played a constructive and destructive role respectively.
Beginning with the sghosh-Kwinter post, and then following with Wharton, Lauf, and Carroll, the Glossalalia definition of 'the Piranesi-effect' has thus reached critical mass.
I look forward to further developments.

Ö.you definitely have a point about their being a metabolic twist to what Tafuri and I learn from the Piranesiís Ichnographia Campus Martius respectively;

1999.06.21 21:24
Re: Response: to lauf-s (i/ii)
As to my faulting Tafuri, remember that I only do this relative to Piranesi's Campo Marzio plan, and I fully outlined Tafuri's mistakes on the Campo Marzio within a set of web pages (which I don't know if you have read or not). What Tafuri writes about the Campo Marzio are not mistakes because of my own interpretation of the Campo Marzio, but they are mistakes because of what Piranesi actually delineated and labeled in his plan. Tafuri clearly misrepresents what Piranesi did, and all you have to do is look at Piranesi's plan to see where and how Tafuri is wrong there. Scott, have you looked at Piranesi's plan to verify whether what I say about Tafuri on the Campo Marzio is true? Generally, when it comes to Piranesi's Campo Marzio, modern architects seem to avoid looking at the primary source. [And just for a moment imagine what it will be like when it is broadly recognized that what I come to say about Piranesi's Campo Marzio is correct and proof that Tafuri is here wrong. Judging by your reaction thus far, not only will there be war, but revolution as well. Perhaps you are angry at the prospect of your own architectural education losing some of its (costly) value.]

1999.07.29 14:28
Generally, Bloomer's treatment of Piranesi's Campo Marzio follows that of Tafuri's, but she investigates some of Piranesi's other work with some originality. She is much better at finding symbolism/hidden meaning in Joyce, however, than she is in finding the same in Piranesi. For her, the (s)crypt(s) signifies a labyrinth (one she often seems lost in herself, even though it is a labyrinth of her own making!). For example, she sees the Campo Marzio plan as representing the labyrinth of the underworld, that place where the [Cartesian] grid/cage of rationality does not apply. Her [s]cryptic efforts getting into this underworld are especially worth reading because it is a thorough aggregate of good research mixed (unfortunately?) with the Tafurian and Derridian agendas (see her treatment of the CM's Terentus occulens aram Ditis et Proserpinae). Inadvertently, however, by going 'underneath' the large plan, she puts all her effort into seeking something that is not there. Essentially, she avoids the real plan itself.

If reenactment as a design prescription is still only a "weak hypothesis," your consideration of the notion so far certainly contributes supplemental vitality and strength. I assume (and hope) you've read my paper for Belgium and my Tafuri critique before writing your reply, because my response here works along those lines.
The evocation of Serlio's 'street scenes' is indeed apt--the notion of stage set is very much part of reenactment, i.e., the place upon which and within which to 'act' again (and again). For the record, Serlio drew three scenes, the third, Scena Rustica or Scena Satirica, is all natural /naturalistic (proto primitive hut? or proto romanticism?).
While reenactment certainly necessitates a contextual understanding, reenactment as a design paradigm is nonetheless not necessarily site specific. For example, theme parks everywhere are for the most part far removed for the 'actual' themes they reenact. On the other hand, the reenactments within Venturi (Rauch) and Scott Brown's Franklin Court (Philadelphia), Western Plaza (Wash. D.C.) and Welcome Park (Philadelphia) relate directly to their respective sites/environments. Reenactment then can (and indeed does) have it both ways in terms of context.
As to the "problem" of "exciting ideas" never getting developed due to being brightly spotlighted and then quickly moved on form, perhaps this 'trendy' behavior too is a form of reenactment, that is, a repetitious renewal, the continual process of putting on a new hat, but always putting on a hat nevertheless.
The best philosophy I've read so far that purports reenactment is within Collingwood's The Idea of History. Collingwood is much influenced by Croce, and Croce is much influenced by Vico. [I have yet to do extensive reading regarding of the philosophy of history, but I have done enough to see that there is a significant strand of it that addresses reenactment as a methodology. I suspect Vico's New Science to be the most important primary source--I have the book, but have only read a small part of it so far.] When I first began to redraw Piranesi's Campo Marzio using CAD, I was doing so to get as close to Piranesi as possible; essentially, I was reenacting his act of drawing as best I could. For me, this exercise, this reenactment, has provided enormous insight, albeit it took several years of continual work for this vision to develop. I am certainly not Piranesi, nor do I contend to possess his superior creative talent and imagination, but I deliberately attempted to do some of the same things he has done, and in so doing I honestly believe I removed several degrees of separation. Perhaps reenactments then are always a play with degrees of separation, sometimes seeing how close one can get to the 'original' and/or sometimes seeing how far one can stretch the 'truth', to name the extreme cases. [play - theater - reenactment]
My historiography of Piranesi's Campo Marzio (and here I include my paper for Belgium with the work so far in the Encyclopedia Ichnographica) aims to present the Ichnographia as a prime exemplar of architectural and urban design as reenactment--Piranesi's plan is not only a large architecturally drawn plan, but also a plan in the sense that it lays out a course of action, or, should I say, a course of reenaction. Taking the lessons of the Ichnographia('s virtuality) and utilizing [reenacting!] them in today's world is the 'real' challenge.

