Developing Ambiguity: Idea, Imagination and Michelangelo’s Sketches for the Porta Pia

Jordan Kauffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


For his last architectural work, the Porta Pia, Michelangelo Buonarotti produced some extraordinary drawings, which this article proposes are the first in architecture’s history to embody the creative potentials of sketching. In them, many ideas coalesce in the same space, resulting in work that is sometimes difficult to decipher. The frequent ambiguity of the marks on the paper resulted in a new role for drawings within the design process, in which the conceptual hold of the intellect is relinquished, at least in part, to be replaced by the activity of sketching itself. The article describes the drawings closely in order to reveal the novelty of this approach within architecture, locating them within the history of architectural drawing and showing their effects on architectural composition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-270
Number of pages22
JournalArchitecture and Culture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • drawing
  • architecture
  • Michelangelo
  • Porta Pia
  • architectural drawing

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