Mar 10 2009

Return of the Italian

Published by Italy_JT under Architecture, Drawing

It’s like Return of the Jedi, but better.

I am going back to Rome this week for a ten day visit over my academic spring break to focus on an intensive sketching of 14 buildings.  Each of the 14 students in my class has been researching a building in Rome, and we will present on site to the rest of the class, and then everyone will have a chance to draw our building.

The building I chose is Castel Sant’Angelo, which was previously the burial monument to the Roman emperor Hadrian.  It was converted into a military fortress, a residence for Roman families, then taken over as a Papal residence/retreat during times of war.

3 responses so far

Dec 17 2008

Piazza Ghiberti

Published by Italy_JT under Architecture, Drawing

This will be my last post in Italia.  My architecture studio final was this past Thursday, and I was at the point of mental and physical exhaustion when it was finished.  And, like every other semester, I am sick at the end of it.  I was violently ill last night, and I will need to visit the doctor when I get home.

Our design was an urban infill project, where we are taking an empty piazza and putting life into it; I appreciated how practical this design problem was, because it frequently occurs in professional practice, and now I am more aware of site context and fitting in my design harmoniously with its surroundings.

Siteplan (1:500)

Ground floor 1:200 (auditorium, library offices, core and mechanical spaces, and cafe under the trellis.)  Diagrams on the right show section intention, circulation, and proportion systems.

Second Floor 1:200 (Circulation desk, book stacks, drawing storage, study spaces, core.  Outside the library is the second floor gallery, with a crosswalk to the architecture school adjacent to our site.  Diagrams show different spatial ideas and an understanding of construction systems.)

Third and Fourth Floors and Exterior Perspective (1:200)

Sections (Top two at 1:200 and large section at 1:100)

Farewell, and Viva La Italy!

5 responses so far

Dec 17 2008

Church of the Autostrada

Published by Italy_JT under Architecture

The Autostrada is the Italian word for, “highway,” as we use it in America; in my urbanism class today, I learned that the first strips of the autostrada were laid before the German autoban, making Italians to have the first highway system in the world.  This church was made for the families of construction workers who had lost their lives during its construction, and it’s intended patron was John the Baptist.  When we visited the church in our class, we were told that the Catholic church passed a law recently that required everyone to be baptized in their local parish church, and the Church of the Autostrada did not have a parish.  Since that law was passed, no one has been baptized in the church.

The church, as viewed in its main entrance

The back view

Church’s three bells (father, son, holy spirit)



Hidden light from above

Second floor balcony

Stair details, bathed in soft light

Stain glass window above the altar in the sanctuary

Concrete sculpture of Jesus on the cross.  Very realistic - and I was happy to see the nails driven through Jesus’ wrists, instead of his palms; the Greek word for wrist and palm are the same word - but only through the wrist would there be enough support to hold up the weight of a body during crucifixion.

Detail of window


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Dec 15 2008

The Home Stretch

Published by Italy_JT under Architecture, Photographs

Architecture classes are over!  I am writing my last essay for my last final, and tomorrow morning I will be finished for the semester!  This is the final last stretch before going home on Thursday morning!

These are photographs from Tivoli, which is the last town that I visited; my friend Daniel took these for me, since my digital camera broke; I hope to get it repaired when I go home.  Ranking up there with my all time favorite sites of Italy (including Villa Rotunda, the two Palladio churches in Venice, the Colosseum, and the Pantheon) is Hadrian’s Villa, which is in Tivoli.  My professor joked that architecture is an extremely difficult profession that requires years of work, but it is a fantastic hobby; when you are the wealthiest man in the world - as the Roman emperor Hadrian - I’m sure you have lots of money and land to make whatever architecture that you want.

I think I am going to try to make one or two more posts before leaving Italian soil: tomorrow, I will try to post about the Church of the Autostrada!  Tomorrow evening I get my architecture studio project drawings back from being professionally scanned, so I may post those as well in a separate post.

Me at Villa D’Este

Me at Hadrian’s Villa

11 responses so far

Dec 14 2008

Italian Sketchbook Highlights

Published by Italy_JT under Architecture, Drawing

My ‘Survey of Italian Architecture’ sketching class is over, and we received our sketchbooks back.  I scanned my entire sketchbook, and these are some of my highlights.

