lebbeus woods and Piranesi


lebbeus woods and Piranesi, i have found many similarities but no real argument to persue for an essay, any suggestions?

Apr 16, 05 10:59 pm

check out Tafuri's "The Sphere and the Labyrinth: Avant-Gardes and Architecture from Piranesi to the 1970s"

Apr 17, 05 9:04 am  · 

veux1, if you have found many similarities between Lebbeus Woods and Giovanni Battista Piranesi, name/illustrate them, because then you'll have found things that do not even exist.

Tafuri's take on Piranesi is indicative of inadequate research and a superficial ratiocination of Piranesi's oeuvre, and virtually everything Tafuri has written about the Ichnographia Campi Martii is plain wrong.

Piranesi's Carceri have engendered tortured perceptions of the ill-advised since their original printing. Find similarities between the Carceri and the Prima Parti di Architetture e Prospettive and you might start getting somewhere.

Here's what real similarities with Piranesi look like.

Apr 17, 05 9:56 am  · 

I'm not sure you can say Tafuri is "plain wrong" considering his is a particular interpretation relating Piranesi's work to the shaping of space by later avant-garde movements. It is only one perspective on that issue, and obviously one you don't agree with. To invalidate it out of hand to someone who was looking for a wide berth of info seems all too heavy-handed.

I don't think Tafuri ever claims to be a Piranesi scholar (as surely Rita is), but someone who (in this and other works) is interested in tracing premodern avant-garde concepts through their early 20th century manifestations. His is a project of larger trajectories (as is a comparison of Piranesi/Woods) rather than the specificity of research on a single isolated figure.

Now, I would never suggest Tafuri is the end-all-be-all of architectural history and theory (far from it) but he should not be dismissed outright. He should be read and considerd as one would any other source. So, read Tafuri then also do what Rita says. Synthesize the two and you've got your thesis.

Apr 17, 05 11:09 am  · 

db, please indicate where Tafuri is right about the Ichnographia Campi Martii. Of course, Tafuri didn't even know Piranesi printed two different versions of the Ichnographia Campi Martii, but why should that mean anything?

At the very beginning of The Sphere and the Labyrinth, Tafuri quotes from a text by Carlo Ginzburg and Adriano Prosperi:
"There comes a moment (though not always) in research when all the pieces begin to fall into place, as in a jig-saw puzzle, where all the pieces are near at hand and only one figure can be assembled (and thus the correctness of each move be determined immediately), in research only some of the pieces are available, and theoretically more than one figure can be made from them. In fact, there is always the risk of using, more or less consciously, the pieces of the jig-saw puzzle as blocks in a construction game. For this reason, the fact that everything falls into place is an ambiguous sign: either one is completely right or completely wrong. When wrong, we mistake for objective verification the selection and solicitation (more or less deliberate) of the evidence, which is forced to confirm the presuppositions (more or less explicit) of the research itself. The dog thinks it is biting the bone and is instead biting its own tail."


"So where is Tafuri now?"

"Why he's in the ether playground, just where he's always been."

Apr 17, 05 11:29 am  · 

I seem to remember reading somewhere that freemasons resurrected G.B. Piranesi's plan for the Campo Marzio in Philadelphia, going so far as to locate within the Philadelphia Museum of Art evidence that Mary Magdalene was actually married to Christ, and spawned his children. Their progeny, fleeing murder in the event that their identity be known, fled to New York, conscious of the fact that everyother person in the city considers themselves worthy of Christ-like admiration. While there, Lebbeus Woods, 20th descendant of the baby Jesus, devised drawings for his "Upper Chamber, NeoMechanical Tower". Published extensively, it came into the hands of director Terry Gilliam, who happened to filming a dark reconstruction of the science fiction classic Le Jetee in the city of Philadelphia. In violation of Federal Copyright Law, the Gilliams Production Designer integrated the now infamous Chair w/ Armature into a scene in which Bruce Willis (who reportedly has visited Rome on more than one occasion) is held captive and warned of grave injury should he reveal the secrets with which he is entrusted.

Surely this is no coincidence, and worthy of further study.

Apr 17, 05 11:57 am  · 

rita, unfortunately, my copy of Tafuri is packed right now as we're in the process of moving. However, the quote you cite makes my point (I think) in that there is great danger in thinking one is either completely right or suggesting someone is completely wrong. My point to you (and the initial poster) is that Tafuri is not "plain [completely] wrong" but is merely one piece in what should be an larger puzzle of research. Read it ALL, then figure it out.

