It rocked Eisenman on his chair...

[The following is part of an unexpected email I received about an hour ago.]

I am a student at the Yale Graduate school of Architecture. We have Eisenman as a professor and he makes us analyse, among others, Piranesi's Campo Marzio. Along with my own analysis, I used some of the more striking parts of your very interesting and excellent analysis. It rocked Eisenman on his chair and he is now inquiring into your analysis, of which he had not heard.

Nov 8, 05 3:23 pm
liberty bell

You rock, Rita.

Nov 8, 05 3:27 pm

i have seen two articles in two days about f'ed up eisenman buildings.
analyze that.

Nov 8, 05 3:28 pm

oh quondam... is good to see you're back.

Nov 8, 05 3:28 pm

hell ya.

Nov 8, 05 3:38 pm

lets see it...

Nov 8, 05 3:39 pm

(surely Rita will post a link to the exact location of aforementioned analysis, but it -QBVS- has probably been linked in one form or another at least a hundred times on archinect)

Nov 8, 05 3:52 pm

[The following is part of an email I sent about an hour ago.]

Since there is Campo Marzio "work" at both and at, I am not sure what part of the analysis you utilized, but the most comprehensive work online is at and , and it is these two texts that Eisenman should read (for a start). The discovery of the two printed states of the Ichnographia is published within A Quondam Banquet of Virtual Sachlichkeit: Part I, and there is a whole (67 page) chapter on the Campo Marzio in A Quondam Banquet of Virtual Sachlichkeit: Part II (available late November 2005).

[Plus, I forgot to reference Encyclopedia Ichnographica.]

Nov 8, 05 3:52 pm
Carl Douglas (agfa8x)

well done.

Nov 8, 05 4:00 pm
Eros et Thanatos Ichnographia Campi Martii

Giovanni Battista Piranesi died 9 November 1778.

And it was actually this class where Eisenman was "rocked on his chair."

What's next? Good-bye to Visual Misrepresentation?

"Yeah resting in peace is fine, but are the students really getting their money's worth? At those prices, the last thing you want is misinformation."

hocus pocus representation

Nov 9, 05 10:13 am

quondam, what is your opinion of Jennifer Bloomer's book? I have read it several times and find it quite alot of fun to read and reread. I like her use of Joyce to read Piranesi, but have read that it is wrong and trite...I have Tafuri's book, but can you suggest others?

Nov 9, 05 11:17 pm

betadinsutures, my opinion of Bloomer's book, as far as it relates specifically to reading Piranesi's Ichnographia of the Campo Marzio, is that it is indeed wrong and trite--almost all of what Bloomer writes about the Ichnographia is taken virtually verbatim from Tafuri; she does, however, include some original material relative to the "pit of the underworld" citing it as the entry way into understanding the Ichnographia as a labyrinth, but she misses the real key to the large plan (the tiny intercourse building) which is directly across the Tiber from the pit. Bloomer's book may be fun, but it is not good scholarship in that she really did not come to read and understand the whole plan at all--she went on to seek meaning "underneath" the plan while what she really did was avoid the actual plan itself. Can you honestly say that you now know what the Ichnographia is about after reading Bloomer's book?

You ask if I can suggest other books, and all I can think is that you too are not noticing (what in this very thread) is obvious.

Like they say, truth is stranger than fiction.

Nov 10, 05 10:38 am

"Generally, Bloomer’s treatment of Piranesi’s Campo Marzio follows that of Tafuri’s, but she investigates some of Piranesi’s other work with some originality. She is much better at finding symbolism/hidden meaning in Joyce, however, than she is in finding the same in Piranesi. For her, the (s)crypt(s) signifies a labyrinth (one she often seems lost in herself, even though it is a labyrinth of her own making!). For example, she sees the Campo Marzio plan as representing the labyrinth of the underworld, that place where the [Cartesian] grid/cage of rationality does not apply. Her [s]cryptic efforts to get into this underworld are especially worth reading because it is a thorough aggregate of good research mixed (unfortunately?) with Tafurian and Derridian agendas (--see her treatment of the Campo Marzio’s Occulus Tarentum Dis et Perserfoni). Inadvertently, however, by going “underneath” the large plan, she puts all her effort into seeking something that is not there. Essentially, she avoids the real plan itself."
--A Quondam Banquet of Virtual Sachlichkeit: Part I, p. 61.

