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

Geometrical Objects


From my chapter: Andrea Pozzo, Rules and Examples of Perspective Proper for Painters and Architects, etc., (London: J. Senes, R. Gosling, W. Innys, J. Osborn and T. Longman, 1707, reprint New York: Dover, 1989), plate 17, perspective study of Doric base.
Source: Susan Klaiber / public domain

Proceedings of 2007 Oxford Conference

What began as a small session at the Society of Architectural Historians 2005 Annual Meeting in Vancouver, and then developed into a very collegial two-day conference in Oxford in 2007, has now been published by Springer in both hardcover and e-book formats. My contribution, the chapter “Architecture and Mathematics in Early Modern Religious Orders,” may be previewed at Springer Link.

From the volume’s cover blurb:
Geo Objects coverThis volume explores the mathematical character of architectural practice in diverse pre- and early modern contexts. It takes an explicitly interdisciplinary approach, which unites scholarship in early modern architecture with recent work in the history of science, in particular, on the role of practice in the scientific revolution. As a contribution to architectural history, the volume contextualizes design and construction in terms of contemporary mathematical knowledge, attendant forms of mathematical practice, and relevant social distinctions between the mathematical professions. As a contribution to the history of science, the volume presents a series of micro-historical studies that highlight issues of process, materiality, and knowledge production in specific, situated, practical contexts. Our approach sees the designer’s studio, the stone-yard, the drawing floor, and construction site not merely as places where the architectural object takes shape, but where mathematical knowledge itself is deployed, exchanged, and amplified among various participants in the building process.​

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Anthony Gerbino, editor, Geometrical Objects: Architecture and the Mathematical Sciences 1400-1800, Archimedes 38, (Cham: Springer, 2014).


• Introduction Anthony Gerbino


• Proportion and Continuous Variation in Vitruvius’s De Architectura Bernard Cache

Mathematics and Material Culture in Italian Renaissance Architecture

• The Palazzo del Podestà in Bologna: Precision and Tolerance in a Building all’Antica Francesco Benelli

• Practical Mathematics in the Drawings of Baldassarre Peruzzi and Antonio da Sangallo the Younger Ann C. Huppert

• Geometric Survey and Urban Design: A Project for the Rome of Paul IV (1555–1559) David Friedman

The Baroque Institutional Context

• Architecture and Mathematics in Early Modern Religious Orders Susan Klaiber

• The Master of Painted Architecture: Andrea Pozzo, S. J. and His Treatise on Perspective Kirsti Andersen

Narratives for the Birth of Structural Mechanics

• Geometry, Mechanics, and Analysis in Architecture Jacques Heyman

• Epistemological Obstacles to the Analysis of Structures: Giovanni Bottari’s Aversion to a Mathematical Assessment of Saint-Peter’s Dome (1743) Pascal Dubourg Glatigny

• A Scientific Concept of Beauty in Architecture: Vitruvius Meets Descartes, Galileo, and Newton Filippo Camerota

Architecture and Mathematical Practice in the Enlightenment

• Breathing Room: Calculating an Architecture of Air Jeanne Kisacky

• James “Athenian” Stuart and the Geometry of Setting Out David Yeomans, Jason M. Kelly, Frank Salmon

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The Archimedes Series

Archimedes has three fundamental goals: to further the integration of the histories of science and technology with one another; to investigate the technical, social and practical histories of specific developments in science and technology; and finally, where possible and desirable, to bring the histories of science and technology into closer contact with the philosophy of science. …Its subjects include any of the sciences, ranging from biology through physics, all aspects of technology, broadly construed, as well as historically-engaged philosophy of science or technology. Taken as a whole, Archimedes will be of interest to historians, philosophers, and scientists, as well as to those in business and industry who seek to understand how science and industry have come to be so strongly linked.
Source: Springer

Laws of Time and Planets: Movable Feasts 2014

Perpetual Calendar from Guarini’s Leges Temporum

Leges temporum movable feasts editedGuarino Guarini, Leges Temporum, et Planetarum… (Turin: Ex Typographia Haeredum Caroli Ianelli, 1678): p. 3 of tables.
Source: Google Books / Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

Guarino Guarini’s Leges Temporum, et Planetarum… (Turin: Ex Typographia Haeredum Caroli Ianelli, 1678) presents an extensive set of astronomical tables specifically addressed to an audience in and around Turin. In fact, the title page explicitly lists the latitude and longitude for the Piedmontese capital. The tables include various calendars – Roman, Persian, Egyptian, and others – as well as lunar cycles and other astronomical phenomena. Cross-reference lists relate some tables to each other or to the calendar of the common era. Other tables furnish the latitude and longitude of cities in Italy and abroad. The publication is situated squarely within the tradition of early modern Catholic astronomy, chiefly directed to calculating the annual date of Easter and other movable feasts in the liturgical calendar.

