Hadrian's Villa

125 Hadrian's Villa
1758-62 Ichnographia Campus Martius
1954 Disneyland
1960s Wildwood
1990 Las Vegas
1992 Variations on a Theme Park
(1981) 1994 Simulacra and Simulation
1997 The Unreal America

the Ichnographia as [reenactment] "theme park"
I have mentally played with 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, especially if one is aware of the textual background of the plan, meaning the historical texts which describe ancient Rome.
Along these lines, I came up with the idea of looking at the Ichnographia as a 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. I am not at all a fan of late 20th century theme parks, but their "virtuality" has not escaped me either. Judging by what is created today in terms of simulacra and mass entertainment, it is as if the Ichnographia is like their uncanny prototype.
The themes Piranesi uses are numerous:
a. the Imperial genealogy of both the Bustum Augustii and the Bustum Hadriani.
b. the forward and backward "ride" of the Triumphal Way.
c. the military themes along the Equirius.
d. the numerous garden designs
e. the nemus Caesaris and the Bustum Hadriani
In a way, the whole typological catalogue is nothing but one variation of a theme after another.
In no way do I want to cheapen my interpretation of the Campo Marzio by relating it to modern theme parks, but the fact remains that there are similarities. Does this mean that Piranesi is yet again (200) years ahead of his time in terms of planning? Does this correlation shed new light on the present relevance of the Ichnographia as a planning paradigm that prophetically explains architecture's state as well as shed light on the future? These are certainly questions that I never expected to be asking myself, yet I have thought about the possible urban design relevance of the Ichnographia for today, but not from the point of view of modern theme parks.
I guess this is just another issue to consider, but it is also a very far reaching one because of the implications toward a possible understanding of the future of architecture.

reenactionary urbanism
...more aspects to address, those from Variations on a Theme Park and from the von Moos essay in the new VSBA book (Tablaux).

2000.04.07 13:43
Re: GGBW/a saine house
Theming is not the same thing as reenactment, but there is definitely a relation between the two.

2001.09.10 09:53
the theme of theming
Is it not safe to say that the over-riding theme of theming is reenactment?

2001.09.18 15:15
Re: travels in hyper-reality
The more one looks at Wildwood, the more it becomes apparent that themed hotels there are truly abundant. There is even a section in Wildwood Crest that 'reenacts' the Pacific Rim/Oceania -- hotels themed Wai Kiki, Kon Tiki, Tahiti, Singapore Inn, etc. all next to and across from each other. Given the fact that practically all these hotels were well in place by 1970, I now wonder if it is not entirely possible to say that Wildwood's hotel architecture unwittingly is the precursor to today's Las Vegas, and to major portions of Disney World as well. This is not to say that Wildwood architecture somehow started a trend, but rather to regard Wildwood's architecture as a profoundly dense and extremely well preserved forerunner to what is today a global tourist architecture phenomenon.
Does anyone know of a good historical (i.e., chronological) survey of the 20th century's themed buildings?
Also, does anyone know of older (i.e., pre-1975) resort cities in other parts of the world that contain numerous themed hotels?

2001.09.20 08:48
Re: travels in hyper-reality
The use of the word artificial in your arguement is the tricky one. The reality is that themed environments are very real, and the money they produce surely goes a long way to prove that. Moreover, the notion of reenactment in architecture is not limited to themed environments/buildings. Within reenactment there is always a play of degrees of separation from that which is being reenacted, therefore where exactly is the authenticity that you see in reenactments that keeps them from being artificial? It might now not be prudent to make a case based on artificial versus authentic, because that distinction is completely blurred anymore. For example, Wildwood, New Jersey is full of themed hotels that artificially evoke other places on this planet and even sometimes other places in the solar system, yet it is now exactly this concentration of artificiality that gives Wildwood its unique identity (ie, authenticity).
Not to confuse the issue, but Wildwood is overall a concentration of what is being called the "doo-wop" style, which is basically hotels and other buildings all done in playful 50s and 60s modernism. Even back then, however, each hotel evoked a different theme via the hotel name and stylist quirks in the building details.

2001.09.21 16:09
Re: travels in hyper-reality
Theming comes in many, many varieties, of which the sanitized version is only a subset of general theming. Theming, like theater, however, is a subset of reenactment.
In the United States of America we celebrate Thanksgiving Day the last Thursday of November. Virtually every family in the USA has a turkey dinner with all the trimmings on that day. This dinner is a reenactment of a supposed dinner the Pilgrims and the Indians shared at one of the first harvests of the new settlers in America. Is the modern day Thanksgiving Dinner in the USA an authentic reenactment? It's probably more an artificial reenactment, yet, nonetheless, it is now also as authentically 'American' as any dinner can get.
At this point, I'm seriously wondering whether the specialness of reenactment is that it combines both the authentic and the artificial. For example, authentic Chinatowns (like the one in Philadelphia) are full of artificial, albeit unsanitized, theming. Yet for the generations of Chinese citizens living there, it is their reenactment of 'home'.