Nov 10, 05 11:54 am

When I went to the Fine Arts Library of the University of Pennsylvania on 14 May 1999 it was to see an actual etching of the Ichnographia of the Campo Marzio for the first time. I felt sure I would see the Ichnographia at the Penn library because within the "Illustration Credits" of Jennifer Bloomer's Architecture and the Text (p. 215) it states:

"Giovanni Battista Piranesi, details from Il Campo Marzio dell'Antica Roma: Ichnographia. Etching, six plates. Used by permission of the Fine Arts Library of the University of Pennsylvania."

I asked at the reference desk about Il Campo Marzio..., and I was told there was no such holding in the catalogue. I mentioned the citing in Bloomer's book, and I even went into the book stacks and got Bloomer's book itself to show the librarian. The head librarian was called and he thought to look in the old card catalogue of the Rare Book Room--Penn was then still in the midst of filling data onto it's fairly new online book catalogue and the Rare Book Room holdings were not yet in the electronic catalogue. Sure enough, Penn does possess a 1762 edition of Il Campo Marzio..., but even that was hard to find because the call number on the card was a typographic error. Alas, I finally had an actual Ichnographia unfolded in front of me and within minutes I discovered that the plan I was now looking at was not entirely the same as the plan reproduction that I had up till then been used to looking at. And architectural history changed a little bit that day.

Then knowing that the Ichnographia exists in two versions, I went back to Bloomer's Architecture and the Text to see which version of the Ichnographia are reproduced in detail there. Strangely enough, the details of the Ichnographia reproduced in Architecture and the Text DO NOT match the 1762 Ichnographia at the Fine Arts Library of the University of Pennsylvania.

For the record, the two details of the 1762 Ichnographia of Il Campo Marzio... at the Fine Arts Library of the University of Pennsylvania are used within A Quondam Banquet of Virtual Sachlichkeit: Part I without the permission of the Fine Arts Library of the University of Pennsylvania. Perhaps Bloomer and I have a little something in common after all.

Nov 10, 05 1:30 pm
liberty bell

Quondam Rita: My hardcover copy of A Quondam Banquet of Virtual Sachlichkeit: Part I from Ex Libris arrived yesterday! I'll start delving into it in a date-specific fashion, as suggested. I'm disappointed, however, that there is no photograph of you on the back overleaf - or at least an image of one of your collages a la the fat baby one above...


Nov 10, 05 1:34 pm

i always knew Rita wasn't just a crank...

Nov 10, 05 1:57 pm
brian buchalski

wow...i hadn't realized that a book was now out...i guess that i have been too caught up in all the fancy graphics of the internet lately to have noticed that...shame on me

Nov 10, 05 2:34 pm
Carl Douglas (agfa8x)

I'll agree that as a work of historical scholarship, Bloomer's text isn't particularly strong; but I would also suggest that she herself doesn't present it as a work of historical scholarship, but as a generative work.

Nov 10, 05 2:35 pm

Thanks LB. Maybe there'll be a picture of me on Part III. And no the above collage was not done by me--I found it while image searching "rocked".

John, you're right, I am a crank (great word!), but not just a crank.

puddles, I really loved it when my grandmother used to say, "I don't need an umbrella after it rains." Now, she wasn't a crank. She just had a great way of telling the truth.

