Koolhaas versus the Actor

Apr 29 '05 40 Last Comment
Apr 29, 05 1:00 pm

Apr 29, 05 1:14 pm

rita, do you get any hits to your website from any sources other than the hundreds of links that you post here in the archinect forum? have you ever posted a comment without including a link to your own website?

Apr 29, 05 1:31 pm

never gets any hits at all, not even when links are posted here. This makes me so nervous. I mean, no one pays any attention. I want to cry all day! Please! Please visit Quondam!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Strike a pose! (Casa) Vogue!

Apr 29, 05 1:36 pm

Actually, there is one person that visits Quondam all the time. I think his name is Herr Kutsky.

Apr 29, 05 7:33 pm

ok stephen lauf, [i'm guessing rita novel is your rose selavie -sp-?], i'll bite.

quondam must get hits all the time- at least from archinect. i don't buy that part. just nobody responds much. but your constant linking does strike one as a constant cry for attention.

still, it's quirky and fun and often interesting [except when you're arguing you gave venturi or koolhaas some great idea and they stole it, that gets old].

but sometimes it's one-sided and tries to sidetrack a discussion that has little to do with the subject. then it's annoying.

i like the apparently linear but sometimes interconnected structure of the site, or rather the loose, apparent lack of structure. my mind is very rational and would prefer to have everything very structured with an overall view of the lay of the land, but the site constantly frustrates this. but in a good way. the inability to understand the whole gives me the impression that the site is an entity with no clear boundaries, and this is a good impression.

the apparent need to record your every comment reminds me of beatriz colomina's description of le corbusier saving every last napkin sketch for posterity.

and i disagree with you over tafuri [see? people do read what you write]

liberty bell
Apr 29, 05 10:49 pm

As a quondam Philadelphian, I am obsessed with

And I agree with aml's comments re: the structure of the site. Loose and rigid at the same time...hmmmmm, can you tell I've just been reading the Sexual Architecture thread?

Apr 30, 05 11:55 am

Rita Novel was born in a Philadelphia upstairs disco bar circa 1984/85, a twin birth, in fact. Crystal Carrington had been kidnapped, but the kidnappers first found a Crystal look-a-like named Rita, and hence executed a kidnapping cum exchange. Among cultish friends and after various stimulants there emerged Rita Novel subsequent to Crystal Vanish.

There is a constant cry for attention, attention to the fact that links in cyberspace architecturally communicate as much as doors and windows and promenades communicate in real space. Come into my architecture, visit my architecture, inhabit my architecture, leave my architecture. No admission charge, however.

Simple html is Quondam's only real structure, and the linearity at Quondam is subject to the linearity of passing time. "Loose and rigid at the same time" is what makes Quondam sustainable from this architect's two hands point of view. Otherwise, all museums are all about content, aren't they?

I don't give a shit what architects think about Tafuri, what I do care about is what architects know about Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii. If architects and their educators choose to ignore long term rigourous research regarding the Ichnographia Campi Martii that literally far surpasses what are otherwise only Tafuri's speculations, then what does that say about architect's being sensitive and attune to existing conditions, programmatic demands, evironmental factors, etc., etc.?

Is Quondam subliminally a museum about getting under architect's skin?

Does anyone else here remember dancing to the song Ring My Bell?

"Go in museumpeace, and may museumpeace be with you."

Apr 30, 05 12:45 pm

thanks rita. that song will now be stuck in my head for days.

liberty bell
May 1, 05 1:31 am

"Is Quondam subliminally a museum about getting under architect's skin?"

Yes, Rita, it does., in some ways, keeps me honest.

May 3, 05 12:13 am

I am for Quondam.

May 3, 05 2:08 pm

werd. keep it real rita.

May 4, 05 1:43 pm

Tafuri's mistakes regarding Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii -- a set of nine webpages first published at 1999.05.17.

May 4, 05 3:50 pm


Tafuri's ultimate mistake appears on page 40 of The Sphere and the Labyrinth: "The swarm of theoretically equivalent forms--theorems constructed around a single thesis--makes it clear that Piranesi's intent in the Campo Marzio is to draw attention to the birth--necessary and terrifying--of an architecture bereft of the signified, split off from any symbolic system, from any "value" other than architecture itself."