reenactment versus reconstruction 3.0     dt99/0440
The act of reassembling archaeological artifacts into their original form or appearance is commonly called reconstructing, and the resultant new artifact is hence called a reconstruction. Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii is most often referred to as a reconstruction, albeit a reconstruction of a most fanciful nature. Tafuri takes this assertion to an extreme when he states "the archaeological mask of Piranesi's Campo Marzio fools no one: this is an experimental design and the city, therefore, remains an unknown." It is correct that the Campo Marzio sports a mask, but it is a mask of reenactment and not one of reconstruction. Likewise, the Campo Marzio is indeed an experimental urban design, but it is not a design destined to remain unknown.

satire 8.0     dt99/0500
6. Manfredo Tafuri exalts the Horti Luciliani in his The Sphere and the Labyrinth - Avant-Gardes and Architecture from Piranesi to the 1970s, when he states:
"But it is in the Horti Luciliani that the mechanical architecture of Piranesi reaches an extreme level of abstraction. Here, a complex of structures in semicircles and in sectors of circles obeys the rule of gemmation, as the revolve around the Atrium Minervae; an astonishing mechanism, in which Piranesi achieves the maximum refinement of his geometric instruments."
But then Tafuri immediately continues with:
"The overall result of this sample book of typological inventions excludes--the choice is deliberate--the characterization of the city as a completed formal structure. The clash of the organisms, immersed in a sea of formal fragments, dissolves even the remotest memory of the city as a place of Form.
If only Tafuri was here also being satirical, rather than displaying his Campo Marzio shortcomings.
7. The grand staircase leading up the Horti Luciliani aligns precisely with the Spanish Steps of Rome today.
8. Within a year of completing the Ichnographia Campi Martii, Piranesi moved his family and his business to a building along the street at the top of the Spanish Steps. One has to then wonder whether Piranesi already had the building he moved to in mind when he drew the Horti Luciliani [and I personally wonder just how close Piranesi's new residence comes to the Horti Luciliani's Atrium Minervae].
9. Wisdom and satire, what a metabolic combination!

reenactionary notes
30. reenactment of mistakes (Fasolo, Tafuri, Eisenman).

Piranesi critiques in chronological order
I thought that the best way to begin a thorough critique of contemporary criticism/texts on Piranesi' Campo Marzio is to simply list them all in chronological order, and then from there analyze the contents of each text. As much as this is an organizational devise, it is also hoped to engender further insight into the whole emergence of the Tafurian point of view vis-ŗ-vis the emergence of the theory of "reenactment".

