Michael J. Waters is an assistant professor in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. He earned his PhD from the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, and was previously the Scott Opler Research Fellow at Worcester College, University of Oxford. His forthcoming book, Renaissance Architecture in the Making, examines how materials, methods of facture, building technology, and practices of reuse shaped fifteenth-century Italian architecture. He has also published articles on architectural prints, drawings, and treatises and co-curated the 2011 exhibit Variety, Archeology, and Ornament at the University of Virginia Art Museum.
Abstract: The advent of printing has long been derided as enabling individuals with little capacity for invention to design buildings by means of copying. For some theorists, this seemingly unimaginative replication of mechanically reproduced images heralded the rise of a banal formalism. While scholars have challenged this simplistic understanding of architecture in the age of printing, little attention has been paid to the practices of copying at the heart of this belief. Confronting this paradigm, this talk, using a bottom-up, object-based approach, explores the complex ways in which the reproduction and remediation of printed images shaped architectural practice already in the sixteenth century. It argues that commonplace acts of copying, processes of direct translation, and even seemingly mundane, monotonous activities such as the manual replication of printed treatises constitute an overlooked cultural technique, one that became integral to design practices and the production of architectural knowledge.