Pirro Ligorio  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Pirro Ligorio (c. 1510 – 30 October 1583) was an Italian architect, painter, antiquarian and garden designer.


Ligorio was born in Naples. In 1534 he moved to Rome, where he developed his interest in antiquities, and was named superintendent to the ancient monuments by the Popes Pius IV and Paul IV. In 1549 he began excavations in the Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli and designed his masterwork, the water works at Villa d'Este, for Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este. He also played a role in designing the fountains at Villa Lante in Bagnaia, working alongside Vignola. His Mannerist taste is present also in the Casina Pio IV (also known as Villa Pia) at the Vatican (1559–1562).

In 1568 he was fired by Paul V for having criticized Michelangelo's work in St. Peter's Basilica, and moved to Ferrara, where he was guest of Duke Alfonso II d'Este.

As a scholar of antiquities, one of his most famous published works is a map of ancient Rome (Antiquae Urbis Imago) from 1561. After the 1570 Ferrara earthquake he was appointed as the leader of a study group about seismological events, a team of physics, philosophers and many "experts in various accidents" called to the city in order to conduct research about earthquakes, the first scientific effort of this kind in history of seismology. In his research, Ligorio blamed for the extensive damages the inappropriate techniques and bad materials used in building the city's edifices.

In the last part of his treatise, Rimedi contra terremoti per la sicurezza degli edifici (Remedies against earthquakes for building security), Ligorio presented design plans for a shock-proof building, the first known design with a scientific anti-seismic approach. Many of the empirical findings of Ligorio are consistent with contemporary anti-seismic practices: among them the correct dimensioning of main walls, use of better and stronger bricks as well as elastic structural joints and iron rods.

He died in Ferrara in 1583.

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