Statue of Neptune, Florence, in front of Palazzo Vecchio

Alvar Aalto Parish Church, Riola

Carlos Scarpa Castlevecchio museum, Verona

Renzo Piano Biosphere, Genova

Palladio’s Villa Rotunda, Vicenza

Casa d’Oro, Venice

Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore church, Venice

Palladio’s Renatore II church, Venice

Colosseum, Rome

Michelangelo’s Campidoglio, Rome

Castle San Angelo, Rome

(Left) Bramante’s Tempietto, and (Right) Michelangelo’s David

Trajan’s Market (section and perspective), Rome

Bernini’s San Andrea al Quiranal and Borromini’s San Carlos Quattro Fountaine, Rome

(Bottom) Piazza Del Popolo, (top) Vatican Guard costume [would look better in color]

Sequence drawing: Duomo to Piazza San Annuniziata, Florence

Sequence: Plan of Vasari’s Corridor - Uffizi to Palazzo Pitti

5 responses so far

Dec 13 2008

Lessons Not Learned From Textbooks, II

Published by Italy_JT under Italian Culture, Photographs

The semester is almost over!  Architecture classes finish early, like they always do; I’m relieved of the stress and worry of getting my final project completed.  The library, gallery, cafe, public space for Piazza Ghiberti here in Florence turned out pretty well, and I was pleased with my development of it.  We had a photoshoot yesterday where we photographed all of our work from the semester, and I’m going to bring most of my drawings home in a plastic or cardboard tube.  I have one final and one graphic project left, and my academic semester will be complete!

My first post in Italia on September the 3rd included a portion of an e-mail from my friend Sean, who was encouraging me to learn the things that I won’t find in a textbook.  I looked back at those things this morning, and it was a moment for me where I realized some of my personal growth and development.

I certainly hope that you travel safe and can utilize & hone your street
smarts while in abroad. That’s one of the greatest learnings people can
pick-up while traveling about at your age.
So be sure to dive-in and absorb as much as you can through all aspects of
your daily life…from food to body language, to how americans are
perceived through the eyes of those who aren’t from the U.S. notice the
newspapers, the fashions, the TV news, the food portion sizes, the way
they recycle/ or don’t, the daily routines that form the patterns of
people’s lives. Some of these folks have been doing the things their
great-great-great grandparents did too. think of what you see as a
section, and you’ll begin to find the layers upon layers of history &
tradition. Find where the original city walls were, and notice the shapes
& width of streets. How do the people engage all these aspects of their
environment…as you know there is far more than what meets the eye.
Yes, you are going to learn more of Architecture and see & touch many
things you’ve studies, but to obtain the intangibles of how other cultures
operate. Achieve the worldly-ness that comes with travel which is not from
traveling, but is through truley experiencing these places as both a voyeur and a citizen.

That may be one of the greatest things to learn while there.
You can then apply these things to your designs and suddenly, there is
depth and real meaning to every wall in your designs and every wall that
creates the defining blocks in your life.

The food here is delicious, and it will be one of the things I miss the most; Italians are intensly passionate about many things in their lives, but food seems to rank highest on that scale, if not for family life.  Frozen foods and leftovers seem frowned upon, and a lot of their recipes require fresh ingredients, including fresh fruits and veggies from the market.
Body language is highly expressive, and many people talk with their hands on almost every subject.  Not only hand motions, but a great deal can be absorbed by eye contact (or lack of it) as well as facial expressions that often give away true emotions.