In general, I think Tafuri is right to reach beyond the mere research to offer possible (and even improbable) links to other movements and ideas. It would be wrong of him to suggest (and I don't believe he does) that his is the only (correct) interpretation. In that, it is not ironic at all that he uses the quote from Ginzburg/Prosperi, as simply having pieces fall into place does not guarentee absolute rightness, and that thinking so will in fact lead to wrongness. Equally, dismissing one approach in favor of another out of hand does seem to lead to such dogmatism. Tafuri is not suggesting his is the ultimate and end of research on Piranesi and the avant-garde (much less so on Piranesi specifically), but is presenting a particular Marxist/postmodernist examination of those connections. While that approach has fallen into disfavor today, I still find it useful as antidote to the myopic treatment many subjects receive today and which suggest that if you're not a Piranesi scholar (or other) you can't talk about Piranesi at all.

Tafuri's use of Piranesi is to a certain end and purpose and meant for a particular context of inquiry. Misguided and misinformed as his study would be in other contexts, it remains valuable for what he sets up as the limits of his study. For the initial question here, I still think it to be a valuable source for veux1's investigation.

Everyone chases their own tail here and there. It's simply what we do. Biting it might mean we've actually achieved something.

Apr 17, 05 12:04 pm  · 
the cellardoor whore

(if there was no intention of reenactment does reenactment still hold?
to a certain extent reenacting is a recreation of authorship?)

A reenacted spatiality? But then again, Rita/Stephen does not delve into further details. Almost as if there already (enough) adoration of a stated and stunted 'uncanny coincidence'. Its almost like new age rationale.

Apr 17, 05 12:10 pm  · 

Again, virtually everything Tafuri has written about Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii is plain wrong, thus Tafuri's "particular interpretation relating Piranesi's work to the shaping of space by later avant-garde movements" is based on incorrect interpretation.

Interesting how 12 Monkeys was filmed in Philadelphia, but who cares. What's more interesting is the exact location of the Life of Constantine tapestries vis-a-vis the "axis of life". Janosh, you should get up on the latest gossip.

Do any of you ever stop to think and wonder why a superficial similarity between Lebbeus Woods' work and Piranesi's work is worthy of intellectual investigation, while a very real similarity between Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway and a very symbolic aspect of Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii is immediately scorned as worthless and/or fantasy? I think the answer lies within the direct relationship of ignorance and ignoring, plus the propaganda of the ether playground.

Hey cellardoor whore, just because you don't know about my delving into further details doesn't mean it hasn't already happened.

Oh, and what are the many similarities between Lebbeus Woods and Piranesi again?

Apr 17, 05 1:16 pm  · 

the similarity is in the visual representation (and style of representation) of improbable and imagined spaces. why is that so outside of our consideration? up until something is built it is only representation. its success as a building that needs funding and client-support requires such representation. let's not overlook the power of the image here -- which Piranesi and Woods are both masters of though with little built in spite of it. Is there MORE there also, sure. But let's not overlook one thing in favor of another. Let's do it ALL.

Rita, I am now convinced of your complete authority and dominance in the field of Piranesi studies even without knowing what depths you have traversed in this regard. Please do tell us exactly what we should ALL think and say about Piranesi and let's be done with it.

Apr 17, 05 2:06 pm  · 

Piranesi did a whole lot more than visually represent "improbable and imagined" spaces. Piranesi was primarily an ur-archaeologist, and his hands-on understanding of "history" manifests an unprecedented delineation of how history coalesces with (architectural) design. Even Piranesi's personal design history manifests a coalescence, e.g., Prima Parti di Architetture e Prospettive through the Carceri through the Osservazioni sopra la Lettre de M. Mariette through the Diverse Maniere d'Adornare i Cammini through the Vasi, Candelabri, Cippi. Is that what Lebbeus Woods does?

My authority and dominance is in the field of Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii, but why should I tell you all I know for free?

Hey Janosh, remember when you responded here at archinect on 22 January 2003 with:
Xavier Costa, in a class he taught at the AA while I was there, related it [ the Ichnographia Campi Martii ] to museological strategies/memory aids. Not sure that this is what you are asking, and I don't know if he ever published such a thing.

