Upcoming Conference: Spaces of Early Modern Architectural Production

Elizabeth Merrill has organized the upcoming conference Spaces of Early Modern Architectural Production at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. The conference forms part of a working group on the topic that began with a video conference last fall, and will continue after the conference with a members-only workshop.

I am looking forward to participating with my talk “Network Structures: Exploring the Architectural Spaces of the Theatine Archipelago,” and hearing the other talks with interdisciplinary perspectives at the intersection of history of architecture and history of science.

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From the conference announcement:

The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG), Main Conference Hall,
Boltzmannstraße 22, 14195 Berlin, Germany

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Registration deadline: May 14, 2018

The Spaces of Early Modern Architectural Production


Space is essential to architecture. In contrast to painting and sculpture, architecture
is fundamentally defined as a spatial construct, taking form not in two dimensions
or three, but four. Architecture – as a direct product of its spatial dimension – is also
fundamentally experiential and social. The theoretical conception of space – the
understanding of space as a social product – provides a systematic, yet expandable
language for examining the production of architecture – the processes, materials,
structures, knowledge systems and people integral in the making of architecture.
To the extent that the concept of space facilitates such avenues of investigation,
this conference pursues these insights in regards to architecture of early modern

Conference Program

9:00 – 9:30 Welcome & Registration

9:30 – 9:45 Introduction

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Renn (MPIWG)
Director’s Welcome

Elizabeth Merrill (MPIWG)
Introduction to the Conference

9:45 – 11:15 Panel I

Noam Andrews (New York University)
Towards an Architectonics of Outer Space

Ludovica Galeazzo (Duke University)
“Conquest” and Construction of an Urban Space: the Insula dei Gesuiti in Venice in the Early Modern Period

Susan Klaiber (Winterthur, Switzerland)
Network Structures: Exploring the Architectural Spaces of the Theatine Archipelago

11:15 – 11:30 Coffee

11:30 – 13:00 Panel II

Wolfgang Lefèvre (MPIWG)
Architecture on Paper: Development and Functions of Architectural Drawings in the Renaissance

Sebastian Fitzner and Paul Brakmann (Freie Universität, Berlin)
Spaces of architectural knowledge: The model collection and “Kunstkammer” of Johannes Faulhaber (1580-1635) in Ulm

Elizabeth Merrill (MPIWG)
Model Book Production & Architectural Education in Fifteenth-Century Siena

13:00 – 14:00 Lunch

14:00 – 16:00 Panel III

Federico Bellini (Università degli Studi di Camerino)
Architecture for Music: sonorous spaces and furnishings in sacred buildings of the Roman Renaissance and Baroque

Stefan Holzer (ETH Zürich) and Nicoletta Marconi (Università degli Studi di Roma Tor Vergata)
Construction and restoration scaffoldings development between 17th and 19th Century in Europe: case studies in Italy, France and Germany, and their interrelationships

Merlijn Hurx (Universiteit Utrecht)
“The most expert in Europe”: knowledge production and innovation in specialised
building technologies in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic

16:00 – 16:30 Coffee

16:30 – 17:30 Panel IV

Anthony Gerbino (University of Manchester)
Architectural Knowledge as Spatial Practice: Geometrical Survey in Sixteenth-Century France

Edward Triplett (Duke University)
Drawing Borders with Castles and Maps – Making Sense of the 16th Century Livro das Fortalezas

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Please RSVP to emerrill@mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de by 14 May 2018

Image above from my talk: Frontispiece to Girolamo Vitale, Lexicon Mathematicum, 2nd ed. (Rome: Vannacci, 1690).
Source: Internet Archive / public domain

Building Trades in Seventeenth-Century Bologna

Francesco Curti, Virtù et arti essercitate in Bologna (Trades Practiced in Bologna), Plate 6 (Building Trades), mid-17th century.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), M.69.7.1g / public domain

This print – one of a group of twenty depicting various trades – provides an excellent overview of the different kinds of workers found at an early modern construction site. Here, the specific context is mid-seventeenth-century Bologna, and the artist Francesco Curti illustrates around a dozen specific jobs, most conveniently labeled.

Misuratore and architetto: detail of above image

The range runs from the foppish architect – identified as “architetto” on the sheet of paper he holds – through the masons (“muratori”), painter (“imbianchitore”), stonecutter (“tagliapietre”), and unskilled manual laborer (“manouale”) apparently mixing mortar. Other figures include donkey drivers (“asinari”), a sawyer (“segantino”), a kiln operator (“fornasaro“), a plaster maker (“gessaruolo”), and a carpenter (“falegname”). Many of these vocational designations varied regionally – for instance, the “tagliapietre” was elsewhere known as a “scalpellino” – but the jobs performed were similar all across Italy.

The man standing to the left of the architect is most likely a misuratore, a building surveyor who measures the completed work for calculating the materials used and thus the costs. He holds his attribute, the measuring rod, but is not explicitly labeled with his occupation. Nonetheless, his role was central to the successful practical and financial administration of the building site.

The image gives an unusual glimpse into an active cantiere in Seicento Italy, and can serve as a valuable illustrated glossary for countless construction documents of the period.

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Do note the related plate with artists – painter, sculptor, relief carver, and engraver – but also merchants, soldiers, artillery specialists, and a letter carrier!