Urban Adventures

Underground cities - 1760s

Piranesi's 'Carceri', 1760s

Piranesi's 'Carceri d'invenzione', plate XVI, 1760s
Designer: Giovanni Battista Piranesi
© RIBA Library Photographs Collection


Piranesi's 'Carceri' prints are fantastical representations of a subterranean world. Numerous passageways stretch into the distance through a series of heavy stone arches. By positioning the viewer in the dark recesses of the prison, the sinister nature of this complex and boundless space is increased with the interplay of light and shadow.

Piranesi's imaginary spaces were never intended to be built - they were dark places where people were overwhelmed by machinery and architecture. His images were distributed widely and were very influential, inspiring architects and writers.


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