Like most architects, the twelve Yale students in Peter Eisenman and Matt Roman’s spring 2012 Piranesi seminar were inspired and puzzled by a series of etchings of ancient Rome that dated back more than two centuries. With the help of Materialise, the students were able to bring the mystery to life and to feature their work at the world-renowned Venice Biennale.


An Architect’s Dream

In 1762, the engraver, mapmaker and architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi created a series of six etchings that depict his fantastical vision of what ancient Rome might have looked like.  Entitled Campo Marzio dell’antica Roma, these etchings have been a source of speculation and inspiration for architects, urban designers and scholars since their publication 250 years ago.  For the 2012 International Architecture Biennale in Venice, twelve Yale Architecture students, attending the Piranesi seminar by Peter Eisenman and Matt Roman, were challenged to conduct an expansive study of Piranesi’s work and to create a display that would meet the expectations of the prestigious Biennale.


Making a Fantasy a Golden Reality

With access to a copy of Piranesi’s original folio and with the help of Yale School of Architecture Director of Exhibitions Brian Butterfield, the students first reinvented Piranesi’s Rome through three-dimensional digital modeling. Then, using one of its Mammoth Stereolithography machines, Materialise created a highly detailed physical model at the scale of the original etchings – the first of its kind.  As a final step, the model, which measures 1500 x 1300 x 90 mm was gold leafed by the artist Pasquale Bonfilio.


The Eternal City Lives on… in the Venice Biennale

The students glimmering interpretation of the Eternal City of Rome, which has impressed visitors and the press alike, forms part of “The Piranesi Variations” display in the Common Ground exhibition at the Venice Biennale.


For more information about The Piranesi Variations, visit

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