17 May


The reality is that the Ichnographia is not an abundant breeding of "symbols devoid of significance," rather a cleverly delineated and labeled narrative of ancient Rome's own Imperial history. Both the many individual building plans and the Latin labels thereof act as a readable text which delivers an accurate historical (and at times even an accurate archeological) account.

It is not true that Piranesi outright rejects historical and archeological reality with regard to "reconstructing" ancient Rome's Campus Martius. In fact, most the buildings labeled within the Ichnographia not only represent buildings that once existed within ancient Rome, but they are for the most part positioned in their respective proper locations. This is not to say, however, that the entire map is "accurate." Many of the individual plans, although designating buildings that once existed, are nonetheless Piranesi's own design creations. As to those portions of the Ichnographia that are purely imaginative and/or inaccurate, it is within these that Piranesi is also the most astute, because it is Piranesi's superficial "mistakes" that signal precisely where to look for a deeper message or meaning regarding ancient Rome's (and particularly the Campus Martius') overall history.

It seems clear that it is precisely the "archeological mask" of the Campo Marzio that fooled Tafuri. Piranesi never intended the Ichnographia to be read as an archeological reconstruction, but as a wholly new reenactment of the Campus Martius. Piranesi's "experiment" is not in the design of the Campo Marzio per se, but in his Promethean delivery of historical (and architectural) narrative. As for the city delineated within the Ichnographia remaining an "unknown", this too is false because all one has to do is read (or translate) all the Latin labels within the Ichnographia to know the "city" it depicts.
After reading Piranesi's Campo Marzio properly, the notion of irrationality does not come into play. Piranesi's narrative method is indeed unprecedented, but his message does not carry an overt irrationally, nor even a covert irrationality. This latching on to the notion of irrationality within the Campo Marzio is perhaps Tafuri's most critical mistake because all subsequent reference (within Architecture and Utopia) to the presence of irrationality may be ostensibly based on a misguided and insubstantial premise. Unfortunately, it is Tafuri himself that "did not possess the means for translating the dynamic interrelationships" between plan forms and Latin labels which Piranesi used to "present" his historical narrative.
Interestingly enough, Piranesi did "equate" opposites, but not the opposites of rational and irrational. Piranesi looked to ancient Rome's own history and there recognized the opposites of Paganism and Christianity.

In composing the Campo Marzio, Piranesi did not utilize a "method of arbitrary association." What Piranesi did was to carefully link and sometimes even align seemingly individual buildings so that as a result certain groups of buildings generate distinct narratives or meanings. As one penetrates Piranesi's Campo Marzio, it becomes ever clearer that Piranesi rarely positioned building plans within the Ichnographia arbitrarily. As mentioned before, if the building plans do not represent actual structures that once existed in ancient Rome, then they are there performing some part of a specific narrative.
It is regrettable that Tafuri did not recognize the Campo Marzio's true "organic unity."

Through this quotation, Tafuri demonstrates his cursory observational procedure in examining the Campo Marzio. Although he correctly recognizes the axis running through the Bustum Hadriani, Tafuri does not note that this is the axis of death. Moreover, Tafuri does not detect the much longer axis of life that runs perpendicular to the axis of death. Additionally, the axes of the "Circus Agonnalis, of the Circus Flaminius, of the Templum Martis, of the Gimnasium Neronis, of the Terme [Baths] of Agrippa" do not even align let along act in concert with the axis of Hadrian's tomb. Tafuri should have known better than to even write that sentence, especially since he was carelessly copying the mistakes of Fasolo's 1956 text on the Campo Marzio.
As to the so-called "secondary alignment," Tafuri should have plainly cited this "rectilinear axis" as the Equiria, which Piranesi clearly labels as such. Without making the effort to investigate the Equiria, it is then no wonder that Tafuri found Piranesi's Campo Marzio a "formless tangle of spurious organisms."

Language is certainly present throughout Piranesi's Campo Marzio. First there is the presence of the Latin language with the close to one thousand Latin words that appear as labels throughout the Ichnographia. Second, there is the unique language (and syntax) of Piranesi's individual building plans, which quite often act as pictograms that in turn impart meaning. Taking the Latin labels and the language of the plans together, moreover, delivers the most complete rendition of Piranesi's message.
4. generate an "acropolis dossier"
Is "ambiguous algorithm" an oxymoron?
How might a mannered algorithm function?
Can algorithms treat ambiguity unambiguously?
I doubt it.

