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Inside the Density of G. B. Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius

reenactment architectures 10.0

1999.11.07 20:43
Encyclopedia Ichnographica
Thanks all around for your comments and questions regarding the Encyclopedia Ichnographica project, and for your Rowe/Oppositions synopsis, which is an interesting bit of late 20th century architectural (theory/criticism) history I did not know.

You ask if I have plans for the Campo Marzio and the simple answer is yes, I do have plans for my Ichnographia work. My redrawing of the Campo Marzio began as a CAD hobby in 1987--I just got my own cad system at the time and I liked how you could easily mirror copy and rotate pieces of Piranesi's typologies to come up with complete plans; I used to seriously wonder what Piranesi would have done if he had CAD at his finger tips.

It's also interesting that you speculate about a possible "Roma Interruptus (interrumpere)" Since I have so many of the plans already input as CAD data, there is indeed the possibility of a Campo Marzio redux, actually lots and lots of redux redux.

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. A paper I'm just now completing will be delivered the end of this month at the Inside Density colloquium in Brussels, Belgium.

When I read your list of the five types of design, I immediately wondered if the notion of reenactment architectures may engender a sixth category. I know that reenactment is very much related to Mimetics and even Anthropomorphics, but I also see an important distinction between the latter two and the notion of reenactment, in that reenactments are not exactly copies, nor are they reconstructions, rather they are repeated rituals that have a core essence/event that is continual but also slightly changed over time and according to present circumstances. For example, Hadrian's Villa is perhaps the first (virtual) museum of architecture and the first reenactment 'theme park', the reign of Ludwig II of Bavaria was nothing less than a reenactment of previous European absolute monarchies, Disney's Cinderella castle/Magic Kingdom (modeled after Ludwig II's Neuschwanstein Castle) is then a reenactment of a reenactment (deluxe redux redux), Princess Diana's funeral reenacted Ancient Rome's Triumphal Way in every single detail including the massive (global) crowds that watched, and Las Vegas is undoubtedly today's world capital of reenactment architectures, even to the point of synthesizing a new reenactment urbanism. Moreover, now that I think of it, Rowe and Koetter's Collage City in part very much purports reenactment architectures/urbanisms although I believe the word reenactment is never used. Even if reenactment architectures are only a subset of Mimetics, I believe that reenactment architectures will nonetheless become a predominant design methodology throughout the coming millennium. It is then towards the notion of understanding and formulating a theory of reenactment architectures that I plan to further use what Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius teaches me.

1999.12.29 16:27
breakfasts with Winka
A number of the Inside Density participants, including myself, stayed at Brussels' Sun Hotel. As a result, I had the by chance pleasure of twice sharing breakfast with Winka Dubbeldam. Winka was co-chair (with Jan Verheyden) of the "Mapping, Designing, Negotiating Boundaries" session of Inside Density's second day, and we met the morning before her session. I was particularly interested in meeting Winka because without her knowing it our paths had already indirectly crossed. I first saw Winka as a presenter at the University of Pennsylvania's Digital Translations symposium, 1 May 1999; I "virtually participated" with this symposium as well as physically attended the symposium. Winka's presentation at Digital Translations was one of those I liked most--she used Shockwave and did so without a hitch. At that time, I did not yet know if my paper was accepted for Inside Density, nor did I know Winka would also be involved at Inside Density. Between May and November, I've seen the book of Winka's work, and the online presentation of her project within MoMA's Un-Private House exhibit.