Again, Tafuri is completely wrong because, in correct terms, Piranesi actually drew the birth of an architecture of reenactment.


i haven't studies the campo marzio drawings closely, it certainly looks like you have. do you have a digital copy of the campo marzio drawing in good resolution? could you post it in the image gallery? i don't have access to a good library here, and i'd like to be able to look at the drawings when reading your comments. you should probably write that and publish it, it's very interesting.

but. i'm not sure if your eventual conclusions altogether disqualify tafuri's bigger argument related to 'postmodern' [yes i know he doesn't use that word] architecture. the birth of the architecture bereft of the signified, split from any symbolic system... has a very parallel, almost identical meaning to 'the birth of the architecture of reenactment'. haven't you both arrived at the same point, both head and tail turning into each other?

May 4, 05 3:52 pm

but i admit i hadn't read through all your comments on tafuri vs piranesi before, and i've found them very enlightening- i would have liked to see some diagrams included, though.

May 5, 05 9:37 am

aml, I do have a digital version of the Ichnographia in its second printed state, but it's in separate scanned pieces, and even each piece is a large file, so I won't be uploading anything to the image gallery just yet. What I can do is restore the Encyclopedia Ichnographica back to what it was at quondam 20 March 2000. Plus, "Inside the Density of Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii" (the paper written for the INSIDE DENSITY colloquium Brussels, Belgium 1999) will very soon be uploaded at museumpeace--there are lots of diagrams there.

Can you at least explain how "architecture bereft of the signified, split from any symbolic system... has a very parallel, almost identical meaning to 'the birth of the architecture of reenactment'?" I see lots of architecture of reenactment that's very much signifying and very much comingled with a symbolic system. Again, the Ichnographia Campi Martii is all signifiers and symbolic system which Tafuri missed entirely. Tafuri's take on the Campo Marzio is what's really bereft here, isn't it?

[5 May 1821 Napoleon died on St. Helena Island. There's a game of solitaire called Napoleon at St. Helena or 40 Thieves. I've known about the game since the summer of 1972, and have played several thousand games of it since. What's neat about this game is that a winning game is like an incredible good luck machine everytime. I don't know if there is actually any verification that Napoleon ever really played solitaire on St. Helena Island. He really wasn't in complete solitary exile, afterall.]

May 5, 05 10:18 am

...i can try.

tafuri starts with the analysis of james stirling's leicester laboratory. initially it might be argued that this building is using a symbolic system [ships, machine aesthetic, other buildings], but tafuri argues the way this reenactment is being done [and one of the key points is reenacting other buildings, this second stage removement] splits it, removes it from the symbolic system... no longer a direct reference, architecture with stirling is referencing itself [i am oversimplifying- i haven't read this essay for about 1 1/2 years]

another way of looking at this is in general looking at the five architects. here again, we have an architecture of self-reference, the five architects referencing le corbusier's forms without a direct connection with the origin of the forms.

this self-referentiality problem brings about 2 choices for tafuri [i have afterwards split them into 4, but that's a whole paper], speak or be silent. silent like rossi, where you'll say more and be more powerful [he tacitly gives him this power] or speak like carlo aymonino [the 2 gallaratesses facing each other] arch-referentiality ending with a dismisal of the sign.

after reading the museumpeace piece, i agree that tafuri missed on 'the signifiers and symbolic system of the campo marzio.' i guess i'll have to read your paper to understand how this disqualifies the whole argument on l'architecture dans le boudoir. first, i don't think it's built on that stone, and second, it is the self-referentiality of architecture [piranesi, check] and the shifting of signifiers [piranesi, check, i would say, but still i'd had to read your paper] that tafuri is basing his argument on.

May 5, 05 10:28 am

I have a very old xerox of "l'architecture dans le boudoir" and I'll re-read it now.

May 5, 05 11:08 am

aml, just did a very quick scan of l'architecture dans le boudoir, and it seems a very good reference point, and a very good point of departure for further investigation regarding architecture and reenactment. (Thanks very much for making the contribution.) Now, taking l'architecture dans le boudoir and the non-Tafuri reading of the Campo Marzio plan may indeed deliver heretofore unexpected fruitful results in terms of understanding all the mid-late 20th architecture that Tafuri writes about.

Now I have to thoroughly re-read the essay, plus go through the A+U on De Foe in Quondam's collection, plus look closely at the Designs for the Bicentennial by Venturi and Rauch, plus republish those "Stirling's Legacy" essays that used to be at Quondam, and who knows what else.

["Cher and Cher alike" was a circa 1976 sign that Dave Schmitt (a big fan of the NY Five back then) gave to the contribution cup of the communal coffee station in our second year architecture studio.]

May 5, 05 5:28 pm

glad it was useful. do post a link to the density paper once you've uploaded it, i'm very interested in reading it.