Many Italians seem to see Americans as a rude individuals who give no thought to cultural or way of life of Italians; although a large percentage of Italian cities thrive on tourism, I’m sure the lack of tourists even trying to learn Italian language or blend in is tiresome after only a short while.  Indeed, I have found myself frustrated with large crowds of people jumbled in the Centro of the city, who are plugged into headphones so they can hear speeches from tourguides, and huddle in packs.  I prefer the tourist who has his or her guidebook in hand, who is reading something to learn for a more personal basis.  These tourists are also less frequently victims of pickpockets.
Fashion is a tricky subject, and I know I’ll never been in an issue of GQ, so I almost find it hard to identify.  My attire is simple and plain, and often without a great deal of graphic advertisements or flashly logos.  Italians are exactly the opposite - flashy, polished, well dressed, and suave.  Shoes, purses, and especially high boots are the identifying items of wealth and personal taste - the more expensive, the better.  I almost laugh at those ideas because I’m so different; I want to be warm, comfortable, and modest.
The TV news talks a great deal about both internal and international politics, and I feel very little connection to regional or local news; I was surprised that they often use architectural or computer renderings to illustrate a story or show an idea, instead of a photograph or rolling video feed.  The weather is all displayed in diagrams, and you can watch the weather with the television on mute.
The food portions sizes are always smaller than what I expect from the United States, but there is a cultural ceremony of food, and especially at the dinner table.  Breakfast is extremely light, or not at all.  A common breakfast is a pastry and about 4 or 5 ounces of coffee that is jump-starting kick in the face!  It’s so strong, and I prefer cappuccino to it every time (with lots of sugar).  Lunch is an extended meal, for a great deal of shops and businesses close down for a two hour break in the day.  Hours are from 8:00AM-1:00PM or 9:00AM-1:00PM, and then 3:00PM-8:00PM.  Almost everything shuts down at 8:00PM, and dinner is around 8:30PM or 9:00PM, which lasts for more than an hour, and sometimes even two hours.  Dinner includes several small servings, which often relate to one another in a theme.  There is the antipasta, which is the appetizer, or you jump straight into the first course, the primi.  Most of these are a type of flavored pasta with veggies, or a soup.  The secondi is the largest portion of the meal, which is the closest to our American main entree.  The meal is completed with the dolci, which is often a small sweet dessert, or a combination of fresh fruits.  My favorite dessert is Gelato, about 30 minutes or an hour after the final meal.  That’s the food I will miss the most when I come home.
Everyone recycles, and that’s because beside the garbage can there are blue bins for plastic, cardboard, and glass.  Not only in our apartment, but I have also seen this in restaurants and shops, where the trashcan is adjacent to the recycling unit (which has partitions).  Garbage cans are all smaller, not like the huge ones we use in America; you would often identify the main trashcan in the kitchen to be something small enough that you would put in your American bathroom.  Grocery bags are ideal for liners, because you just tie them up when finished and take it out the the street front by the plastic handles.  Rectangular prism garbage collection units line the street, and they are operated by a metal foot bar that you press down to open the lid.  There is a metal eye loop at the top of the units, so they are picked up by a crane device on the trash collection unit to be turned over, where most of American huge trashcans have forklift inserts welded to the frame.  In Italia, blue units are for recycling, and yellow units are for garbage.  Unfortunately, there are holes in the bottom of the units, and any fluids leak out onto the streets, causing a horrible - awful - stench.

I found the original city walls in Florence - or what are left of them; most of them were converted in the 19th century to be the Viales, the wide streets for automobiles.  The remaining walls are on the south hills, on the other side of the Arno, which are really only visible from Piazza Michelangelo.
The streets are narrow in the historical Centro of the city, where the Roman and medieval city thrived; Via dei Calzaioli is my favorite street downtown, not only because it has my favorite gelateria, but it has a wide with of eight meters, and is a pedestrian street.  Outside the viales, the 20th century streets are designed to be wider, to allow for parking on one or both sides of the street by modern automobiles.  I prefer the narrow streets, which are more proportional to the human body scale.

I already think I’m going to miss this place, even though I’m ready and looking forward to coming home.  It’s been a fantastic semester for me!

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Dec 11 2008

A Faraway Land, III

Published by Italy_JT under Poetry

“A Faraway Land, III” (November 30th, 2008)

My time to go home is near
and I am living with no fear;
I can’t wait to get back home
but I know I will miss that Dome.

My time here has been full of joy
and I’ve been a good schoolboy.
I spent my last days in Rome,
and now I’m heading back home!

My new friends I’m leaving behind,
which makes me sad for we designed
together for a semester abroad.
I will miss hand drawing that facade.

I’ve seen some amazing sights
and ahead of me lay four long flights;
I know I have been so blessed,
and I look forward to my Christmas rest.

I know I will one day look back,
review those old memories in a playback.
for this land will have made me a callback,
be from a bookrack or a flashback.

I already know I want to come back,
“Where did I put that old backpack?”

One day I’ll get back on a plane,
or maybe take a long train,
for another visit to the city of the Dome.
After there… I’ll head to Rome!

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Dec 02 2008


Published by Italy_JT under Architecture, Photographs

Me at the Mausoleum of Theodric

Theodric’s load bearing lintel over his door to his tomb (in marble)

San Vitale courtyard with double Corinthian columns

San Vitale Nave

Moses (both as the shepherd and the burning bush)


Melchizedek, who is a really interesting character (Genesis 14:18-20, Hebrews 5-7) who was both a priest and king, blesses Abraham.

The prophet Isaiah

Mosaic details on the floor (beautiful!)

