Yesterday's post mentioned the theme of variation (in architecture, but also in fashion), so let's continue the thread along these lines for another day thanks to a project by a team featuring Peter Eisenman Architects, Belgian architectural practice Dogma, the Yale University School of Architecture and Jeffrey Kipnis with the Ohio State University Knowlton School of Architecture.
The team revisited and reimagined the folio collection through models and drawings raising questions for contemporary architecture and exploring architecture's relationship with the ground and the political, social and philosophical consequences that develop from that relationship.
From a content point of view, each project is equally interesting; visually speaking I really liked Yale University School of Architecture's stereolithographic gold-leafed 3D model (wonderful idea, I'm already experimenting with this technique in other fields...) and Kipnis/Jose Oubrerie/Stephen Turk's A Field of Dreams, a futuristic - as, after all, "Campo Marzio" or "Campus Martius" is translated in English as the "Field of Mars" - architectural project that looks a bit like a monopoly game with some erotic connections (did you ever think architecture could be erotic?) and it's made using everyday materials including straws and pasta shapes. So, let's look at the four variations as described in the project notes accompanying the installation.
Variation I: The Project of Campo Marzio. Piranesi's original plans are given form not as an archaeological reconstruction of ancient Rome, but as an architectural experiment. The project consists in a highly detailed, gold-leafed 3D printed model at the scale of the original 1762 etching, accompanied by a taxonomy of Piranesi's architectural inventions exploring axial conditions, pairs, hinge and interstitial figures (try to spot them in the pictures of the model).
The work evolved out of a second-year graduate seminar devoted to studying the Campo Marzio drawing, well known to be an invention and not a representation of scientific archaelogical study. Since the drawing exists almost exclusively in plan - Piranesi only produced three perspective etchings for the project - the students were asked to "re-invent" the Campo Marzio by projecting the six quadrants of the original drawing into the third dimension based on their historical research.
The final model – the first of its kind – ia s dynamic interaction between history and the present, architecture and the urban, invention and analysis, and it is the springboard for the contemporary investigations and projections shown alongside it.
Variation II: A Field of Diagrams. The improbable compositional aesthetics that drive Piranesi's etchings are transformed into a palimpsest of the spatial and temporal qualities between Imperial Rome and today, generating a radical idea of the vertical dimension.
Piranesi's Campo Marzio drawing was a radical confection of architecture and the urban in its time and it remains so today.
Starting from the dominant, bounded funerary complex in Piranesi's drawing, the team imposed a major four-square diagram, divided into a subset of nine-square diagrams.
This four-square is rotated into the orthogonal to allow for a proliferation of diagrams over the entire site at various scales. As the Campo Marzio has no one place, no one time, no one scale, so too is this field of diagrams indeterminate. It is no more and no less real than the original.
Variation III: A Field of Walls. In this project the politics embedded in Piranesi's etchings are revealed to be not a function of forms but of walls and as such provide a guide for contemporary architecture to reconsider the power relations it deploys, wittingly or not.
Piranesi's Campo Marzio is here interpreted as the most radical representation of the difference between urbanisation and architecture. While urbanism is concerned with flows and circulation, architecture is made of walls and limits. Campo Marzio can be interpreted as a paradoxical urbanism made of walls, a plan which shows a city made only of architecture. This condition is emphasised by Piranesi's radically anti-typological approach towards architecture.
Since most of the buildings shown in Piranesi's plan are not reducible to known types, these buildings manifest architecture's ultimate datum: spaces enclosed by walls. Campo Marzio is nothing but a field of walls. To emphasise further this condition, the team behind the project proposed to overlap to Piranesi's plan sixteen walls. These walls are placed according to the orientation given by the Sepulchrum Adriani and the Via Recta.
While the walls are identical, the intersection with Piranesi's plan generates a myriad of different spaces, thus continuing the anti-typological logic without adding further complexity to the plan. If the modern city was shaped by streets and roads, this project seeks a new form of urbanism made of walls. If one were to summarise life in a city and life in a building in one gesture, it would have to be that of passing through walls. Every moment of our existence is a continuous movement through space defined by walls. Architects cannot define how programme changes, how movement performs, how flows unfold, how change occurs. The only programme that can reliably be attributed to architecture is its specific inertia in the face of life's mutability.
Variation IV: A Field of Dreams. The erotics - the passions, perversions, and spectacles - of ancient Rome, so perfectly frozen by Piranesi's etchings are reanimated as a morality play for contemporary architecture (dedicated to Le Corbusier and John Hejduk).
Three parts are distinctively visible in this project: Hell, the Known World and Heaven (in the eleventh picture in this post - or the second one relating to this project - you can see for example Hell, embodied by the black buildings around the bottom of the image).
Buildings - presented as the "characters" in this model that looks a bit like an intriguing table game - include churches, art galleries and libraries with evocative names, at times inspired by their shapes: Stars of Heaven, Chiocciole, The Snake, The Monkey, Happy March, Sad March, Gates of Hell, Mount Olympus, Celestial Observatory and so on.
This fourth project seems to take not only Piranesi's architecture into the future, but also his inventiveness and his vision fed by memory and acted upon by fantasy.
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