Archescape : on the tracks of Piranesi

J.G. Wallis De Vries

Research output: Book/ReportBookAcademic


The interest of Gianbattista Piranesi (1720 -1778) never wanes. Indeed, it is increasing, as is testified by recent exhibitions such as in New York, Haarlem (positioning Piranesi as designer), and Ghent, or by recent scholarship that uses notions such as 'vague' and 'viral' to understand Piranesi's representation of the city. I am writing a new book about this master of the architectural suspense, who, in his archaeological and speculative studies, suspended the classical paradigm of architecture to reveal its contradictions and liberties. Against the well-proportioned beauty of the classical order, Piranesi played out the sublime chaos of Rome. Juxtaposing fragments of intricate forms and informal space in between, he anticipated the task of architecture in the cities of today. In one of his scarce theoretical statements Piranesi said: ‘in the midst of fear comes forth delight’ '(di mezzo alla tema esce il diletto').The dense, yet open architectural landscape that he visualizes proposes a way out of the diffuse and unsustainable urbanisation of the planet. In 1990 my dissertation about the Campo Marzio under the title ‘Piranesi and the idea of the magnificent city’ was published in Dutch. To contribute to the renewed debate around Piranesi my new book will be in English. The deleuzian concept of the flight line is developed into an idea of 'archiscape' that makes for a fresh interpretation of the Campo Marzio as a treatise of the 'hanging city ('città pensile'). The book concludes with a critical essay that discusses contemporary architecture with 'piranesian' inspiration, concepts of fragmented and dense cities such as the archipelago city, and suggests future possibilities of the hanging city.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherDuizend & Een
Number of pages240
ISBN (Print)978-90-71346-00-2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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