On the Interpretation of Architectural Perspective


by Riccardo Migliari, Marco Fasolo and Leonardo Baglioni

This contribution identifies the recurring problems in geometric restitution of architectural perspectives and proposes a working method. The inverse problem of perspective proposes the reconstruction of the fundamental elements in space. However, when the observer and spectator are not congruent, a question is raised: should we reinstate illusory space in realistic or surrealistic way? To answer this question, a new approach to restitution is suggested, which is organized into three moments: visual analysis, geometrical analysis and three-dimensional reconstruction, and critical interpretation.

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Architectural Perspective: digital preservation, content access and analytics

National research (PRIN 2010 – 2011)

The objective of the research project is the preservation, the study and the popularisation of the Architectural Perspectives (AP). The project pursues this aim through the development and the application of the most advanced communication technologies (ICT). The main topic of this research project, namely the Perspective, has a strongly European character, and as such it is acknowledged and shared.
Perspective is transversal in Europe: worldly speaking, because it starts from the evidences of Roman wall paintings, arriving at the Baroque illusions; spatially speaking, because there is no region or European language which has not employed the Perspective, often borrowing solutions from one country to another; culturally speaking, because Perspective is the synthesis of science and art, and it is always developed interchanging the geometric and projective theoretical speculations, and the practising of the drawing and the architecture.
The Perspective, which this research project considers a privileged case study, is that of the geometric structures that, painted onto walls (2D) or carried out in  dimensions (3D), are able to evoke an illusory depth of the architectural space. A good example of the 2D kind is the fresco painted by Agostino Tassi at Lancellotti Palace, in Rome (1621 – 1623).

Italy and all Europe have a cultural heritage of Architectural Perspectives (AP) which extent, complexity and historical importance, for science and for art, is,currently, inestimable.
This project foresees, among its main activities, the study and the validation of survey techniques and procedures, of registration, of classification of the Architectural Perspectives, at the end of achieving a first global valuation, and inductive, of the Italian cultural heritage. This also explains the very high number of Operational Units and their distribution on the territory.
Among these techniques is the Photography in ultra high resolution, which this research project will give a reliable measurement quality, such as to guarantee a documentation that is useful for the preservation. The urge of this kind of experimentation is evidenced, just to cite one example among many, by the fragile and precarious condition of Pompei.
The gathering and the diffusion of the data, do also have another value, because all these Perspectives are ‘treatises without words’ of geometrical science and their comparative examination is therefore an innovative tool for the development of the knowledge at historical scientific level. In particular, the project foresees the application of statistical methods to the analysis of the Perspective structures, like those already tested with success at the measurements of the double ration in the frescoes of Augustan age.
The digital techniques for the Perspective rendering and 3D modelling will give us the opportunity to study the proportional, compositional and stylistic aspects of the represented illusory spaces. These features do often have close relationships with the environment that houses the Perspective scenes, as these reconstructions highlight. The 3D documentation will also be useful to ensure the diffusion of the results.
Although the architectural Perspectives have always amazed the non-expert visitor, these kind of Perspectives are still not very well-known, maybe also because a systematic study, like the one this research project would like to contribute to, has never been undertaken. It is therefore not the least important part of this research project, the experimentation and the validation of innovative techniques of broad-spectrum communication of the essential data, collected and interpreted. With this objective in mind, and taking advantage of the experience matured through the previous research projects (2005 and 2008), techniques of interactive navigation of the spaces will be used, as well as techniques of Augmented reality implemented on tablets and smartphones.


Volume I (1st of 3) … read or download

Perspective: Theories and Experiments on the “Veduta vincolata” (Restricted Sight)


by Riccardo Migliari and Jessica Romor

Erwin Panofsky’s work on ‘Perspective as symbolic form’, has had a powerful impact not only on the art critics and therefore on the artistic-historical literature, but also on the studies that deal with the theme of perspective from the scientific point of view. The reflections stated by Panofsky in the incipit of his essay, in fact, were considered in an uncritical and superficial way to say that the perspective describes an image of the space that it represents, similar to that of the human vision only if: the eye of whoever is looking is positioned exactly in the projection centre used to generate the perspective image; the same eye remains motionless and therefore with the direction of the gaze perpendicular to the picture. This condition of observation of the perspective is known to the Italian scholars as ‘vedutavincolata ‘. Recent studies have proved, theoretically and experimentally, that, on the contrary: the eye of whoever is looking at a perspective can move in an area around a projection centre without causing a collapse of the perspective illusion, or better, of the sense of visual depth evoked by the perspective; the eye of whoever is looking can freely move around, in every possible direction, without compromising the effects of the perspective. These studies are expounded in this paper, first of all describing the theories and the experimentations that have given the above mentioned results. Secondly, it describes the verifications carried out on important perspectives painted on walls and entire rooms, in which the conditions of one single projection centre are respected. It also describes other works, in which appropriate solutions permit to dilate the area of the vedutavincolata. Finally, in a quick re-reading of the first pages of Panofsky’s essay, this paper aims at an interpretation of it, which attempt to overcome the conflict between the advocates and the detractors of perspective as legitimate form.


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