Before I presented my paper at Inside Density, I was simply introduced as Stephen Lauf, founder of Quondam, an architect from Philadelphia, and hence when Winka and I met the next morning she straight away asked (with a quizzical look on her face) if I was from the University of Pennsylvania. (Apparently, I was perhaps the only non-academic to present at Inside Density.) I told her I was not from U of P, but that I was the cad system manager at Penn's Graduate School of Fine Arts (GSFA) in the mid-eighties. I then told her I saw her at Digital Translation, thus I also knew that she (at least then) taught at Penn, and I asked if she lives in Philadelphia. Winka teaches at Columbia in the Fall, teaches at Penn in the Spring, and she lives and works in New York. We spoke about the ongoing distinctiveness of Philadelphia architectur(al academia), and Winka generally characterized it as conservative but valuable nonetheless, for example, Philadelphia's uniqueness may go back as far as its once having been the capital of the United States. I asked if there was a discernible difference between the students at Columbia and those at Penn, to which she replied that the students at Columbia are more investigative but not as hard working, where as the students at Penn work harder but are not as investigative--she said the differences thus kind of evened themselves out.

I then offered an opinion, and asked if she would agree. I said it seems that architectural students and recent graduates today feel that the 'older' generation (i.e., over 35 or so) are generally 'clueless' of the theoretical 'stuff' that's presently going on, or with the technological stuff that's now going on. She agreed that my observation had a fair amount of validity, however, we both concurred that there is indeed a measurable gap between young and old created by (computer) technology in design. (Of course, as a forty-something architect myself, I like to think that the younger generation is generally 'clueless' about what the older generation knows.) In any case, we both see a gap between young and old architects that may be something unique to now.

At the next morning's breakfast, Winka only had time for coffee while she waited for a taxi. I simply asked her what she's reading these days. She mentioned a work by a Japanese novelist, along with Saskia Sassen's latest book. I told her I was reading Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation, because of its possible bearing on reenactment. I also managed to quickly tell her about my St. Helena work, and how just meeting two Elenis added much to my thesis [legend], to which she replied, "So, you are having lots of fun!"

2002.08.11 10:44
Kahn and Wright
Here is excerpt from Louis I. Kahn: In The Realm of Architecture (1997) with some commentary following:
on pages 79-80: Documented evidence of ties between Wright and Kahn is slight. His connection with Henry Klumb (1904-1985), a former associate of Wright's and a staunch supporter of his ideals, is noted in chapter 1. In 1952 Kahn and Wright both attended a convention of the American Institute of Architects, in 1955 (as previously noted) Kahn praised Wright's early work, and when Wright died in 1959 Kahn wrote in tribute [published in Architecture Record], "Wright gives insight to learn / that nature has no style / that nature is the greatest teacher of all / The ideas of Wright are the facets of his single thought." Scully recalls that later that same year Kahn made his first visit to a Wright building, the S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building (1936-39), where, "to the depths of his soul, [he] was overwhelmed."

It is curious in that the Scully quotation (from Scully's book Louis I. Kahn (1962)) seems to harbor a mistake, a distancing, and/or perhaps even an intentional fabrication. I, for one, find it hard to believe that Louis Kahn never visited Beth Sholom prior to late 1959, thus I doubt very much that it is true that the first Wright building Kahn visited was the S.C. Johnson building in Wisconsin. Now I have to wonder about Scully and Brownlee/DeLong (authors of Louis I. Kahn: In The Realm of Architecture). Was Scully or even Kahn(!) fabricating a false history that would distance Kahn safely away from being suspected of having ever been really influenced by Wight? And why did Brownlee/DeLong not notice and/or correct what appears to be just plain false? The only real reason I'm pointing all this out is that I believe it is much more valuable to know how designs really came about rather than how they really didn't come about.

This leads me to bring up the anecdote R. shared here as to what Wright said to Venturi about Kahn, i.e., "Beware an architect with one idea." If Wright said this to Venturi circa 1955 (date of Beth Sholom construction), then the "one idea" Wright was speaking of may well be the Yale Art Gallery (1950-53). The Yale building is the first to get Kahn wide recognition, particularly for its triangulated ceiling structures, a structure, moreover, that Kahn further investigated in the second scheme of Adath Jeshurun. Furthermore, the second scheme of Adath Jeshurun is remarkably similar diagrammatically to the stairwell plan within the Yale Art Gallery, i.e., a triangle within a circle.

Could it be that Venturi told Kahn what Wright said, and that is perhaps why Kahn wrote "The ideas of Wright are the facets of his single thought"?



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