The Politics of the Piazza has been awarded an Outstanding Academic Title 2009 by Choice the leading source for library-relevant book reviews in the United States. In his review David H. Sachs of Kansas State University describes The Politics of the Piazza in the following terms.

The book features an introduction and 14 historically ordered chapters arranged into four sections. Canniffe discusses the social, political, and economic conditions surrounding some of the most important public urban spaces of each historical era, and explains how these forces influenced the formation and evolution of each piazza. The book is thoroughly researched, appropriately referenced, precisely written, highly reliable, and genuinely insightful.

And you can Read more books by us

A Harvard Colloquium


The last time Eamonn Canniffe (of CiA) was at Harvard, Peter Eisenman was a spring chicken. You can hear Eamonn speak about his current book at the De Bosis Colloquium in Italian Studies at the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures on 1st April. Details:

Manchester School of Architecture
The Politics of the Piazza. The History and Meaning of the Italian Square (Ashgate, 2008)

Wednesday, APRIL 1, 2009 from 4:00 to 6:00 PM Sever Hall, Room 203

From Acoustics to Zoomorphic

…via Fabio Novembre.


CiA staffer Sally Stone has, along with her perennial collaborator Graeme Brooker and newbie Michael Coates, produced The Visual Dictionary of Interior Architecture and Design. It’s a cutely packaged book that is intended to inform and inspire. And, of course, the pictures are more prominent than the words. Except, strangely, on the cover.

More CiA books

Interior Architecture: Context & Environment


CiA staffer Sally Stone and her co-author Graeme Brooker have just had their second book in the Basic Interior Architecture series published.

“Context & Environment” examines the ways in which elements based both inside and outside of the host building can influence and effect the interior space. The book proposes a method of interpretation, evaluation and utilisation of physical factors, such as light and orientation, the contextual issues of the urban form and the subject of sustainability, and their influences on the design of the interior and the remodelling of existing buildings.

Amazon link: Basics Interior Architecture: Context and Environment

Mapping architectural controversies of the recent past


Histories of the Immediate Present: Inventing Architectural Modernism by Anthony Vidler (MIT Press 2008)

Anthony Vidler’s elegantly slender volume in the ‘Writing Architecture’ Series presents a highly readable account of the archaeology of contemporary architectural theory. He discusses the work of four historians, Emil Kaufmann, Colin Rowe, Reyner Banham and Manfredo Tafuri, their thought, the context in which they worked and the influence they exerted on the practice of architectural history and design.

In many respects this is a finite field. All the subjects are dead, although a posthumous translation of Tafuri’s last work as ‘interpreting the Renaissance: Princes, Cities, Architects’ won the 2007 Sir Nikolaus Pevsner International Book Award for Architecture. However, their writings still resonate in the academy and less significantly in architectural practice. Kaufmann’s identification of ‘pavilion planning’ in the eighteenth century as symptomatic of modernity, might be contrasted with the complex autonomous language which was Rowe’s paradoxical legacy to contextualism. In turn Banham’s hymns of praise to technological determinism, although always attracted to counter trends, provided an academic backdrop for hi-tech, and Tafuri’s authoritative research in the Italian tradition was grounded in a thorough reading of its political and historical context.

Vidler ties these disparate individuals into an alternative narrative of mid-twentieth century architectural history. Arriving at a point when economic circumstances are likely to afford a prolonged pause for thought, it is a timely reminder of the difficult subterranean roots of post-modernism, often obscured by the blandness of late-capitalist late-modernism. The historian’s task is perhaps always to dig around in those roots, without necessarily knowing to what later interpretation that excavation might lead.

The cover illustration itself shows three significant figures in an ‘afterparty’ moment at the RIBA. On the left Reyner Banham, looking like a former wing commander and dressed incongruously in a dinner jacket, observes an exchange between two senior titans of British architectural history. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner draws languidly on a cigarette, while Sir John Summerson, dour in a three-piece Savile Row suit holds forth. The photograph captures as a metaphor the subjective basis of architectural history, Banham’s oedipal disputations, Pevsner’s outsider’s view and Summerson’s establishment gravitas, their different perspectives standing for the collection of interpretations which serves as the methodology of objective history.

