Design, replication and materiality are three of the themes explored in the forthcoming exhibition Diverse Maniere: Piranesi, Fantasy and Excess at Sir John Soane’s Museum. The great Italian printmaker, antiquarian and architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi was a major influence behind the architecture of Soane’s Museum, which is one of those delightful ‘secret’ London breathing spaces that you can feel a bit smug knowing about.

Large-scale 3D print sculptures reproduce designs visualised by Piranesi in the publications Diverse Maniere d’Adornare i Cammini and Vasi, Candelabri, Cippi, Sarcofagi, which were never realised during his lifetime. The state of the art medium of 3D printing lends itself beautifully to these intricate confections, you can only imagine how Piranesi and his contemporaries would have marveled at this apparent ‘magick’. As stunning as the drawings are, the reproductions will truly blow your mind.


Working with the Fondazione Giorgio Cini and design studio Factum Arte, the pieces have been produced using specialist modelling and printing technologies and include bronze tripods, porphyry altars, gilt chairs, shell-shaped silver coffee pots and candelabra. Based in Madrid, Factum Arte consists of a team of artists, technicians and conservators dedicated to digital mediation – both in the production of works for contemporary artists and in the production of facsimiles as part of a coherent approach to preservation and dissemination. These are shown alongside the Piranesi prints upon which the designers have based their creations. Arrangements which were once seen in Piranesi’s atelier in the Palazzo Tomati, are recreated in the gallery. Instead of the antiquities which decorated Piranesi’s space, Factum Arte have installed fragments of 3-D prints that explore the form and material of the objects. There is also a chance to explore how Piranesi’s display in the Palazzo influenced the way Soane arranged objects within his own house which is now the museum.

Also on display are a selection of rarely seen drawings from the Soane Office, which illustrate how Sir John Soane looked to Piranesi for inspiration.

As part of the museum’s programme of events, three panel discussions, involving leading architects, designers, artists and academics, will look at how different disciplines approach these issues and what they might tell us about architectural and design practice in the past and how it has evolved today.

All talks will begin at 6pm unless stated otherwise and take place at the Royal College of Surgeons, WC2A 3PE.

10 March 2014, 6 – 8pm
Visualising Design Ideas
Taking Piranesi’s prints and Sir John Soane’s architectural drawings and models as a point of historical reference, this discussion will look at how contemporary architects and designers utilise various production methods and strategies in the design process.

Michele de Lucchi, architect and designer
Ross Lovegrove, designer
Adam Lowe, Director of Factum Arte, Madrid
Chair: Abraham Thomas, Director of Sir John Soane’s Museum

18 March 2014, 6 – 8pm
Using Objects as Evidence of Themselves
How should material expressions of design be interpreted? How does an object inform us of its cultural or historical point of origin? This discussion will focus on the different approaches used to analyse an objects design.

Jerry Brotton, academic and writer
Lisa Jardine, academic
Grayson Perry, artist
Chair: Abraham Thomas, Director of Sir John Soane’s Museum

19 May 2014, 7.30 – 9.30pm
Casts, Copies and the Dissemination of Design Ideas
Sir John Soane used plaster casts along with 1:1 scale architectural fragments as important teaching tools within his museum. What potential does the process of copying offer today’s designers? How can we intelligently and creatively deal with intellectual property issues? This discussion will examine how ‘the copy’ has been used to recycle and blend ideas from the past, and the intriguing possibilities offered by contemporary technologies.

Adriano Aymonino, art historian and academic
Sam Jacob, architect, writer and curator
Simon Fujiwara, artist
Chair: Abraham Thomas, Director of Sir John Soane’s Museum

Ticket information: Early bird ticket offer: purchase tickets for all three talks for £40. Individual lecture tickets, £15. Visit for further details. Tickets are available from Eventbrite:


Exhibition: Diverse Maniere: Piranesi, Fantasy and Excess
7 March – 31 May 2013
Sir John Soane’s Museum
13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields,
London WC2A 3BP

Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm.  Last entry 4:30pm

Admission: Free


Factum Arte, Grayson Perry, Piranesi, Ross Lovegrove, Sir John Soane's Museum,