2001.09.24 10:18
Re: travels in hyper-reality
I personally would view a study of theming as incomplete if it did not include an analysis of theming's reenactionary qualities.

2001.09.24 17:41
Re: travels in hyper-reality
Here I refer back to the degrees of separation that manifest the limits of reenactment. The degrees range nicely from the closest to authenticity, clear away to the furthest artificiality.

2001.09.28 10:41
Re: travels in hyper-reality
I find it highly ironic that the movie Suburbia is first and foremost a piece of entertainment, moreover, a piece of entertainment that reenacts what is considered "gritty reality [i.e., authenticity] of youth alienation from the dreary suburban gravity of small town living in the mid-nineties." It seems that "learning from" Suburbia is itself "a symptom of our social preoccupation with the entertaining experience."
If anything, architects and designers and social engineers should begin to understand the pervasive workings of reenactment in order to start generating a 'better' learning/entertainment environment. The largest themed environments today are for the most part fantasy reenactments, and for the most part the general public is completely aware of the fantasy. That the fantasy is many times also so real, only adds to the appeal. Again, the issue is the blurring of distinction between what is real and what is artificial, and therein lies the further fulfilling of fantasy, a longed for fulfillment which may indeed engender the very core of the desire for entertainment.
Reenactment has been a integral part of architecture and design for at least 4500 years. The Great Pyramid is a massive reenacted mountain that fits perfectly on Earth via its alignment with the cardinal points, and with its quondam capping of electrum (an alloy of platinum, gold, and (I think) silver) this mountain further reenacted both a volcano and the sun rising and setting over the mountain. When new, the Great Pyramid at Giza very much manifested an artificial and themed environment, and for sure was one of the most entertaining sights/sites that has ever appeared on this planet.

2005.09.08 17:48
Hadrian was born in Spain
Hadrian had his tomb built because the tomb of Augustus had no spaces for an emperor.
Hadrian's Villa can also be seen as a "laboratory" of reenactment in that different parts of the villa are named for and perhaps even meant to evoke other places within the empire.
Check out the emperor Elegabalus as a latter-day Nero and then some. He had the Sessorian Palace built, which was a little Roman theme park in that besides the Palace there was also a circus and and amphitheater. What's left of the Sessorian Palace compound is at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. A hundred or so years after Elegabalus, Helena took up residence at the Sessorian Palace.

2005.11.22 11:50
Your Ignorance is Inexcusable
pastiche 1 : a dramatic, literary, or musical piece openly imitating the previous works of other artists, often with satirical intent 2 : a pasticcio of incongruous parts; a hodgepodge
Reenactment and pastiche are not the same thing.
Reenactment, as a historiographic methodology, involves an imitation of the source event in order to better understand the source event and then learn from there. Reenactment as a design methodology works the same way.
Disney-fication is pastiche 1 without the satire.
Contemporary avant garde architecture in virtually any established setting unwittingly generates pastiche 2.

excerpt from:
The Emperor Hadrian, A Picture of the Greco-Roman World in his Time
Ferdinand Gregorovius

Hadrian's Villa
118 - 125

But the villa at Tivoli stands out above everything that Hadrian created, and unlike anything else in the world, forms his most splendid monument. It cast into the shade Nero's golden house. The ruins of this Sans Souci of an imperial enthusiast for art, cover even now an area of about ten miles, and present the appearance of a labyrinth of decaying royal splendor. Hadrian began to build his villa early in his reign, and went on with it until his death.1

1. A column of giallo antico found there bears the date of Hadrian's second consulship (118 A.D.). Bruzza, Iscr. dei marmi grezzi, p. 187 n. 221. Stamps on bricks from the walls run from 123-137 A.D. Nibby, Contorni di Roma, iii. 651. According to Aurelius Victor, c. 14, he was still building palaces there after he had made over the government to Aelius Verus.
2.Spart. Vita, at the end.

It may be doubted whether the site he selected was happily chosen. The villas of the Romans at Tusculum and Frascati, and by the falls of the Anio at Tibur, were all more open and more pleasantly situated than this villa of Hadrian; but he required a large space. It stood on a gentle elevation well below Tibur, where the view on the one side was limited by high mountains, but on the other side extended to Rome and its majestic Campagna, as far as the sea. The landscape was watered by two streams, and close by, the Anio afforded an abundant supply of water. From the Lucanian bridge near which it is conjectured was the main entrance to the villa, were to be seen for miles the wonderful pleasure-grounds stretching over hill and dale. The villa was as large as a city, and contained everything that makes a city beautiful and gay; the ordinary and commonplace alone were not to be found there. Gardens, fountains, groves, colonnades, shady corridors and cool domes, baths and lakes, basilicas, libraries, theaters, circuses, and temples of the gods shining with precious marble and filled with works of art, were all gathered together round this imperial palace.