The dome view

Flying buttresses outside San Vitale that act as additional structural support; oddly enough, they are positioned on the diagonal of the loadbearing walls, and not perpendicular to them (they way they should be).

San Vitale exterior (back facade)

San Vitale belltower

Church of the New Apostles (altar detail)

Church of the New Apostles (altar ceiling)

Church of Apollinaris (from the nave)

15 responses so far

Dec 01 2008

Urbino, the ideal city

Published by Italy_JT under Architecture, Photographs

University of Urbino - Economics Building - Staircase details: I love the hidden light because the stair is actually separate from the wall by an inch or two, letting light trickle down into the stairs.

Another staircase in the economics building.

Wall detail from a typical classroom in the economics building; made of blue painted bricks.

The cathedral of Urbino, adjacent to Palazzo Ducal.

Palazzo Ducal courtyard - the ideal city’s courtyard in perfect symmetry and proportions.

The court room of Palazzo Ducal

Infrastructure below Palazzo Ducal - gives you an idea of the amount of work required to keep the palazzo running; kitchens and stables and baths and servant quarters and the sewage system are all there, tucked away out of sight of the main view.

Church outside of the city limits of Urbino, generally accredited to Bramante.

Bramante’s Dome

5 responses so far

Nov 27 2008

Thanksgiving and Rome Reading Summaries

Published by Italy_JT under Reading Summary

Happy Thanksgiving!  I will miss getting to eat with my family today, but a group of my friends are having a potluck dinner in an Italian style.  Tomorrow I am getting on a bus at 5:15AM to drive to Rome for two days and two nights, and on Sunday I’m visiting Tivoli.  With only 21 days left in my semester, I’m starting to feel the academic crunch of the end of classes, and I’m also looking forward to returning home on December 18th.

It is my deep regret that my digital camera broke in Ravenna, and I doubt there will be many more picture posts before the end of the semester; I purchased two disposable cameras today from a tourist shop in downtown Florence and cringed at how much I had to pay for them; I doubt I will have time to develop them until I return to the United States.

Rome Readings Summary

While new “Roman” cities are planned using a logical, organized principles - a cardio, decumantus, and centuriation grid - Rome itself has a unique geography.  The topography of seven hills with their associated valleys and the Tiber river’s constant flooding were difficult initial barriers for building a city; Rome may seem like a poor location for the head of the greatest empire of the world.
Not only differing from most cities from geography, Rome held a unique social and economic situation. Rome lacked strong guild organizations revolving around industry and trade, which in many other Italian cities held a great political power; it had no industry and exported very little.  During the papal reign, much of the economy was from tourism and the pilgrimage of Christians. Both religious and secular positions were constantly changing as new popes came into power and elected family relatives or friends into offices for the duration of their reign.
As a city, Rome lacks a single central commanding piazza or city core; instead, it has many foci.  The urban fabric is composed of connections of activity from one great monument to another; however, no ultimate overall arching scheme appears visible at the level of an urban plan.  Pope Sixtus V later drastically changes urban development through building new straight thoroughfares that bring Christian pilgrims from seven different churches within their visit to Rome.  His idea of “goal principles” is to erect an obelisk or other climatic monuments to give pedestrians an easily identifiable goal to be reached and a measure of the distance between two points.  Although only a few monuments were completed in piazzas before his death, other popes who saw his success continued his idea.
Roman villas in the countryside were attractive alternatives to life in the city where citizens did not have to endure constant noise, high cost of livings, and formal attire.  Otium is the ideal vision of country life where one can enjoy undisturbed intellectual and creative activities, leisurely conversations with friends, and find delight in contemplating nature as it changes in season.  Negotiis, on the other hand (business, affairs, and preoccupations), is associated with the city’s headaches.  Several variations of the villa typology exist: earliest examples fall into the category of Villa Rustica, which was primarily an agricultural farm with heavy physical labor - working the land for both subsistence and profit; Villa Urbana is the dwelling of the proprietor, focusing more on luxury; Villa Fructuaria is for the processing and storing of wine, oil, and grain; Villa Suburbana is a retreat near the city; Villa Marittima appears at the seashore and often extends out into the water.
Formally and spatially, Rustica villas were practically organized around the daily schedule and rigors of running a farm: stables for animals, wine presses and storage, and a grand kitchen were sometimes within the same roof; later luxury villas had a tablinum (reception room), one or two triclinium (dining room), cryptoporticusI (covered walkways), and usually had an atrium, open courtyard surrounded by a columnade, and an exedra (dining hall) in an axial alignment.

14 responses so far

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