Conference ”Fragments, Architecture, and Antiquarian Knowledge”

Organized by Eleonora Pistis and Michael W. Kwakkelstein

8-9 June 2023

This symposium addresses how different types of information on past architecture were created, collected, translated, and disseminated via various media between the Sixteenth and Eighteenth Centuries. The aim is to understand how fragments of physical remains, images, and texts were assembled, interpolated and used in the construction of architectural knowledge and buildings, while also reflecting on the social construction of truth and credulity, the role of print technology, and the institutionalization of learning.

The period under investigation was characterized by increasingly wide horizons, both in terms of geographical expansion (mainly through travels and explorations) and chronological span (for example, through the study of fossils). There was not just one single idealized Greco-Roman past, but multiple historical pasts. As a result, Western artists, architects and antiquarians had to face a growing body of information, and, with their own specific expertise, had to test themselves on the creation of new graphic representations, historical narratives, and collecting practices.

In recent years, scholars such as Giovanna Ceserani, Peter Miller and Christopher Wood, among others, have expanded and challenged the previous interpretation of antiquarianism established by Arnaldo Momigliano. At the same time, a new history of knowledge (or, rather, of knowledges), as framed by Peter Burke, is now trying to redefine the boundaries of what should be accounted for ‘knowledge,’ while the history of scientific observation, the management of information, the history of technology, as much as the history of truth, credulity, and deception are receiving increasing attention within the scholarly community.

Within architectural history, the study of how architects approached, studied, and handled fragments, ruins, and buildings of the past has always been a central and everlasting interest. But what is it the current state of the scholarship, and how should it respond to the challenges posed by the adjacent fields?

This symposium attempts to answer these questions by discussing different types of objects (such as drawings, books, maps, and buildings), figures with different expertise (like architects, antiquarians, cartographers, etc.) spanning a large geographical and chronological framework. By bringing into conversation a group of international scholars, its final goal is to find and test new, more inclusive frameworks and productive fields of discussion.

Click here for the program.

The conference is open to the public free of charge. Pre-registration is required to guarantee seating: