Michael Waters

Michael Waters

Hanna Kiel Fellow
Renaissance Architecture and the Architectural Print


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 work focuses on issues of materiality and objects of architectural transmission, and he has published on range of subjects including spolia in Renaissance Rome, the graphic reconstruction of antiquity in the fifteenth century, and the creation, use, and dissemination of early modern architectural prints. In 2011, he co-curated the exhibit “Variety, Archeology, and Ornament: Renaissance Architectural Prints from Column to Cornice,” at the University of Virginia Art Museum.

Project Summary

This project examines the multifaceted relationship between printed images and Renaissance architecture. Through an object-based approach, which traces the origins, production, and use of European architectural prints over the long sixteenth century, it seeks to reveal how this new medium operated within architectural culture. Mechanically reproduced images were not simply banal tools for second-rate copyists, nor were they transformative agents of change that established of a normative mode of design. Rather they emerged from, and became part of, a complex, pre-existent system of visual communication, design, and production that spanned multiple media, materials, and scales. Single-sheet engravings of architectural details developed out of a sketchbook tradition. Architects exploited a disparate array of drawn source material to produce their printed illustrated treatises. Prints were consistently remade through reprinting and hand drawn copying. They were also reinterpreted by architects and builders through a manual process of design and translated into built architecture by skilled craftsmen using a variety of intermediary tools. This project thus aims to rethink Renaissance architectural prints by exploring the ways they operated as dynamic objects within a transmedial network of architectural practice and exchange.