Practices of Copying & Imitation in Early Modern Architecture (1400-1700)


Practices of Copying & Imitation in Early Modern Architecture (1400-1700)This international conference starts from the premise that practices of imitation and copying were integral to the making of architecture in early modern Europe. Theoretical discourses of the period posited that architecture was an art in constant evolution based on imitation (imitatio). Extending from classical rhetoric, imitation was said to entail an element of invention, which allowed for the adaptation and skilled use of models. Following this formulation, scholars of early modern architecture have written extensively about the numerous parallels between literary and architectural theory, mining the former in devising frameworks for the conceptualization of architecture.

By contrast, this conference seeks to direct attention to verifiable practices and material documentation of copying and imitation in the workshop and on the building site, and how this evidence sheds new light on the production of architecture. Individual conference papers address commonplace processes of copying and imitation, as manifest in techniques of traced drawing, the manipulation of models, the casting of ornaments, writing on architecture, and the reproduction of decorative details. In considering copying and imitation as part of routine practice, often motivated by needs of economy, efficiency, and scale, the conference aims to better understand the driving forces that enabled the rich and varied architectural culture of the early modern period.

Conference Program

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Paper Abstracts

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Maarten Delbeke (ETH Zurich)

Metonymy or imitation? The bones, stones and stars of St. Rasso in Bayern
15 June, 17:30

Practical information

15 & 16 June 2023

VANDENHOVE Centre for Architecture and Art
Ghent University
Rozier 1
9000 Gent


Please register in advance to attend the conference and the keynote lecture.

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Nele De Raedt (Université Catholique de Louvain)
Elizabeth Merrill (Ghent University)