more on language
...when you say/ask: "I was (and remain) concerned in the present context simply to ask whether there are any arguments for (a language of architecture--that is, something construed in terms of the primary components of language (syntax, semantics, pragmatics) and attendant accounts of the phenomenology, originary foundations, physical characteristics, and so forth.) that go beyond appeals to a metaphorical sense of 'language'. I haven't come across any, and so I appeal to the list to see if anyone else has," I admit to not being entirely sure what it is that you're after, but that may be because I have yet to re-read prior posts. In any case, your question made me think of Tafuri's criticism of Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius where he states (in The Sphere and the Labyrinth, p. 38):
The ambiquity of the Campo Marzio now becomes evident; it is at once a "project" and a denunciation. As a disenchanted documentation of the impossibility of an unambiguous definition of language, it--projecting this situation into the past--sounds like a merciless satire of the infinite capacity of late-baroque typology to reproduce itself metamorphically. (The fact that in the Campo Marzio the allusion to baroque typologies is filtered through a classicist geometrism fools no one; it is simply a means of rendering metahistorical and universal the polemic already begun.) Inasmuch as it is--despite everything--an affirmation of a world of forms, the Campo Marzio, precisely because of the absurdity of its horror vacui, becomes a demand for language, a paradoxical revelation of its absence.
Negation and affirmation cannot split apart. The "naÔve dialectic" of the Enlightenment is already superseded.
The "great absentee" from the Campo Marzio, then, is language.
The absolute disintegration of formal order, of what remained of the humanist Stimmung, of its sacred and symbolic values--and, above all, of perspective as a symbolic instrument for the quantitative control of space--logically also affects the subject of Piranesi's work: the relationship between history and the present.
I interpret the above to mean that Tafuri believes the Campo Marzio cannot be coherently read or understood because, as Tafuri sees it, Piranesi presents something like xenoglossy (i.e., a trance state of a language unknown to the individual under normal conditions). Over the past several years I've been doing a lot of research and writing whereby I essentially prove Tafuri wrong in that Piranesi's large plan of the Campo Marzio can indeed be read, and, moreover, the plan is a very sophisticated double narrative telling the story of both Pagan and Christian Rome. Piranesi in fact utilizes two languages: Latin (for labeling buildings) and an architectural language of planimetrics.
As far as I know, Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius is the only example of a historical narrative that is delivered not by spoken or written language and/or pictorial illustration, but by a composition of architectural plans and their labels. If that is the case, then Piranesi's large plan is indeed a rare document where architecture is the language used to communicate a (very long) story.

sixth architectural reference
R. James Aitken, Piranesi-Vico-Il Campo Marzio: Foundations and the Eternal City (Montreal: McGill University, 1995). This is Aitken's Master of Architecture thesis.
I first became aware of Aitken's thesis in late 1996 via an online publication of the thesis' abstract . I did not read the thesis, however, until July 2000, that is, immediately after ordering the thesis through [I just did a check at contentville and Aitken's thesis is oddly nolonger available there]. It was then that I again read the abstract and saw that Aitken's had already connected the notion of reenactment with Piranesi's large plan of Il Campo Marzio. What distressed me was that I had been by that time making much ado about Piranesi's Campo Marzio being a reenactment of the Pagan-Christian inversion of ancient/imperial Rome, yet I was doing so without any reference to Aitken's thesis. Of course, I really could not make any reference to Aitken's work simply because I had not read it, but that does not excuse the lacuna of my research and analysis. Henceforth, let it be clear that R. James Aitken is the first architect to identify Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii as a reenactment.
Aitken also picks up on Piranesi's clues that the Campo Marzio is about Pagan Rome's conversion to Christianity, again a topic that I have been keen on. As with reenactment, however, Aitken is somewhat timid about his convictions in these regards, for the bulk of his thesis deals with the clear possible connection between Vico's "philosophy" and Piranesi's method. Plus Aitken stresses a reading of the Campo Marzio text along with a 'reading' of the large plan. In all, Aitken's thesis is very good, full of many valuable insights, and arguably the first full study of the Campo Marzio done with regard to the context of Piranesi's own time. Aitken's thesis does not follow Manfredo Tafuri's analyses of the Campo Marzio (as do Bloomer, Eisenman, and others), and thus Piranesi-Vico-Il Campo Marzio does not follow in the mistaken interpretations that Tafuri initiated.
With regard to my Campo Marzio research and 'thesis', it is somewhat uncanny that Aitken and I arrive at virtually the same conclusions, yet we come to the conclusions from distinctly different means. In fact, when you compare Aitken's thesis with the Campo Marzio material formerly published at, our respective works virtually never repeat each other. Taken together, however, a new and cohesive understanding of Piranesi's Campo Marzio emerges.



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