Guarini looked far into the future, providing the necessary information to calculate Easter for many centuries after publication of the book. Even the new year 2014 is accounted for. After consulting initial tables which aid in determining the date of the first Sunday of the year, the lunar cycle in relation to the vernal equinox, and adjusting (if necessary) for a leap year, the reader is directed to “Tabula 10” (above), where the correct row for 2014 is underlined in red. The table gives the following values:

Movable Feasts for 2014 from Leges Temporum

“dominical (or Sunday) letter” = First Sunday of year: “e” = 5 January
Septuagesima Sunday: 16 February
Ash Wednesday: 5 March
Easter: 20 April
Ascension: 29 May
Pentecost / Whitsun: 8 June
Corpus Christi: 19 June
24 Sundays after Pentecost
Advent begins: 30 November

Here’s to a festive 2014!

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Further reading:

J. L. Heilbron, The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals As Solar Observatories (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1999).

Image below: Globe with eclipse diagram, from Guarino Guarini, Leges Temporum, et Planetarum… (Turin: Ex Typographia Haeredum Caroli Ianelli, 1678): 48.
Source: Google Books / Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

Globe Leges Temporum

Baroque Snowflakes

Rossetti NeveDonato Rossetti, La figura della neve (Turin: Per la Vedova Gianelli, e Domenico Paulino, 1681): 10.
Source: IMSS / Biblioteca Digitale del Museo Galileo

Donato Rossetti: Early Modern Scientist and Sometime Architect

Donato Rossetti (1633-1686) was a Tuscan natural philosopher, mathematician and canon of Livorno cathedral who arrived in Turin in 1674. Like many early modern scientists, Rossetti also dabbled in both civil and military architecture. He provided a project for San Salvario, Turin; wrote the fortification treatise Fortificazione a rovescio (Turin: Per Bartolomeo Zappata, 1678); and consulted on several fortification projects in Piedmont. As a colleague of Guarino Guarini’s, Rossetti recorded the perhaps most vivid eyewitness description of the Theatine. After Guarini’s death in March 1683, Rossetti took over as ingegnere at the Cappella della Sindone, supervising the late stages of construction until his own death three years later.

Among his diverse scientific works, Rossetti published a pioneering investigation of snowflakes, La figura della neve (Turin: Per la Vedova Gianelli, e Domenico Paulino, 1681). Building on earlier microscopic studies of snowflakes by scientists like Robert Hooke, Rossetti carefully classified and illustrated a broad array of snowflake types. In his Clerks and Craftsmen in China and the West, Joseph Needham notes that Rossetti, “was the first to draw in detail the hexagonal platelet type of crystal” (seen in the image above). The Archivio Scientifico e Tecnologico dell’Università di Torino (ASTUT) created a reenactment of Rossetti’s snowflake studies in a video (below) produced on the occasion of the 2010 exhibition “Piemonte al microscopio.” The short film evokes the chilly research necessary to make the observations presented in La figura della neve, and also includes footage of the copy of the book held by the Biblioteca Reale, Turin.

Season’s greetings: let it snow!

General links and further reading on Rossetti as architect:

Brief biography of Donato Rossetti on the website of the Francesco Redi project.

Discussion of Rossetti’s Fortificazione a rovescio in the essay La Trattatistica militare del ‘600 e del ‘700 of the virtual exhibition Trattati di architettura militare 1521 – 1807 by the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Florence.

Alexander Wragge-Morley, stimulating post on Robert Hooke’s Snowflakes on his Historian at Work blog.

Claudia Bonardi, catalogue entry 295 in Diana trionfatrice: arte di corte nel Piemonte del Seicento, ed. Michela di Macco and Giovanni Romano (Turin: Umberto Allemandi & C., 1989): 271-272.

Costanza Roggero Bardelli, “Amedeo di Castellamonte e Donato Rossetti: due progetti per San Salvario,” Studi Piemontesi 19:1 (1990): 65-72.

Martha D. Pollak, Military Architecture, Cartography and the Representation of the Early Modern City (Chicago: The Newberry Library, 1991): 84-85.

John Beldon Scott, Architecture for the Shroud (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003): 114, 370 n. 65.

Giuseppe Dardanello, “La costruzione della visione nella cappella della Sindone,” in G. Dardanello, S. Klaiber, H. A. Millon, eds., Guarino Guarini (Turin: Allemandi, 2006): 58-87.

Image below: detail from Donato Rossetti, La figura della neve (Turin: Per la Vedova Gianelli, e Domenico Paulino, 1681): 20.
Source: IMSS / Biblioteca Digitale del Museo Galileo

Rossetti snowflake detail

Architecture and Early Modern Jesuit Mathematics

Wuppertal_Jesuit_Mathematics_posterI am looking forward to participating in the upcoming workshop Teaching and Publishing Mathematics and Science in the Society of Jesus in Early Modern Europe organized by Prof. Volker Remmert at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Science and Technology Studies (IZWT), Bergische Universität Wuppertal, 12-13 June 2013. The international roster of speakers promises stimulating contributions from a variety of viewpoints. My own talk examines architectural topics featured in Jesuit mathematical publications, c. 1590-1750.
Image: IZWT Wuppertal (click to enlarge)