May 5, 05 6:37 pm

I've just read half of "l'architecture dans le boudoir" and yes it is exactly what I should be reading again right now. I haven't come across any reference to Piranesi yet (and I didn't find any in my initial quick scan of the text either). Let's put aside the notion of my interpretation of the Campo Marzio plan disqualifying Tafuri's whole argument, and focus rather on the question whether a good understanding of "reenactionary architecturism" is indeed missing from Tafuri's argument, and then whether a good understanding of "reenactionary architecturism" brings Tafuri's argument into much better focus. So far, I can at least note that Tafuri was unaware of Rossi's Modena Cemetery design reenacting Piranesi's design of the Bustum Hadriani within the Campo Marzio--

Here's another example of what I mean regarding "better focus" --

How would you translate the title "l'architecture dans le boudoir" into English?

Also, aml, can I at least ask why/how all this interests you and to what capacity?

May 5, 05 9:33 pm

you're right. tafuri only mentions piranesi twice in the essay and only in passing, because l'architecture dans le boudoir is at the end of 'the sphere and the labyrinth' book, where he dedicates piranesi the first chapter with a title you would probably disagree with ['the crazy architect'].

however, it's in the boudoir chapter where tafuri outlines his argument. that is why i referenced that one. i actually forgot by then he has put piranesi aside. that is why i argued his analysis of piranesi is not key to the argument.

bou[doir 7b1 dw9r$, b14dw9r#8
5Fr, lit., pouting room < bouder, to pout, sulk + 3oir, as in parloir6 a woman‘s bedroom, dressing room, or private sitting room

tafuri explains the title halfway through the essay i think. i'm afraid i can't reference pages since my edition is in spanish and i'm guessing yours isn't. basically architecture in postmodernism [i know he won't say it] is in the boudoir, pouting in its own little room -referencing the marquis de sade-, referencing itself, looking at itself, playing its own private games, etc. i'm not familiar with sade's writing so i'm not sure of the exact relation, but the overall relation is explained clearly.

hmmm this might take you away from piranesi and if i've mislead you i'm sorry. however, i think the concept of reenactment -if i'm understanding your definition correctly- is present throughout the essay. but to argue this seriously i would have to reread tafuri again and review your concept of reenactment much more carefully and i'm afraid right now i've other reading to do right now...

tafuri interests me because i used him to structure the development of postmodern architecture. i use that reading as a map to postmodernist production in my contemporary theory class. of course i also find holes in tafuri's argument, but that's another conversation.

May 5, 05 11:19 pm

aml, I just realized that there are (at least) two English "l'architecture dans le boudoir" texts by Tafuri. The 'first' was published in OPPOSITIONS 3 (May 1974), the 'second' is chapter 8 of THE SPHERE AND THE LABYRINTH (1980). The text I starting reading today is the one from OPPOSITIONS, and I've now compared the two texts and they are not at all identical. For example, Piranesi is not referenced at all in the first text. Overall, much has been added to the second text to 'fill it out' and update it, but there are also some changes (although some of the changes may be due to different translators).

Yes, the concept of reenactment is there within "l'architecture dans le boudoir," but nowhere does Tafuri explain or even recognize it as such. Tafuri mentions that a "code" has been lost, and thus the language architects use is devoid of meaning, implying that if the code were still known, then the meaning would be known as well. For me, reenactionary architecturism is the code and the provider of meaning.

In English, the first chapter of THE SPHERE AND THE LABYRINTH is "The Wicked Architect," and this chapter too was published earlier and separately, (or maybe I'm thinking of the first chapter of ARCHITECTURE AND UTOPIA).

Anyway, it looks to me like THE SPHERE AND THE LABYRINTH is itself a bricolage, composed of disparate pieces that were ultimately brought together, which perhaps explains the very first paragraph (which I responded to with "How Ironic!"

May 6, 05 3:27 pm

you are very right. from my notes:

1969 the first version of the 'l'architecture dans le boudoir' is published in the italian magazine contrapiano

1973 aldo rossi is the curator of the 15th architecture biennale, where the united states is represented by the new york five.

1974 'l'architecture dans le boudoir' is presented in the united states in the conference 'practice, theory and politics in architecture' organized in princeton university by diana agrest.

other participants in this conference include:

'on practice': koolhaas, silvetti, gandelsonas, natalini
'on theory': eisenman, lionel march
'on politics': frampton, charney, raggi

that same year the essay is published in 'oppositions'

in 1980, 'la sfera e il labirinto: avanguardie e architettura da piranesi agli anni '70' is published in italy. yes , this chapter is expanded from the initial essay. i prefer to use this version since it is the revised one [and i don't have the other one].

the spanish version is published in 1984. i think the english version of the book comes later. in any case, the 'boudoir' essay becomes part of the last chapter of the book, although it was probably written before the book. as mentioned before, piranesi starts the first chapter and you can see tafuri considered him important enough that he included him in the 'subtitle' of the book.

i didn't know that first chapter had been published earlier. a quick comparison with architecture and utopia tells me the analysis of the piranesi drawings is longer in sphere and the labyrinth.

and a quick reading of this post tells you i'm a history freak, obviously enjoying the minutiae of details to a rather sickening degree. sorry about that.