Could it be that Costa received his information from Marcel Baumgartner's "Topographie als Medium der Erinnerung in Piranesi's 'Campo Marzio dell' Antica Roma'"? published in 2000? Baumgartner at least admits/footnotes his knowledge of the Encyclopedia Ichnographica as published at from 1 July 1998 to 20 March 2000.

Apr 17, 05 2:47 pm  · 

I read this text by Donald Kuspit -- The Contemporary and the Historical -- for the first time last night. It makes me want to exchange Piranesi for Breder and Tafuri for Mendieta. It also relates to Helena's sentiment as expressed within the making of "My Rita Novel Idea". Plus it reminds me of this.

Apr 17, 05 4:38 pm  · 

23 September 1999:
Lying restlessly in bed during the hours before the autumnal equinox (7:31 am edt 23 September 1999), I think of all the varying instances mentioned above. Of course, I'm surprised and glad to "see" all these new Helena "signs", especially since I'm not even working on her subject matter at this time. And then it dawns on me that Otto was again in an emergency room at a time close to an equinox. And then I think of how my brother not only has his schizophrenic cross to bear, but how he is now a cross for my mother and for me as well. And then I think how my mother still has such strength in her old age (she's 75). And then I think how Helena too had great strength in her old age (she traveled to the Holy Land in her late 70s). And then I think that maybe St. Helena is watching over my brother and my mother. And then I remember that St. Helena is the patron saint of miners, stemming from the ancient account of Eusebius that Helena, on her journey to and from the Holy Land, released (supposedly Christian) prisoners from the mines. And then I remember that my mother was once a post WWII civilian prison of war in Russia for five years, and during those years my mother, Rosa, was indeed a coal miner. And then I decided to write this letter.

Are the two equinoxes the same? I'd say they are exactly the same, but inverted in a fashion that only equinoxes can be.

Balancingly yours,
Stephen Lauf

abra was born on 9/23.
more on equinox?

Apr 17, 05 5:05 pm  · 

I was born 20 March 1956, 4 hours before the exact moment of vernal equinox, and Otto, after an early morning near-fatal car under a truck on the expressway accident, had his brain operated on 20 March 1980. Both these events occurred at Philadelphia Osteopathic Hospital. Maybe it was the driving with my parents to the emergency room on both occasions that viscerally taught me about reenactment, if not also calendrial coincidence.
More on equinox, indeed.

Apr 17, 05 5:30 pm  · 

The Sacred Cenote
Buildings are not the only interesting features of Chichén Itzá. Highly important in this Mayan society was the Sacred Cenote, that gave the city its name. Heading north from El Castillo, it's only a short and easy walk to the cenote, which is a 60 meter/190-foot wide, almost perfectly round pit. Human skeletons of men, women and children, possibly sacrificed to appease the rain god Chac, have been found. Many, however, may have just fallen in and drowned. Apart from that, a large number of artifacts have been found, such as idols, jewelry and jade. Some object are from other parts of Mexico, leading archaeologists to believe that pilgrimages were made to the Sacred Cenote long after Chichén Itzá was abandoned. To get there you’ll actually walk on an ancient Sacbé, which means White Road. The Mayans built roads through the jungle, connecting the big cities. These roads were built in perfectly straight lines, some short and some as long as 100 km. They were wide and built up on platforms for a majestic travel experience. These roads are another proof of the advancement of Mayan engineering, as they hardly had any elevation points where to get their bearings, yet the roads are flawlessly straight. There is another cenote, Xtoloc, which is situated between the northern and southern part of the city. This cenote supplied drinking water for the city.

Apr 17, 05 5:50 pm  · 

[I already told you, you better stop feeding me like this!]

'Altars' and icons found in the park (that once was a Lenni-Lenapi camp site)

hocus pocus

Apr 17, 05 6:23 pm  · 
Doug Johnston

i think there is an essay in the book 'A+U: Lebbeus Woods - Terra Nova 1988-1991, 1991' which compares Woods to Piranesi and Le Corb. Its been a while since i've read it, but it compares and contrasts and provides helpful distinctions and interpretations. It might be in another book though...

Apr 18, 05 12:53 pm  · 


I am new to this site and particular discussion on Piranesi, and am really only here for one purpose -- seeing how there is some more extensive knowledge than I of Piranesi:

Is anyone aware of the etching, "Veduta di Avanzi della Villa di Mecenate a Tivoli?"