Nov 10, 05 2:44 pm

actually rita, i have been reading through your material, and i am contemplating getting your material. as you write above, Bloomer did tell me more about Joyce, than perhaps Piranesi, but even if her book was a mis-reading or wrong[?] i did not expect her book to be the encyclopedia of knowledge on Piranesi/Joyce as much as it sheds light on her process and work. is it possible that through mis-reading knowledge can be gained? i tend not to ascribe to things, such as an interpretation of an 18th century etchings an either black or white, right or wrong...perhaps as i digest more of your material my experience and knowledge will expand, and i can put down Bloomer.

Nov 10, 05 2:46 pm

agfa, that's what i thought...

Nov 10, 05 2:47 pm

Yes, a work that generates wrong notions about the Ichnographia of the Campo Marzio. Actually, that makes it a degenerative work.

degeneration 1 : intellectual or moral decline tending toward dissolution of character or integrity

Nov 10, 05 2:50 pm
Carl Douglas (agfa8x)

why you... cad! (swoon)

Nov 10, 05 2:58 pm

To be honest, I care very little about what Bloomer wrote or how she intellectually operates. What I do care about is what Piranesi delineated via the two versions of the Ichnographia of Il Campo Marzio.... All I have ever done is analyze the Ichnographia itself, which is exactly what virtually all other contemporary writers on the Ichnographia have not done! I have never been interested in spreading some current/trendy intellectual "thought" by troping Piranesi and the Ichnographia, a course of action begun by Tafuri. What I am interested in is to find out what Piranesi did himself.

Nov 10, 05 3:03 pm
Carl Douglas (agfa8x)

I figured that. But why the scare-quotes around "thought"?

Nov 10, 05 3:16 pm

There's a great line in Brideshead Revisited where Julia says to Rex before they are married, "It's interesting how someone who wants so much is at the same time prepared to give so little."

That's a "thought" that just popped into my head a few minutes ago.

Nov 10, 05 3:23 pm
Carl Douglas (agfa8x)


Nov 10, 05 3:28 pm

I may be wrong, but doesn't Rex say that to Julia in the library after the latter has learned that he has seen Brenda Champion again? Rex leaves in a huff and Julia is left to finish her sherry, looking so rich and beautiful and unhappy...

Nov 10, 05 3:36 pm

So are you saying that you proved Eisenman wrong?

Nov 10, 05 4:06 pm

John, I think you're right, but it really was Rex that was "asking for so much" wasn't it?

The only thing that I can actually prove is that there are two versions of Piranesi's Ichnographia. Otherwise, all other proof stems from whatever Piranesi delineated within the two Ichnographia himself.

Based on what Piranesi delineated, Eisenman's "thoughts" on the Ichnographia are in need of correction.

Nov 10, 05 4:44 pm

I had thought that it was Julia asking Rex "for so much" by denying him sexual favours and agreeing to her mother's desire for a protracted, secret engagement. There being no outlet for his passions, he turns once again to the alluring Brenda Champion. I may be all wrong in all this and wd have to review the tape to be sure.
What matters is that the line stuck so well in your memory as a "thought".

Nov 10, 05 7:26 pm

stephen i realize that you have lived and breathed Piranesi for what 10-20 years, and i could never mount a challenge to your knowledge. i am reading your site and i am extremely eager to get it right. so thanks for your comments and be well. i look forward to getting your books in the near future...

Nov 10, 05 7:30 pm
Oana S.

congrats Rita!

Nov 12, 05 8:36 am

Hi all and thanks. What's next, you'll be telling me that I actually do exist?

John, I watched several episodes of Brideshead Revisited on Friday, and I forgot all the intricacies of the Rex and Julia engagement, although I still think Rex just conveniently blamed Julia for his own infidelities. Anyway, I forgot how much the series is a Nirvana of nuance.

I'm off now, back to the Coda Pagoda.

Nov 13, 05 10:53 am

John Devlin has been banned from further posting at archinect, but he did mention he liked the "Nirvana of nuance" comment. It turns out the whole banning and the action(s) that led to it turned out to be both a witting and unwitting 'reenactment' of eros et thanatos--kinda like too much sex and it kills you.