May 6, 05 3:30 pm

...and the title comes from sade's 'la philosophie dans le boudoir'

the cover of 'architecture and utopia' is an etching by aldo rossi, 'architecture assasinated' and dedicated to tafuri.

May 6, 05 4:06 pm

Manfredo Tafuri, "G.B. Piranesi: L'Archtettura come Utopia Negativa" in Angelus Novus, no. 20, January 1971, republished as "Giovanni Battista Piranesi: L'utopie negative dans l'architecture" in L'Architecture d'aujourd'hui no. 184, March/April 1976, republished as "The Wicked Architect": G.B. Piranesi, Heterotopia, and the Voyage in The Sphere and the Labyrinth, 1980.

[I did not mean to imply that "The Wicked Architect" may have first appeared within Architecture and Utopia.]

'l'architecture dans le boudoir' is the penultimate chapter in the 1987 English edition. The last chapter is entitled "The Ashes of Jefferson".

May 6, 05 4:15 pm

yes, same in spanish with the ashes of jefferson. i meant they're both part of the third part, the game of the glass pearls.

thanks for the tips on the first chapter, alas i don't have access to a library from here.

May 6, 05 4:24 pm

aml, you write:
tafuri starts with the analysis of james stirling's leicester laboratory. initially it might be argued that this building is using a symbolic system [ships, machine aesthetic, other buildings], but tafuri argues the way this reenactment is being done [and one of the key points is reenacting other buildings, this second stage removement] splits it, removes it from the symbolic system... no longer a direct reference, architecture with stirling is referencing itself

can you provide some examples where architecture is a direct reference and thus not a reference to itself? what is a direct reference in general?

also, you write:
another way of looking at this is in general looking at the five architects. here again, we have an architecture of self-reference, the five architects referencing le corbusier's forms without a direct connection with the origin of the forms.

can you provide an example where le corbusier's forms are referenced with a direct connection with the origin of the forms?

[I just received an email that there is a response to this post, so I sent the above before knowing what was just posted.]

May 6, 05 4:31 pm

maybe this covers both examples: le corbusier was fascinated with the forms of machines- fans, ships, and the like. he referenced those shapes. the five architects, and stirling, are referencing le corbusier. thus referencing previous architecture. you need to 'know' le corbusier to 'get' those references.

the references of stirling and the five architects, thus divorced from their original meaning [fans, ships, machine aesthetic] are empty symbols, they do not refer to their actual meaning [or original intention, le corbusier's intention] but to the second meaning: le corbusier's building.

this is a parallel to roland barthes mythologies: signified and signifier --> the sign, but sign appropriated for another signifier, plus new signified --> the signification, taking language to the level of myth.

this introspection or self-referentiality of the medium referencing itself is what tafuri considers to be 'dans le boudoir,' but he sees it as a condition with several different manifestations [silence, speak, etc].

May 6, 05 4:33 pm

[ok stirling is referencing several things besides corb, but i don't remember all the buildings right now- just read that as refering to the five archs]

May 6, 05 5:24 pm

OK, I see what you mean, but....

There are many historical examples were architecture references itself, e.g., renaissance architecture referencing classical architecture, or even the second pyramid at Giza referencing the Great Pyramid at Giza.

Le Corbusier is just as much a reenactor as Stirling and the NY5 are reenactors. Le Corbusier reenacted machine forms and ship forms and American agricultural architecture forms. And Le Corbusier even ultimately reenacted himself--the Palais des Congres (1964) reenacts the Villa Savoye (1929)

I don't buy the notion of there ever really being a split from the symbolic system. Degrees of separation, yes, but no real split.

Stirling is a consumate reenactionary architect, and he knew it, but he put most of his clues in his architecture only--although his entry for ROMA ITERROTTA is an overt reference to Piranesi's Campo Marzio plan and reenactionary architecturism. Just as Rossi reenacted the Bustum Hadriani with the Modena Cemetery, but it doesn't look like he ever told Tafuri about it. Yes, Rossi was silent, as are most architects when it comes to telling others where their real 'originality' comes from.

vado retro
May 8, 05 12:56 pm

oh, okay, you're a terrorist. for a minute i thought you said you were a theorist...

