School of Architecture students unveil 'Piranesi Variations' at Venice Biennale

Yale School of Architecture (YSoA) — represented by Dean Robert A.M. Stern, professor Peter Eisenman, critic Matthew Roman, and 14 of their students — have a prominent presence at the 13th International Architecture Biennale in Venice, which runs through Nov 25.

Stern has been chosen to chair the prize jury for the exhibition (see story), while Eisenman, the Charles Gwathmey Professor in Practice at Yale, and students from his second-year spring seminar are exhibiting a project that provides a new dimension, literally, to a landmark work by 18th-century engraver, mapmaker, and architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778)

The director of the Biennale, Sir David Chipperfield, invited the internationally renowned architect and theorist Eisenman to propose a project for the Central Pavilion at the Venice exhibition, which this year is organized around the theme “Common Ground.” Eisenman, in turn, invited his Yale students to contribute the historical analysis produced in the seminar as a platform for three contemporary interpretations of Piranesi’s drawing — one from Eisenman’s own New York office, Eisenman Architects; a second from the architecture critic Jeffrey Kipnis of Ohio State University; and a third from architect Pier Vittorio Aureli of the Belgian office DOGMA, who will be joining the YSoA faculty in spring 2013.

With access to Piranesi’s original folio, housed in Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Eisenman’s students “re-invented” Piranesi’s Rome as a detailed gold-painted 3D-printed model at the scale of the original etching — the first of its kind.

Titled “The Piranesi Variations,” this multipart endeavor focuses on Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s 1762 “Campo Marzio dell’antica Roma,” a folio of six etchings that depict his fantastical vision of what ancient Rome might have looked like, derived from years of archaeological and architectural research.

Each of the models created for this exhibition is 8 x 10 feet at its base — double the size of the folio. Each revisits Piranesi’s etchings, proposing answers to the inherent questions they raise about the relationship of architecture to ground, following the theme of “Common Ground.”

Accompanied by the students’ study of Piranesi’s architectural inventions, the work will be on display in the Central Pavilion of the Giardini in Venice, Italy for the duration of the biennale.

The participating students are Daisy Ames, Adrienne Brown, Aaron Dresben, Caitlin Gucker-Kanter, Nicholas Kehagias, Amy Kessler, Ollie Nieuwland-Zlotnicki, Talia Pinto-Handler, Otilia Pupezeanu, Teo Quintana, Aaron Schiller, and Melissa Shin — all M.Arch ’13. In addition, Gucker-Kanter, Quintana, and recent YSoA graduates David Bench (M.Arch ’12) and Can Bui (M.Arch ’12) helped prepare the exhibit for presentation in Venice.

See related story.