One of my favorite etchings of Piranesi, and sometime after being struck by it, I began noticing some interesting characters in it, which I can't get a clear look at....

If anyone of you have had a thorough and clear up-close look at this piece, or at least a good enough understanding of it, please chime in here, before I go on....


Jun 15, 08 9:05 pm  · 
Vik Muniz

Go to Gallery

Compelling images - but the video is unbelievable.

Jun 16, 08 8:54 am  · 

It was while 'excavating' at the Villa di Mecenate that some locals began to accuse Piranesi of being a warlock.

Jun 16, 08 1:15 pm  · 

"Gosh, the insight of these locals is uncanny. Who told them?!"

Jun 16, 08 1:17 pm  · 

*Snicker* I find that warlock reference to be amusing...I wonder if it (indeed) sheds any more light on my interest here?

So maybe I'll pique some more curiosity or insight here, and hopefully some opinions on what anyone sees, and on what Piranesi is conveying in this view, by describing a little more of what I am looking for.

First, you can go to these two online sites for what I have thusfar found to be the largest and clearest online images of the Avanzi della Villa di Mecenate by Piranesi (and lots of other good Piranesi images found there, too). Playing around with the controls, you can zoom in a bit, but not a whole lot.

First character: See bottom center, the wandering pilgrim before the entrance. Now, look up on the second story, in the arch opposite this wanderer -- see the figure facing outwards in sort of a )'( pose?

Ok, as far as I can see, that appears to be a woman? Does everyone agree? What do you see her wearing? What is in both of her hands? Is something wrapped around her arms, body, and legs?

Second character: The one at the entrance, not very visible -- is it a guard of some sorts ...lounging on his pike? Is he (assuming it is a he) doing something additionally?

Last two characters: Down to the bottom left, just right of the scroll, what do you all think the story is between these two?

Jun 18, 08 7:03 pm  · 

Opes, found another website, where one can even get closer....

Still can't quite figure out for sure if character #1 noted above is in fact a woman, though, wearing, "in" hands, etc??

Same with #2?! Almost looks dead?

AND, the left of the last two characters seems to have a skull for a head.......?


Jun 18, 08 7:57 pm  · 

Well, I never thought I would see this, at least not so soon, but it appears that the woman has her arms shackled above her head....


...Has anyone seen any other etchings of views of Rome etc that are as...bizarre, interesting, and intriguing as this one (relative other etchings)?

The Veduta dell'antico Tempio di Bacco is a bit....

Jun 18, 08 8:15 pm  · 

so here's a random thought...

both lebbeus woods and piranesi project something of images that are sort of silent and still but which express the monument and ruin in spaces... The slow construction and deconstruction of space over time...

The spaces that they draw seem IMHO rather "still" but you can see the effects of time on the monumental objects that they draw... The weathered surfaces... It's sort of like expressing that moment of "decay" of monuments... Both create imaginative worlds, piranesi is more historical, while woods is more futurist, but both seem to grasp the same gut feeling about opposing forces of *monumentality* on the one hand, and *ruin* on the other hand... *monumentality* is almost like the constructive organizing productive creational force... mankind's, civilization's attempts to project themselves on their world, to dictate a meaning, articulate an order amidst the natural chaos... the opposing force at play, *ruin* seems to be that force of natural decay, that moving into disorder that inevitably happens and that monuments contunually are in opposition to... Even the ruins of war which are an accelerated decay, the state of nature...

Ruins are chaotic, but they are sort of *still*... While both show ruin, decay, the affects of voilence maybe... their images are actually quite tranquil I think... There's a similar feeling there... The stillness in a ruin... Whether it's a post-apocalypic futurist ruin or a roman ruin... The images are sort of peaceful... I know lebbeus woods is supposed to be violent, revolutionary, etc. but it somehow doesn't strike me as capturing sudden motion, simply a state of decay... Maybe it's the light and dark falling on their architecture and also the skies... Both Piranesi and Lebbeus Woods draw beautiful skies as the backdrops for their monuments and ruins... The light is still and soft, not the image of something in motion...

Jun 19, 08 2:12 am  · 


Well, the above link (on the closest look into this particular etching) turns out to be a dead one, so here is a correct one:,96

Jun 26, 08 7:50 pm  · 

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