April 09, 2008


Perhaps it makes sense to start with Piranesi...


Giovani Battista Piranesi wanted to be an architect; instead he is best known for engravings like the one above, but probably more for the ones he did of the ruins of ancient Rome...


His ability to draw is obvious, but what of his ability to plan? Philip Hofer, in the introduction to the lamentably out-of-print Dover edition of Piranesi's Le Carceri raises this issue:

No practical architect could possibly have made constructions such as these stand, let alone survive, which may be one of the many reasons Italian patrons had for rejecting the young Piranesi's pretense of being an architect. But as prints these edifices are the more powerfully suggestive for being so impossible. There is also a sense of spiritual and physical suffering that is almost an equivalent of hell.

Imagining this hell, Piranesi foreshadowed -- in the 18th century -- what we casually and inaccurately refer to as the correctional institutions in the 21st.

Posted by Ideofact at April 9, 2008 01:00 AM