The large household, the stewards with their bands of slaves, the bodyguards, the swarms of artists, singers and players, the courtesans and ladies of distinction, the priests of the temple, the men of science and poets, the friends and guests of Hadrian; these all composed the inhabitants of the villa, and this crowd of courtiers, idlers, and slaves had no other object but to cheer one single man who was weary of the world, to dispel his ennui by feasts of Dionysus, and to delude him into thinking that each day was an Olympian festival. Hadrian here beguiled the time in the recollections of his Odysseus-like travels, for this villa built according to his own designs, was the copy and the reflection of the most beautiful things which he had admired in the world. The names of buildings in Athens were given to special parts of the villa. The Lyceum, the Academy, the Prytaneum, the Poecile, even the vale of Tempe with the Peneus flowing through it, and indeed Elysium and Tartarus were all there.2

3. Ungarellius, Interpret. obeliscor. urbis Romae, 1842, p. 172. Lepsius, Röm. Stadtb. iii. 2, 604. The obelisk stands on the Pincian in Rome, where the Pope had it placed in the year 1822. Elagabalus is said to have taken it from the villa at Tivoli and to have set it up in the amphitheater Castrense, and there it was found among the rubbish.

4. The first was found in the year 1638 in Palestrina, the other on the Aventine, 1858. See Gazette Archéol. vi. 1880, p. 170 sq. "Mosaique du Musée Kircher,and Catalogo del Museo Kircheriano, i. 265 sq. These mosaics must be considered as copies of Alexandrian carpets.

One part was consecrated to the wonders of the Nile, and was called Canopus after the enchanting pleasure grounds of the Alexandrians. Here stood a copy of the famous temple of Serapis, which stood on a canal, and was approached by boat. The inauguration of a worship of his Antinous, which Hadrian did not attempt in Rome, he achieved at his villa. The most beautiful statues of Antinous come from a temple in the villa. An obelisk only twenty-seven feet in height, did honor in a hieroglyphic inscription to the "Osirian Antinous, the speaker of truth, the embodied son of beauty." He was depicted upon it as offering a sacrifice to the god Ammon Ra. If the empress Sabina survived the erection of the obelisk, she must have reddened with anger at the inscription, which declared that the emperor had erected this pious monument in conjunction with his wife, the great queen and sovereign of Egypt, to whom Antinous was dear.3 It may be supposed that the worship of Antinous increased the influence of Egypt upon Roman art. It had long been the fashion to decorate houses and villas with scenes from the Nile, and with pictures of the animals and customs of Egypt. The wall-paintings of Pompeii and many mosaics, like the famous mosaic of Palestrina, and the mosaic in the Kircher Museum are sufficient to prove this.4 But Hadrian had transplanted Egypt itself to his villa. Sphinxes and statues of gods carved out of black marble and red granite surrounded the god Antinous, who was represented as Osiris in shining white marble. The temples built in Egyptian style were covered with hieroglyphics.

5. Philostratus, Vita Apollon. 8, 20.
6.Pii II. Comment. v. 138.
7.Nibby, Contorni di Roma, iii. 656.
8.Re delle antichità Tiburtine, Rom 1611. Pianta della Villa Tiburtina di Adriano, by P. Ligorio and Fr. Contini in the the last edition of 1751. Plan by Piranesi in 1786. Upon the excavations in the eighteenth century, Fea, Winckelmann's translation, ii. 379 sq.
9. Floors of mosaic were found, and a beautiful perfect statue which seems to represent a Bacchus. Tadolini the sculptor, who has just (spring of 1883) restored and shown it to me, values it more highly than the Antinous of the Capitol.
10. Notizie degli Scavi (Accad. d. Lincei), 1883, p. 17.

At a sign from the emperor these groves, valleys, and halls would become alive with the mythology of Olympus; processions of priests would make pilgrimages to Canopus, Tartarus and Elysium would become peopled with shades from Homer, swarms of bacchantes might wander through the vale of Tempe, choruses of Euripides might be heard in the Greek theater, and in a sham fight the fleets would. repeat the battle of Xerxes. But was all this anything more than a miserable pretense in comparison with the fullness and majesty of the real world through which Hadrian had traveled? The emperor would after all have surrendered all these splendid stage scenes for one drop from the rushing stream of real life, for one moment on board his gala boat on the Nile, or on the Acropolis at Athens, in Ilium, Smyrna and Damascus, amid the declamations of his devoted people. Epictetus would have laughed to see the emperor amusing himself with a collection of the wonders of the world, and would have called it sentimentality; and perhaps Hadrian's famous villa is an evidence of the degradation of the taste of the time.