May 17, 14 10:31 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

I read this a few days ago and read the link....Just had a really good Goose Neck beer called Matilda, the yeast keeps fermenting for 5 years...a fermented thought perhaps...(booo!)

The best definition for "algorithm" I ever got was perhaps a paraphrase or quote that I felt I had read maybe  in Reiser Unemoto's book or I believe David Ruy said it as the prof of a course  I  was attending in grad school, this may even be a paraphrase or 3rd hand quote...

"An algorithm is a cooking recipe."

Ruy Klein's PS1 entry with knots, brilliant project especially when you think about Construction Drawings....

The "random" function in programming is not so random, so an algorithm creating "ambiguity" is a bit silly...but "ambiguity" is a bit silly to begin with.  Nothing is really Ambiguous objectively. Ambiguity occurs only in a subjective perception with lapses of memory that could possibly be linked in a WIKI-like-fashion to an emerging network often described as Chaos Theory, but ultimately incorrectly perceived patterns that essentially are confirmed to be complexity emerging from simple cooking recipes.  Ask Stephen Wolfram about Cellular Automata or Conway's game of life or go back even further to Jon von Nuemann...

I think our buddy Olaf proved this in his drunken stooper over the weekend with the Chicken or Egg post.


Although I think he got the scene wrong - my interpretation - Le Big Mac scene from Pulp Fiction summed up the discourse best which is then solved by Mr. Wolf?

The whole movie seems a bit "ambiguously mannered" the first time you watch it, then the 10th time you watch is makes a lot a sense, almost too much...

but let's say the first time you saw the movie, you probably thought Mr. Wolf was a genius.  He was a mannered algorithm who treated ambiguity unambuigously.  You have to admit Immanual Kant was right like an American Dad said tonight - Be American, blow it up first and see what happens.  Don't judge an algorithm with an a priori agenda man...


It's my wifes birthday, so I better get back to HGTV night and IKEA wet dreams.

May 20, 14 11:55 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

two correction perhaps. 

Aranda and Lasch maybe said that about algorithms, either way just listed a bunch worth checking out...

and it was the Burger Royale scene (quarter pounder) pre Mr. Wolf scene...

May 21, 14 6:51 am

The first Tarantino film I saw was Pulp Fiction in 1994 and soon after that architecture started becoming very virtual. --2009.08.16

Started work on 9020e on the 17th and finally finished it last night.

Saw Tim's Vermeer late Monday afternoon--experimenting, learning and discovering via reenactment indeed. Exactly similar to the subject of (the forthcoming) 9020f:

After rereading some of Tafuri’s text on the Campo Marzio, for some reason it dawned on me that my redrawing of the Campo Marzio is an attempt to walk in Piranesi’s own footsteps, with the best of my ability, meaning, I am trying to learn how Piranesi’s imagination operated by doing the same thing that he did--literally redrawing the plan. I am trying to get as close to Piranesi’s own drawing/designing procedure.

I then thought of what Collingwood said about not being able to truly learn from history because we are not able to actually experience history. In this sense I am trying to re-experience a specific historic occurrence, albeit over 200 years later and with a radically different drawing technology. --1997.08.08

May 21, 14 9:22 am
Olaf Design Ninja_

From the blog post on walker evans, a reprint of a yale journal interview with walker evans.... .. "artists are being worked through with forces that they’re not quite aware of. They are transmitters of sensitivities that they’re not aware of having, of forces that are in the air at the time.".......can you be an artist and a reenactor at the same time? Deja vu for the first time?

May 21, 14 8:32 pm

If you feel impelled to ask that question, then perhaps (you can) not. Likewise, Evans' parameters fit far fewer than most artists.

