Rome: Piranesi’s Object as Field in the Baths of Caracalla

Critics: Stephen Harby, Joyce Hsiang, Bimal Mendis, Alexander Purves, and Bryan Fuermann

Architects’ responses to the ruins of Rome, such as Piranesi and Robert Adam, created a significant body of historical knowledge, and inspired them to create new designs. Ruins have greatly enriched the architectural discourse over time allowing architects to think about the permanence as well as the fragility of architecture.

Piranesi’s etchings and engravings of both ruins and imagined spaces have been extremely influential in my architectural education and in the way I draw. I visualize Rome as a series of monuments that are somewhat timeless as they tell a story from the past yet are still occupied by the public today.

Within the Baths of Caracalla is a spirit and memory that lingers. Capturing this essence as they stand today interests me as the spirit of the same structure could have been defined and drawn in a different manner centuries ago. The importance of the body during that time and the harmony of forms to the society which inhabited these spaces is intriguing and allows for the imagination to reconstruct the spaces as you walk around them today. The context within which the baths sit signifies the original function of the baths, yet the structures seem to be emerging from the ground as if part of the earth. This suggestive permanence is juxtaposed with decay and an idea of the fragile.