The Politics of the Piazza


Eamonn Canniffe has written a new book entitled “The Politics of the Piazza: the history and meaning of the Italian square”. The book, which has been published by Ashgate has been described by Professor Nicholas Temple of Lincoln School of Architecture as making

an important contribution to our understanding of the changing political landscapes that have influenced public space in Italy. The study succeeds in both being a chronological survey, demonstrating a breadth of knowledge of critical developments from ancient Rome to the present, and a series of insightful case-studies.

The Politics of the Piazza: The History and Meaning of the Italian Square (Amazon link)

Ben Kelly: Off the peg


This month’s issue of AD Magazine, Interior Atmospheres, contains an article by CiA staffer Sally Stone with her regular co-author Graeme Brooker. The piece, entitled “Off the Peg: The Bespoke Interiors of Ben Kelly” was based upon an interview with the designer and discusses the qualities of the interiors that he creates.

In response to our opening discussion about the general perception of interiors practice and education, Kelly introduces himself as ‘an old fashioned interior designer’. He describes the subject as something that has integrity far beyond just surface consideration and he regards it as something that is ‘very close to architecture, but its not architecture’, that actually has little to do with surface treatment, but has its basis in the manipulation and control of space. He explains that the starting point for any project is in the analysis and understanding of the unique qualities of the existing space, and suggests that there is a resonating element that springs from the original building that is crucial for the development of the project. This interpretive attitude can be traced back to the work of the well known interior architect, Carlo Scarpa, although of course with vastly different visual results.

‘When I get the plan then this is when the project begins. We sit around the table and discuss what it’s telling us, what’s possible, what can we keep and what has to go,’ says Kelly. The site-specific qualities of the existing building that can be teased out and repossessed in the transformation of a space are one of the major sources of atmosphere in his work. It is from these readings that the process of organisation and assembly can begin. Kelly could be accused of not really doing very much; the basic spaces are relatively unaltered, many of the finishes are pre-existing and the new bits are very much the same as the old. He makes it look too easy. But that is exactly the point – he liberates the existing, not just in the way the space is exposed and manipulated, but also, and most importantly, the manner in which the new elements, insertions and materials echo the existing qualities.

Ben Kelly Design


Pictures: (Top) Ben Kelly in his studio, photo by Graeme Brooker; (Bottom) article page featuring The Hacienda, Manchester (now destroyed).

CiA at IUAV Venice

CiA staffer Sally Stone and her co-author Graeme Brooker have just returned from the “Re-habituation of Interior Space” conference, which was held at the Università IUAV di Venezia in Italy. The theme of the conference was the remodelling and re-use of existing buildings and the design of interior space. This international conference attracted papers from as far away as Sydney, and Stone and Brooker were one of only ten speakers invited from almost ninety submissions. They found themselves sharing the platform with the distinguished Austrian architect and winner of the Heinrich Tessenow Medal, Heinz Tesar, who presented his newly completed Bode-Museum in Berlin. Also presenting were the eminent architects: Andrea Branzi, and José Ignacio Linazasoro and there was a special presentation from Umberto Riva, who showed a selection of his work from the last 50 years.

Gianni Ottolini, from the Politecnico di Milano, completed his opening address with a plea for the remodelling of existing buildings to be taken seriously as an importantant and necessary area of expertise; “…we must defend our specific competence and responsibility as formulisers and constructors of a habitational architecture that is authentic, desirable and possible, in a critical and vital relationship with the past.”

Stone and Brooker presented a paper, not without a certain amount of deliberate irony, on Spolia and the art of re-using whole and complete elements. When they suggested that, within a post-modern, post-industrial society, the traffic bollards and shipping crates re-used by the likes of Ben Kelly and LOT/EK are as viable examples of spolia as classical relics, murmurs of surprise (and disagreement) could be heard from the Venetian audience.

Further details can be found at: rehabitation of interior space

It was not all hard work and Stone and Brooker enjoyed an excellent meal, organised by the conference coordinators at the Trattoria da Ignazio on the Calle Saoneri in the San Polo district. The spaghetti with crab is highly recommended.

Conference publication: Gli interni nell progetto sull’esistente, ISBN 978-88-7115-561-6