critical condition


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2007.11.08 10:41
It rocked Eisenman on his chair...
8 November 324
feigning feints?
He says there are no streets there, so he doesn't know how the porticus operated throughout the Campo Marzio.
the buffalo were last
here in 1812
and the deer still eat
the flowers at night
perhaps reenacting
the antelope play
at home

A Critical Analysis: Giovan Battista Piranesi
One of the most powerful ideas that Jacques Derrida addresses in Of Grammatology is the possibility of another form of memory, a memory that no longer deals with fragments or figuration or abstraction but with something he calls the "trace". The trace is the presence of an absence, a presence no longer in its metaphysical fullness nor an absence as a dialectical opposite to presence, but rather something that exceeds the dialectic. It is more like a non-absent absence. But a memory trace is not new to architecture.

One of the best examples of the memory trace exists in architecture in one of G.B. Piranesi's didactic maps of the Campo Marzio, drawn in 1762. To understand the idea of trace, Piranesi's drawing must be compared to the Nolli plan of Rome. Drawn in 1748, the Nolli plan has today become the icon of an architectural fundamentalism which calls itself New Urbanism. It represents an idea of original truth, of a moment in time that uses this moment in the eighteenth century as a badge of authenticity to authorize work in the present. The Nolli map was a literal projection of Rome as it was in the eighteenth century. On the other hand, the Campo Marzio has little to do with representing a literal place or an actual time. The Campo Marzio is a fabric of traces, a weaving of fact and fiction.

The traces of the Campo Marzio have nothing to do with a literal representation of space and time as an aesthetic image; rather, they project time and space as well as act as an index of both. Piranesi uses the Rome that was extent in the eighteenth century as a starting point, but that possesses no original value; it is merely a being in the present. From this existential moment of being, he takes buildings that existed in the first and second centuries, in Imperial Rome, and places them in the same framework of time and space as the eighteenth-century city. Next, Piranesi moves monuments of the first century from their actual location to other locations, as if these were their actual sites again in the eighteenth century. Piranesi also draws in buildings that never existed. They seem at first glance to be memories of buildings that could have existed; they look like buildings until one examines them as functioning buildings. This idea of a building as a trace of function is similar to Piranesi's project for the Collegio Romano, which has a seemingly centralized plan. However, when it is analyzed, it does not actually function; it only symbolizes its function.

Equally, the Campo Marzio would not function as an urban entity. There are no streets as such; rather, the ground is filled with what can be called interstitial figures. In this fabric of fact and fiction, there are no clear figure/ground relationships, one of the underpinnings of the dialectics of contemporary architecture. There is no primacy given to the ground or to the figure. The result is not a figure/ground projection, as in the Nolli map, but what could be called a figure/figure urbanism. This idea of urbanism does not give primacy to the ground as a original instance or datum. Rather, the ground becomes an interstitial trace between objects, which are also traces in both in time and space. This presents a theoretical basis for urbanism as a tissue of memory rather than as a nostalgia for static icons. Such a notion is close to what Charles Sanders Pierce calls an index. In this context, an index can be considered as a record of events; it is a notational matrix. It undercuts all metaphysical ideas of truth and ideality. It is a multiple palimpsest, a series of overlays that mix fact with fiction. [In one sense...]
Peter Eisenman, "A Critial Analysis: Giovan Battista Piranesi" in Luca Molinari, editor, Peter Eisenman: Feints (Milano: Skira Editore, 2006), p. 40.

2007.11.09 10:56
It rocked Eisenman on his chair...
Giovanni Battista Piranesi died today in 1778, on the feast of the dedication of the Basilica Constantiniani (known today as the Basilica of St. John Lateran), the first Christian basilica in Rome.

"Piranesi uses the Rome that was extent in the eighteenth century as a starting point, but that possesses no original value; it is merely a being in the present. From this existential moment of being, he takes buildings that existed in the first and second centuries, in Imperial Rome, and places them in the same framework of time and space as the eighteenth-century city."
--Peter Eisenman, "Notations of Affect. An Architecture of Memory" in Pathos, Affect, Gefühl (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH, 2004), pp.504-11.