Now, where should the John Devlin at Archinect memorial be placed within Romaphilia? Perhaps in place of one of the four triumphal arches within the Bustum Hadriani. One of the arches is named for Trajan, whose arch was eventually dismantled and parts of which are now within the Arch of Constantine [--Eutropia had so many good ideas!]. I won't mention here what the other three arches are dedicated to because you never know what might get you banned from posting at archinect.

Nov 14, 05 8:44 am

8 November 324

feigning feints?

He says there are no streets there, so he doesn't know how the porticus operated throughout the CM.

the buffalo were last
here in 1812
and the deer still eat
the flowers at night
perhaps reenacting
the antelope play
at home

Nov 8, 07 10:41 am

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.

"reenacting forgetfulness"
how ironic
and there's
more more more
Nolli Schmolli
and windless
Tafuri fury

Nov 9, 07 10:56 am

"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."
--Peter Eisenman, “Notations of Affect. An Architecture of Memory” in Pathos, Affect, Gefühl (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH, 2004), pp.504-11.

"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 portions 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 portions 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.

Nov 11, 07 5:08 pm

"The servile crowd of the palace, who had so long adored the fortune of Stilicho, affected to insult his fall, and the most distant connection with the master.general of the West, which had so lately been a title to wealth and honours, was studiously denied and rigorously punished. His family, united by a triple alliance with the family of Theodosius, might envy the condition of the meanest peasant. The flight of his son Eucherius was intercepted, and the death of that innocent youth soon followed the divorce of Thermantia, who filled the place of her sister Maria, and who, like Maria, had remained a virgin in the Imperial bed. The friends of Stilicho, who had escaped the massacre of Pavia, were persecuted by the implacable revenge of Olympius, and the most exquisite cruelty was employed to extort the confession of a treasonable and sacrilegious conspiracy. They died in silence: their firmness justified the choice, and perhaps absolved the innocence, of their patron, and the despotic power which could take his life without a trial, and stigmatise his memory without a proof, has no jurisdiction over the impartial suffrage of posterity. The services of Stilicho are great and manifest; his crimes, as they are vaguely stated in thelanguage of flattery and hatred, are obscure, at least, and improbable. About four months after his death an edict was published in the name of Honorius to restore the free communication of the two empires which had been so long interrupted by the public enemy. m The minister whose fame and fortune depended on the prosperity of the state was accused of betraying Italy to the Barbarians, whom he repeatedly vanquished at Pollentia, at Verona, and before the walls of Florence. His pretended design of placing the diadem on the head of his son Eucherius could not have been conducted without preparations or accomplices, and the ambitious father would not surely have left the future emperor, till the twentieth year of his age, in the humble station of tribune of the notaries. Even the religion of Stilicho was arraigned by the malice of his rival. The seasonable and almost miraculous deliverance was devoutly celebrated by the applause of the clergy, who asserted that the restoration of idols and the persecution of the church would have been the first measure of the reign of Eucherius. The son of Stilicho, however, was educated in the bosom of Christianity, which his father had uniformly professed and zealously supported. Serena had borrowed her magnificent necklace from the statue of Vesta and the Pagans execrated the memory of the sacrilegious minister, by whose order the Sybilline books, the oracles of Rome, had been committed to the flames. The pride and power of Stilicho constituted his real guilt. An honourable reluctance to shed the blood of his countrymen appears to have contributed to the success of his unworthy rival ; and it is the last humiliation of the character of Honorius that posterity has not condescended to reproach him with his base ingratitude to the guardian of his youth and the support of his empire."

It wasn't enough that Maria remained a virgin consort to a 14 year-old Emperor, she then had to witness the only English Pope take her sarcophagus for himself. She's now writing The Plays of Nicholas Breakspear.

Jul 31, 08 4:32 pm

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