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Carlo Fontana and the Origins of the Architectural Monograph


Relatively little is known about the engineer, architect, and publisher named Carlo Fontana. Having moved to Rome at the age of twelve, there is not much to be said about those first years of his life. We do know that shortly after coming to Rome, he began studying under Giovanni Maria Bolino, an independent master mason. From this point, the young Fontana maintained a consistent trajectory in his architectural and engineering education by working beneath Pietro da Cortona and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Both capomaestri may have inspired Fontana to transition from his role as engineer and architect, focused on the more technical aspects of building, in particular an early form of hydraulic engineering, to publisher-architect, by focusing on the more aesthetic aspect of architecture and the ability to publish his unique scenographic conceptions. Specifically, this is seen in a growing trend in what would become known as the architectural monograph in the 20th century. It is important that we define what exactly an architectural monograph is, and how it differs from other architectural publications of this period, before we begin looking at Carlo Fontana’s publications.

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