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

reenactment architectures 10.2

1999.11.09 10:28 [death of Piranesi 1778.11.09]
re: reenacment
Again thanks for you comments/critique. 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 however not necessarily site specific. For example, theme parks everywhere are, for the most part, far removed from 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 nonetheless 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' challange.

I believe I photocopied your A+U Kahn articles when I was a student in the late seventies. I'll have to look though my old files. Was the title something like "New Manner for Old Order"?

1999.12.29 21:11
(the reality of being) sleepless in Brussels
As I already mentioned, I did not sleep much during my trip to and stay in Brussels. Upon seeing each other Saturday morning at breakfast, Winka Dubbeldam immediately asked if I had caught up with my sleep. I replied that I again slept little the night before. I explained that since I spend practically all my time at home and alone, when more than occasionally a day goes by and the telephone hasn't even rung, that the last two days at Inside Density have been wildly over-stimulating for me.

More than over-stimulation, however, my experience at Inside Density brought what had been something only virtual into something of a reality. By this I mean, after spending three years creating a virtual museum of architecture and after one year of participating with design-l (both involvements very much something other than dealing with the 'real' world) that then being rather suddenly right in the thick of architectural discussion and debate was very much a shock to my system. Yes, it was exciting and fulfilling, but still something for me quite out of the norm. As it happened, there as a week or so after returning from Brussels where I became depressed by my (back to) 'virtual' architectural existence--I almost desperately wanted to go back "to the real world." (And, as you can see, it's taken a month for me to become 'virtually' comfortable again.)

I already mention (in a prior post) that they say sleep deprivation makes one susceptible to acute emotional reaction, and I relayed how such a reaction happened to me when Mark Wigley told me about his schizophrenic brother. Well, the truth is that I had several such reactions my second day in Brussels. The last such occurrence was late Friday night at the Atomium. A large group of the Inside Density participants where done having dinner and finishing their drinks. I went to sit beside Charlotte Gedolf (she and GaŽtan Du Four co-chaired the "Thinking Density" session of which I was a part). To my surprise, she started asking me about Quondam, and she specifically asked me about Anand Bhatt. Charlotte had been reading the exchange of correspondence between Anand and myself within schizophrenia + architectures, and she wanted to know if Anand and I knew each other, if we were friends. It was thus, when I had to honestly tell Charlotte that I actually don't know Anand at all, and only virtually know him, that my emotions almost got the better of me. It just kind of overwhelmed me that I woman architect that I just met the day before was so well aware of a set of correspondences I've had a few months earlier with an Indian architect that I've never even met, and then there was Anand a thousand miles away in India with no idea that he was part of a lively conversation in Brussels, in the Atomium no less.

As much as my going to Brussels reaffirmed that reality has many, many virtues, I also learned how the virtual realm of cyberspace has its own uncanny reality.

2002.11.05 17:22
Re: modular panels [crash test]
Regarding the Autobahn (which I was actually discussing with my plumber yesterday, as to both our experiences driving on it, he last year, me in 1990) here are some facts and anecdotes.

1. Trucks are not allowed on the Autobahn on weekends (except for extreme circumstances).

2. Pedestrians have no rights when it comes to them being in German streets except when they are in the marked crosswalk during a green light. Drivers, and hence their automobiles, have the rest of the rights of German roads.

3. I averaged 80MPH when I drove on the Autobahn; my plumber said he averaged 100MPH. We both had the experience of a Porsche passing us respectively at what seemed to be twice our speeds.

4. My plumber's cousin yelled at his (the cousin's) daughter (while she was learning to drive) that she went too slow!

5. Weekend traffic jams on the Autobahn are a regular occurrence.

6. Apparently, the German logic of driving fast is that accidents only happen behind you. [Which might just explain some other warped priorities.]



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