Lecture Series

Symptoms of Modernity: Giovanni Battista Piranesi's Project of Space

  • 18.00 - 19.00
  • 27 May 2015
Symptoms of Modernity: Giovanni Battista Piranesi's Project of Space
In the mid-18th century, Piranesi’s graphic work produced a fierce visual attack that unsettled the stability of the classical languages of architecture. His powerful images redefined architecture and still resonate in contemporary architectural discourse.

Teresa Stoppani Professorial Inaugural lecture Teresa Stoppani has hosted her professorial inaugural lecture as Professor of Architecture at Leeds Beckett University, where she explored the work of 18th century Italian engraver and architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

The lines of Piranesi’s etchings manipulated the process of drawing, challenging the conventions of architectural representation and transgressing the rules of the classical orders of architecture. But Piranesi’s work went beyond this.

While his designs remained mostly confined to drawings and copper engravings, his images produced one of the most important “projects” in the history of architecture, as they redefined the very notion of modern urban and architectural space. Piranesi’s etchings did not simply represent spaces that were, nor did they anticipate spaces that were yet to be. Rather, they envisioned possible and multiple conceptions of space that are still explored today and implemented in contemporary architecture.

In this lecture, Teresa argues that it is important to reconsider Piranesi’s etchings today, not as surveys of ancient ruins or creations of fantastic spaces, but as a project of ideas. She suggests that Piranesi’s work makes possible a new notion of space – open, infinite, changing, smooth, dynamic – which engages the shift of contemporary architectural and spatial practices, where pencil and burin are replaced by animation software packages and scripting languages, towards an architecture of becoming: an architecture beyond form, which works with change and materiality.

Teresa Stoppani was a Professor of Architecture in the School of Art, Architecture & Design at Leeds Beckett University.

Teresa is an architectural theorist and critic and began her academic career teaching architectural design and theory at IUAV University, Venice, Italy. Before joining our University in 2013, Teresa also worked for the Architectural Association and the University of Greenwich, both in London, the University of Brighton, and the University of Technology Sydney and RMIT University Melbourne in Australia. At Leeds Beckett, she is Head of Architecture in our School of Art, Architecture & Design, directs the PhD in Architecture programme and supervises postgraduate dissertations and thesis projects.

Teresa’s research focuses on the relationship between architectural theory and the design process in the urban environment, addressing in particular the influence of other spatial and critical practices on architecture.