May 22, 14 9:01 am
Olaf Design Ninja_

Is reenactment an art? As I read your previous comments it appears the purpose of your reenacting is to be in that moment of Piranesi's act of creation? Its funny you say tools and mention algorithms in same post...makes me think of photoshop filters that reenact a painters or sketch artist's act of producing visual art over the photo to almost make it appear human made. It appears you may be proposing creative acts as results of technique over creative acts being simply put creative? line with walker evans definition I am going to qoute some Schelling to rather propose an alternate to the reenactment which is more of a quest for aesthetic in the way Piranesi may have been developing other words you want to be Piranesi reincarnated or at least reincarnate his act of creation

May 23, 14 11:53 am
Olaf Design Ninja_

Damn bus and nj tuenpike roads...........its an ontological experiment? You becoming as he became?......either way the Schelling qoute.. “This unchanging identity, which can never attain to consciousness, and merely radiates back from the product, is for the producer precisely what destiny is for the agent, namely a dark unknown force which supplies the element of completeness or objectivity to the piecework of freedom; and as that power is called destiny, which through our free action realizes, without our knowledge and even against our will, goals that we did not envisage, so likewise that incomprehensible agency which supplies objectivity to the conscious, without the cooperation of freedom, and to some extent in opposition to freedom (wherein is eternally dispersed what in this production is united), is denominated by means of the obscure concept of genius. The product we postulate is none other than the product of genius, or since genius is possible only in the arts, the product of art. The deduction is concluded, and our next task is simply to show by thoroughgoing analysis that all the features of production we have postulated come together in the aesthetic. The fact that all aesthetic production rests upon a conflict of activities can be justifiably inferred already from the testimony of all artists, that they are involuntarily driven to create their works, and that in producing them they merely satisfy an irresistible urge of their own nature; for if every urge proceeds from a contradiction in such wise that, given the contradiction, free activity becomes involuntary, the artistic urge also must proceed from such a feeling of inner contradiction. But since this contradiction sets in motion the whole man with all his forces, it is undoubtedly one which strikes at the ultimate in him, the root of his whole being – the true in-itself.”3 .,

May 23, 14 11:57 am

Chris, somewhere along the way you completely missed the point--it's not "reenacting is to be in that moment of Piranesi's act of creation." It's "experimenting, learning and discovering via reenactment."

No where did I ever refer to (or imply) reenactment as an art. You're the one that's doing that.

May 23, 14 12:04 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

I know. And now that we agree I implied it, can reenactment be an art or is it a technique for creating art? (Art in the way I frame, it,can ask right? )

May 23, 14 12:15 pm

Sure you can ask, but you're not really asking, at least not without (falsely) implying that that's how I see and/or use reenactment. What you've really done is challenge the use of reenactment by fabricating the notion that I somehow want to say I've created art by redrawing the Ichnographia and thereby also that I'm now a reincarnation of Piranesi.  Whereas, if you really wanted to challenge my use of reenactment, you would ask "How have you experimented?", "How/what have you learned?", and "How/what have you discovered?" But you're not asking those questions because then you'd see that I indeed used reenactment to the point of experimenting, learning and discovering.

If you really want to know whether "reenactment [can] be an art or is it a technique for creating art?", perhaps you should conduct your own reenactment/experiment.

I have to make one confession: When I started to redraw the Ichnographia (via CAD in 1987) I had no knowledge of the 'philosophy of history' notion of reenactment. Soon after learning about the 'philosophy of history' notion of reenactment (in 1997), I realized that my redrawing of the Ichnographia was a form of reenactment. It was exactly like learning about the workings of reenactment while unwitting performing a reenactment, where, thus, second-hand knowledge (of reenactment) quickly became first-hand knowledge (of reenactment).

Reenactment. Try it. You might just learn something.

May 23, 14 1:28 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

A. You sound like an artist...87 B. You are as crafty as my dad in formal debate C. So I ask you those questions you suggested I ask. D. In Atlantic City for the 1st soon

May 23, 14 7:03 pm

And sometimes I work like an artist. Saw what you tried to do several times already. Experimentally found that the 'axis of life' within the Ichnographia matches the Benjamin Franklin Parkway of Philadelphia; learned that Piranesi was not arbitrary in his composition of the Ichnographia, rather that he delineated a narrative of the architectural history of Rome spanning from the altar of Mars (c. 750 BC) to the sarcophagus of Empress Maria (c. 400 AD); discovered that Piranesi printed two differing versions of the Ichnographia (1999.05.14). Enjoy Atlantic City, an almost, kinda-sorta reenactment of Las Vegas.

May 24, 14 1:18 pm

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