Its extent was too great to be a Tusculum of the Muses nor was it adapted to serve as a romantic hermitage, or as a place for repose. A Roman emperor of this period could not be content unless he was in the midst of splendor on a great scale. Hadrian might have written over the portal of his villa, magna domus parva quies. If the villa at Tivoli shows the strength of the impression made by the Greek world on the imperial traveler, its incredible extravagance can only be explained by his mania for building. Country ,seats are the least famous buildings of princes, for they serve only their own fleeting pleasure, but a ruler like Hadrian, who had provided the cities of his empire with so many public works, may be more easily forgiven than a Louis XIV, if for once he thought of himself.

We do not know how often he stayed at the villa; it was his favorite resort in his later years, and it was there that he dictated his memoirs to Phlegon. He possessed other beautiful country-houses at Praeneste and Antium.5 He died at Baiae, not in his villa at Tivoli. After his time the villa was more and more rarely inhabited by the emperors, until it suffered the fate of all country seats. Constantine was doubtless the first to plunder it, in order to carry off its marbles and works of art to Byzantium. At the time of the Gothic wars it existed only as a desolate world of wonders; the warriors of Belisarius were the first to encamp in it, and then those of Totila. Its ruins in the Middle Ages were called Ancient Tivoli. Its columns and blocks of marble had been stolen, its statues burnt to powder. But many things remained hidden amid the protecting rubbish, over which olives and vines had been planted. The recollection that this charming wilderness of ruins had once been a pleasure resort of Hadrian, lasted a long time. Many years before excavations were begun there, the intellectual Pope Pius II visited these ruins, and described them in melancholy words, which we may quote.

"About three miles outside Tivoli the Emperor Hadrian built a splendid villa for himself, as large as a city. Lofty and spacious arches of temples are still to be seen, half ruined courts and rooms, and remains of prodigious halls, and of fish ponds and fountains, which were supplied with water by the Anio, to cool the heat of summer. Time has disfigured everything. The walls are now covered with ivy instead of paintings and gold embroidered tapestry. Brambles and thorns grow in the seats of the men clad in togas of purple, and serpents make their home in the bed chamber of the empress. So perishes everything earthly in the stream of time."6

Antiquities were first looked for in the villa at Tivoli in the time of Alexander VI, when statues of the Muses and of Mnemosyne were found.7 In the sixteenth century Piero Ligorio first made a plan of the villa, then it was described by Re, and after 1735 those excavations were undertaken which have brought so much sculpture to light. Piranesi made his great plan of the villa.8 In the year 1871, the Italian government took possession of it, and the excavations were carried on, but they had no great result,9 for everything of importance had been discovered in the eighteenth century. The villa had been so completely ransacked at that time, that there was scarcely anything left of its enormous supply of marbles. Here and there floors of mosaic are to be seen; the best preserved consist of small white stones with designs in black. The extent of mosaic flooring alone has been estimated at 5 square miles, while the astonishing variety of decorations on the pillars, pilasters, niches, and walls is a brilliant testimony to the development of art at that time.10

11.The Peocile, the so-called Aula dei sette sapienti, the center of the so-called Teatro Marittimo, and many halls, corridors, courts, nymphaei, were brought to light in 1873. Notizie degli Scavi, 1880, p. 479.

12. Poecile, Tempe, and Canopus, are the three places which can be decided almost with certainty; see L. Meyer, Tibur eine röm. Studie, Berlin, 1883.

13. Winckelmann, vi. 201.

The grounds of the villa now consist of a mass of ruins, large and small. Remains of temples, which, according to fancy, are called after Apollo, Bacchus, Serapis, Pluto, etc., of basilicas, baths, and theaters are scattered within the spacious enclosure.

The use of some of the buildings is still apparent, the long rows called cents camerelle indicating the quarter of the imperial guards, which could contain 3000 men; the high walls of a magnificent porticus are taken to be the Poecile.11 The Canopus looks now like a green valley, where at the end are ruins from the temple of Serapis, and the vale of Tempe can be distinguished as a deep depression, bordered by the mountains of Tivoli.12 The scenery of the so-called Greek theater was still so well preserved, that in the time of Winckelmann, when the Dionysus theater in Athens was still in ruins, it gave the best idea of an ancient theaters. 13

The original use of many of the other buildings and ruins is obscure, and the attempt is vain to form a whole from these fragments of the fairyland, whose central point must have been the palace of the emperor.




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