21 September


"Every good story needs a complication. ... A story needs a point of departure, a place from which the character can discover something, transform himself, realize a truth, reject a truth, right a wrong, make a mistake, come to terms."

The building projects of Alexander Severus as described within the The Scriptores Historiae Augustae.

...the Porticus Alexexandri Severi is in a totally incorrect position at the end of the Equiria, however, Piranesi may be making a suggestive link between Alexander Severus and the military. The small aedicule Isidis on the Equiria across from the Porticus may also be a reference to Alexander's devotion to his mother--Isis is the premiere mother goddess.

...the baths, aqueduct and his grove all comply correctly within the Ichnographia.

...the Domus (Palace of) Alexandri Severi is mentioned in the Historiae text, but it is not described, and my theory is that Piranesi placed Alexander's (house) Palace along the Triumphal Way (in the reverse mode) because Alexander favored Christianity and the Golden Rule. The Domus Alexandri Severi [of the Ichnographia] is also exactly like the description of Elagabalus' Palace near the Porta Maggiore. Could Piranesi be weaving some complicated message which refers to both the reigns of Elagabalus and Alexander (which did follow each other, and they were cousins), where Alexander successfully undid the corruption of Elagabalus and began to turn Rome toward a more Christian and morally sound city and empire?

...not yet sure, but I think Alexander Severus' name is attached to more buildings within the Ichnographia second only to Nero.

The Scriptores Historiae Augustae is now freely available online, and Bill Thayer has nicely coordinated the text with Platner's 'topography of Rome' text. I can't remember now, but I assume the description of Elagabalus' Palace also came from the Scriptores Historiae Augustae. In any case, what remains of Elagabalus' Palace today is Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, and transposed by Piranesi to the Domus Alexandri Severi along the Triumphal Way.

from: Amanda Claridge, Rome: An Oxford Archeological Guide (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998). p. 21:
Bassianus, came to Rome in 219 and, holding the family priesthood of the sun-god Elalgabalus, declared that he and the god were one and the same, building himself a temple on the Palatine and laying out a new palace, later called the 'Sessorian', with its own circus and amphitheater, on older imperial property in the south-east sector of the city (S. Croce in Gerusalemme).

This description fits perfectly Piranesi's design of the Domus Alexandri Severi. Piranesi's reason for doing this is unclear however... ...can only speculate there is some kind of inversion message involved.

scene: Domus Alexandri Severi

"...a place from which the architecture manifests a discovery, a transformation, realizes a truth via inversion, comes to correct terms via a mistake."


scene: audition

In the romantic, classic movie Two For The Road (1968), Albert Finney portrays Mark, a young British architect who ultimately becomes a European jet-setting architect (that's his very smart Mercedes coupe being driven into the back of an aircraft in one of the opening scenes).

As a recent graduate architect, he hitch-hikes through France taking 3-d pictures of buildings; that's when he meets Joanna, played by Audrey Hepburn. As the pair are still just getting to know each other, Joanna asked Mark to take a picture of her instead of the local Cathedral. Mark says his camera is made for taking pictures of 3-dimensional objects like buildings. To which Joanna in beautiful irony replies, "I'm three dimensional."

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'.

In the recent Barbara Flanagan article in Metropolis on Venturi and Scott Brown it states:

And when Venturi envisions an electronic "facade of glittering information," the inevitable political question (what does it say and who decides?) can be a vexing one. "What the message is I don't know, and I'm not too ashamed of not knowing," Venturi says. "Content is not the architect's job."

I think Venturi here admits his most present flaw, and even goes on to make a big mistake about the future. As the architect of the first online virtual museum of architecture, I see content as very much the job of the architect.

Can it be said that precisely attacking flaws engenders paradigm shifts?

Kind-of like going into a black hole and then being in the other side.


scene: sizing up

Has voxelation been used within the architectural lexicon before now?

The similarities of the pictures really speak for themselves...

Voxelation actually does seem to be the right word to describe the formal properties of the architecture in question.


scene: Working Title Museum

And I still have to show the IQ superimposition of the Pantheon and Infringement Complex. More complicated appositions?

Sep 21, 13 11:52 am

For even in the most favorable hypothesis, the biographers of the Historia Augusta are separated from the Antonines, their great models, by an instance of some hundred and twenty-five years. Of course this is not the first time an ancient historian found himself so far, or even much further, from the figures he was seeking to portray. But the ancient world in the time of Plutarch, say, was still homogeneous enough for the Greek biographer to produce, at nearly a hundred and fifty years' distance, an image of Caesar carved in virtually the same substance as Caesar. At the period when the Historia Augusta was compiled, on the contrary, the world was so altered as to render the great Antonines' way of life and of thought virtually impenetrable to biographers already on the road leading to the Byzantine Empire. A little closer in time, but more exotic, more rapidly distorted by popular superstition, the rulers of the Syrian dynasty vanish even more utterly beneath a forest of legends. Thereafter, chances of error due to remoteness in time gradually diminish with the emperors who devour one another during the rest of the third century, but models and painters alike sink into that magma of confusion, violence, and mendacity characteristic of all periods of crisis. From one end of the Historia Augusta to the other, everything sounds as if a small group of today's men of letters, more or less well informed but mediocre, and often no more than ordinarily conscientious, were to tell us first the history of Napoleon or of Louis XVIII by means of authentic documents seasoned with prefabricated anecdotes, anachronistically tinged by the passions of our own day and age, and then, shifting to figures and events of more recent vintage, were to offer about Jaurès, Hitler, Pétain, or De Gaulle a mass of worthless gossip mingled with some useful informations, an avalanche of literature from Propaganda Bureaus and sensational revelations from the gossip columns.
--Marguerite Yourcenar, "Faces of History in the Historia Augusta."

This passage seems useful in terms of thinking about a novel whose scenes and complications occur within the realm of labyrinthian architectural history, or is it within the realm of architecturally labyrintine history?

Sep 21, 13 8:46 pm

institutional critique [sort of] 
2010.09.21 15:49
I too, just last week, read of Gandy and his perspective of the Bank of England:
"Girardin's unfinished temple even today forces the observer to do a double-take. No matter how much we are prepared for it, the realization that the building is unfinished, and not a ruin, is difficult to internalize. Indeed, the attraction of such architectural indeterminacy led to a fascinating type of didactic representation in the nineteenth century that curiously links John Soane and Joseph Gandy to Violette-le-Duc and Choisy. At the beginning of this chain lies Gandy's watercolor of Soane's Bank of England exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1830. It shows the entire block Soane began working on in 1788 in a cutaway aerial perspective taken from the southeast. A storm has just passed over the building, appearing to leave in its wake a path of destruction brought to light in the ensuing calm. Bu on closer inspection, what at first seems to be a ruin is verisimilarly a projection of the site under construction."
Neil Levine, "The Architecture of the Unfinished and the Example of Louis Kahn" in Fragments: Architecture and the Unfinished (2006), p. 327. 
It's interesting to note the metabolic (destructive/creative) nature of Gandy's "view." Perhaps "institutional critique" is inherently metabolic.
There are seeds of "The Architecture of the Unfinished and the Example of Louis Kahn" within Levine's earlier (1989) "Robert Venturi and "The Return of Historicism"".

...hints about writing/compiling a "novel" text composed of the earlier archinect posts--all of them and somehow filling them out.

2005.09.21 16:08
I'd go to Bryn Athyn and see all the overwhelming architecture there: Bryn Athyn Cathedral, Cairnwood, Glencairn, and Cairncrest.


The mural was finished early afternoon 2001.09.12.

the last 20 minutes or so...

Sep 21, 15 8:57 pm

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