If you actually study the Campo Marzio you'll find the starting point, framework and the millennium's worth of buildings that Piranesi utilized. First there are the altar and race course dedicated to Mars by Romulus in the mid-eighth century BC. Incidentally, this is how the Campo Marzio received its name--the fields of Mars. And to manifest the framework there is the last Imperial artifact of the Campo Marzio, the sepulcher of Empress Maria, wife of Honorius, from the early 5th century AD. Indeed the sarcophagus of Empress Maria holds a key position within the Il Campo Marzio publication. And to complete the framework, the last page of Il Campo Marzio depicts a double theater.

2007.11.11 17:08
It rocked Eisenman on his chair...
"The level plain of the campus Martius was particularly well adapted to this characteristic form of Roman architecture—the porticus—which conformed to a general model, while varying in proportions and details. The porticus consisted of a covered colonnade, formed by two or more rows of columns, or a wall on one side and columns on the other. lts chief purpose was to provide a place for walking and lounging which should be sheltered from storm and sun, and for this reason the intercolumnar spaces were sometimes filled with glass or hedges of box. Within the porticoes or in apartments connected closely with them, were collections of statuary, paintings, and works of art of all kinds, as well as shops and bazaars. In some cases the porticus took its name from some famous statue or painting, as the porticus Argonautarum.
While the erection of the first porticus in the campus Martius dates from the early part of the second century B.C., the period of rapid development in their numbers and use did not begin until the Augustan era. The earliest of these structures seem to have been devoted exclusively to business purposes. By the time of the Antonines, there were upwards of a dozen in region IX, some of them of great size, and it was possible to walk from the forum of Trajan to the pons Aelius under a continuous shelter. They were usually magnificently decorated and embellished, and provided with beautiful gardens.
Samuel Ball Platner, The Topography and Monuments of Ancient Rome (1904).

Although written over 140 years after the Ichnographia Campus Martius, Platner's text nonetheless describes perfectly Piranesi's delineation, particulary between the forum of Trajan and the pons Aelius. Indeed, the porticus is the most abundant building type throughout the Ichnographia Campus Martius.

2008.08.08 13:27
The arrogance of 'Architects'
In the Ichnographia Campo Martius "certain landmarks remained: the Tiber River, the Piazza Navona, and a Colosseum-like structure, which was in the wrong location and, in a sense, at the wrong scale."
--Peter Eisenman, "Piranesi and the City" (2007).

In fact, the 'Colosseum-like structure' is clearly labeled Amphitheatum Statilii Tauri, positioned by Piranesi in its most likely location, and delineated at about 2/3rds the size of 'the Colosseum' which is probably what the Amphitheater of Statilius Taurus was.

Eisenman's misrepresentation of the facts here is somewhat compounded in that Wilton-Ely had already years earlier noted the presence of the Amphitheater of Statilius Taurus within Piranesi's Campo Marzio.

Eisenman interpretes Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius in several self-serving ways, but he never comes to realize that on one level the Ichnographia Campus Martius is a gigantic test of Ancient Roman topography.

"Hey Doctor. I don't know what you want me to see, but this thing I'm looking through looks like some plan from Piranesi's Campo Marzio.

2011.01.31 11:36
Since last Thursday, I'm reading Pier Vittorio Aureli's forthcoming (probably March 2011) The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture. Quite by chance, if not indeed by accident, I'm in possession of a proof copy released for review December 2010. So far I've read the chapter on Piranesi, "Instauratio Urbis: Piranesi's Campo Marzio versus Nolli's Pianta di Roma" (twice), and the chapter on Boullée, "Architecture as a State of Exception: Étienne-Louis Boullée's Project for a Metropolis". When I first found the book available, I had no idea as to its contents. Needless to say, however, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find a whole chapter devoted (at least in name) to Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius. Alas, Aureli doesn't really say much about the Ichnographia itself, at least nothing that Peter Eisenman hasn't already said. In fact, Aureli has written what amounts to something like an apologia for Eisenman's notion that the Ichnographia must be viewed in opposition to Nolli's plan of Rome and thus represents architecture as autonomous. Strange though, however, that while Eisenman is [re]cited virtually verbatim [e.g. "Piranesi reinvented Rome as a city without streets.", Aureli, p. 137.], there is no direct reference to Eisenman within the text or the notes--although, The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture is part of the Writing Architecture series which is a project of the Anyone Corporation.



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