May 8, 05 12:59 pm

aml, in reference to the Tafuri "mistakes" now at museumpeace you say, "you should probably write that and publish it." You seem to have missed the obvious in that I already did write "it" and "it" is already published, in fact, republished now at

The same holds for "Inside the Density of G.B. Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii" which is now republished at

The notion that texts within the Internet are somehow not published is bogus. Furthermore, the notion of texts published within the Internet being automatically much less reliable than texts published via books is also bogus, since texts published via books (and reputable publishers like MIT PRESS) are not automatically more reliable, and Tafuri's repeated publications of erroneous material regarding Piranesi's Campo Marzio plan is a prime example.

May 8, 05 1:02 pm

vado retro, you must be hearing things that aren't even there. maybe you should go for some kind of check-up.

May 9, 05 12:26 am

rita, i'm very interested in this discussion but i won't be able to reply until later in the week...

yes let's not get derrailed with my post implying prejudice towards the web and favoring the published press.. i still beilieve though that the published press [although flawed and not automatically reliable] grants more access to academic discussion, whereas in the web -although we're disproving my argument in this very discussion- academic discussion is not automatic.

i'm having to reread peter eisenman's notes on conceptual architecture right now [for a class really] but that's probably where my counterargument will be coming from... the shift from le corbusier's 'semantic' reenactment of architecture, similar to previous reenactments in classical, neoclassical, etc, towards eisenman's syntactical experiments that end up being an unconscious semantic exercise with deliberately void or emptied signs.

but i'll elaborate later on...

May 9, 05 9:45 am

aml, I too am interested in this discussion. In fact, you're the first person to discuss Tafuri vis-a-vis the Campo Marzio with me online, and I appreciate your knowledge of the subject.

For the sake of clarity, I wish to restate my argument(s).

1. Manfredo Tafuri is no authority when it comes to Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii.

2. Tafuri no where demonstrates an understanding of reenactment as it relates to the generation and history of architectural design.

3. It is many times more valuable to reenact architectures than it is to reenact architectural critics/historians.


Yesterday, I re-read Eisenman's "The Wicked Critic" (in ANY 26, February 2000), and as far as Piranesi's Campo Marzio is concerned, Eisenman only continues to reiterate Tafuri's mistakes. Eisenman does, however, mention that Piranesi moved some building locations within the Campo Marzio plan, and up to that point I/Quondam are the only published sources of that type of information, so Eisenman is not altogether disclosing of where he gets some of his information. This relates to the issue of texts/data published online in that such publications should rightly be referenced (at least footnoted).

David R. Marshall in "Piranesi, Javarra, and the Triumphal Bridge Tradition" (<i>The Art Bulletin[/i], June 2003) also relates information regarding the Campo Marzio plan, that prior was only available at Quondam, without giving the reference a proper citing.

Hani Rashid is likewise guilty of the same inaction--

As far as I'm concerned, architectural academia isn't necessarily all that trustworthy.

May 9, 05 3:09 pm

rita, thanks for posting the paper. i'll read it and hold further comments until i'm done, for the sake of more efficient discussion.

wouldn't you have it, that any 25/26 is the only any magazine i have, so i'll actually read eisenman's article there too.. expect a post later in the week, when that + all my reading for my actual job is done.

May 14, 05 3:19 pm

14 May 1948
Israel becomes a state

14 May 1999
Discovery, at the Fine Arts Library of the University of Pennsylvania, that Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii had been printed in two distinct states

14 May 2004
Louis I. Kahn, with Helena, Eutropia, and Catherine de Ricci visit Melania the Older and Melania the Younger in Israel

14 May 2005
Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullianus and John the Baptist Piranesi present “De Spectaculis II” at Leaving Obscurity Behind, the 2005 Horace Trumbauer Architecture Fan Club Convention

May 16, 05 9:51 am

16 May 2006

i make a point of posting later in the day. sorry about the delay, we'll carry on this discussion yet.

May 16, 05 9:51 am

er 2005... i do know what year we're at, although sometimes doesn't look like it

May 16, 05 10:47 am

No worries aml. I've been busy with other things too. Did some spot readings within Heynen's Architecture and Modernity a couple of days ago, the Tafuri "operative criticism" and mimesis parts. And a week ago read some passages from Barthes' Elements of Semiology. I'm beginning to wonder about what phychological effects the devastation of WWII may have had on later-half 20th century European thought, especially regarding the signifyier and the signified.


  • ×Search in:

Please wait... loading
Please wait... loading