This is a view of the Piazza di Saint' Ignazio from the steps of Saint' Ignazio church. Filippo Raguzzini was the designer of the piazza and like so much in Rome there is a feeling that what the designer really had in mind was stage-craft and not street-scape or architecture. Modern architects could well learn that one craft is not separate from the other. The buildings at the time of Raguzzini were working class and craft-makers' apartments and not the usual aristocratic town palaces that one finds on such piazzas. But Raguzzini places the apartments around the square with a realization that the square is made for viewing people. The shapes of the building seem to be part of a moving set, each piece fitting into the next. The square when viewed from the steps of the church reveals five buildings and six streets which makes for eleven entrances and exits. One can already imagine the vast comic farce or opera with people pouring in and out of every entrance and always missing each other except at crucial times. If you ever have a chance to go to the Piazza di Sant'Ignazio stand on the church steps and imagine the windows opening, people shouting, men and women coming on stage from the doors and going off stage into the streets. A movie is ready for filming and the piazza is ready for its close-up.
The first time I stumbled onto this square it was at night and I wasn't looking for it. But as soon as I stepped onto the set of this piazza I knew that this was a place I had marked out in my mind to look at and imagine. There are places in our world, whether human artifact or natural, that must be filled with imagination in order to see them clearly. This is one of them. Think of the thousands of people who pass through this square without a second look. There are no spectacular fountains and no great palaces and the Church, that gives the piazza its name, looks like a bad imitation of the Gesu from the outside -- a neo classical Baroque at its most plain. (Inside the Saint' Ignazio bursts with the theatricality of Baroque art, especially Andrea Pozzo's ceiling fresco.) But lend your mind to this piazza which Raguzzini built as a homage to the complications and intersections of urban working class life and you begin to see what was once considered radical and dangerous about urban street-scapes.
It is Bloomsday and though Leopold Bloom never seems to have set foot in Rome I think that a walk through Rome with one of the great city-walkers in all fiction would have been a pleasure. He, surely, would have been able to enjoy the comedy of this theatrical street-scape.
Jerry MonacoJerry Monaco
16 June 2008
New York City
by Jerry Monaco
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