Archive for January, 2010


Hello all.  We survived our first project, I’m low on sleep and between classes so if this doesn’t make sense, well, blame my lack of sleep.  I’m going to show you some pictures I’ve took over the last few days showing delibrate examples of juxtaposition.  Rome is justifiably proud of its history (it does have a lot of it) and something many architects and designers are interested in (like my teachers and I) is how we can deliberately layer history in order to create this contrast (as I’ve already discussed before I love this phenomenon).

Before I start here is my new Italian friend, from the frugal architecture workshop.

Frugal Architecture

This was my partner for the Frugal Architecure Workshop, Francesca : )

Apparently (i’m basing this of one blog so who knows if it’s true) people don’t like Richard Meyer’s Ara Pacis Museum.  I am not one of them, but I am well known for liking unpopular buildings (with the exception of Venturi, although i think only my generation really dislikes him.  All  my teacher’s love him.) Although it’s true my favorite part is the piazza and fountain he created.   Anyway I love the contrast here, and the contrast continues in the buildings in the next pictures.  I love the bridge element, and the honesty of the different treatment of the facade of the building on the right.

The view

Hurrah photoshop!

We went to a Museum called the Centrale Montemartini.  It was Rome’s first electric plant, the first major step towards modernity.  They were very proud and spent money on the floors, notice the mosaics, and the lighting fixtures have really cool art noveau motifs.  It is not longer used, but to persevere it it has become a museum.  It was supposed to just be a temporary overflow museum for the Capitoline museum, but it’s so cool it seems to be sticking.  Against the backdrop of modernity, when Rome is poised to perhaps become a great nation a real turning point in history, is displayed some of the greatest statues of the Roman Empire.  And helping to display the statues our contemporary architecture also plays a role, one that is not simply subservient to the other ages and does not try to disappear or stand out. It is simply is itself, while the other era’s of history are themselves. This museum is not apologetic, it wants to create this contrast. And it is spectacular.

First Look

This is the first thing you see upon entering the lower floor. It sums up the museum nicely, i think.

Discrete not discreet

See how modernity is there, but neither obvious or hiding. Simply discrete (not discreet, but close).


Awesome statue. Because they recontructed it a way that didn't assume things, we can understand what it looked like without losing the integrety of the statue. Brillant.


They were very clear about whats new and all. Which is great.


How cool is that?

Blind Contour

My attempt to draw the cool statue and machinery and my proof that I am sketching (sometimes)

Then yesterday we went on a very long walk and saw aqueducts and housing projects.  Aqueducts are GORGEOUS so they get a whole post.  Housing projects are less so, but the architects did have to deal with a nearby historical site, so it gets a mention.  Plus I took some great photographs contrasting the remains of a villa (i think it was a villa, I may be wrong.  I do remember my teacher helped with the excavation which i thought was awesome).  I admit these pictures are more me emphasizing the contrast than actual contrast, but well shush.  : )

Buildings upon buildings

See how they look the same size?


See how these are vaguely the same shape?

And to end this post is a picture of me sitting on the aforementioned roman ruin of a villa  with the aqueducts behind me, as a taste of posts to come. : )

Sittin' on a ruin

Sittin' on a ruin, sketching some aqueducts. Ya' know. The usual


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Hey sorry about the lack of posts.  We’ve been at a design conference since yesterday.  So here’s the schedule (subject to change) Lectures all day yesterday, Workshop/design hell all day today, Presentations  and whatnot tomorrow, sleeping all day sunday.  We’ll be back in a few days. 😉


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The little things

Rome has some truly amazing sites.  The most obvious are gorgeous, huge monuments to history be they new(ish) or old.  From the Victor Emmanuel monument, a pile of marble called “the wedding cake” with some scorn by the locals to the Colosseum (which was once a pile white stone, now converted into St. Peter’s another pile of white stone.  Note: I have no problems with piles of any colored stone, i even like the Victor Emmanuel monument) the many stops of the usual tourists require a whirlwind tour with little time to breath after chasing a guide/guidebook around all day (I did Rome in 3 days a few years ago, I know how it works).  This trip however I have some breathing time.  I mean we have the hurried walking tours trying to cram as much information into a notebook as possible while your teacher walks away carrying his voice with him, so there are certainly some days where my eyes only manage to see the buildings main points.  But when you live in the same neighborhood for a week you start to pay more attention, and sometimes lectures droan on and you get a chance to actually look around at the building your in as you listen with half an ear from actual information to be written down.  You get to notice the details.  SO after a week of being here (plus one day) here are some of the small things I’ve managed to notice.



I adore the lighting fixtures around here, beautiful creations of delicate metalwork.  There is some other really cool metalwork to be found near the windows and doors.


It’s MUSHU! <3333333  On a balcony!


This is the knocker you would use to enter the city from the north after the gate had closed for the night.  Its really big and loud (you can see the Piazza di Popolo in the background)


Another detail from my favortite church, St.  Mary di Popolo.  Its full of cool stuff.  Weird skull, no?


You never know what you can see through a window!  I’m really going to run into something soon….

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I love me a dome.  Nothing is more architecturally dramatic and spectacular on such a consistent basis.  Even the most basic are still amazing.  The Pantheon is almost 2000 years old and is still strikes awe into everyone who enters it.  If it did not it would be lost to history, stolen for its marble (mostly by Popes actually, since the marble was used mainly in Pagan temples…) to create other fantabulous domes *coughst.peterscoughhack*.  Mi scusi, sorry about that.  Instead they just expelled all the pagan ghosts and turned into a church.  So these are some of the one’s I’ve seen so far, while looking up in buildings all over Roma.  I admit that some of these are technically vaults, but its all in the same category of “wow look at that ridiculous ceiling!”.


We’ll start with the Pantheon, since I already brought it up.  Could it be more dramatic?  No matter how big you think it is, its probably actually bigger.  A few doors near the base of the dome (not in this picture however) give it scale, and it surprises me every time.  It rises from simply huge to an architectural marvel with the addition of a very large hole, the oculus, without which it would be to heavy to remain self supporting. The coffering (square carvings, which technically aren’t carved but molds) also make it lighter and the cement mixture had pumice, volcanic stone, added to make the cement itself lighter as it went up.  No one can enter without feeling small and yet connected through this window to the heavens.

Many domes, especially in churches, attempt to invoke this feeling that one is staring into the heavens.  This is to invoke the proper mindset, so that when you enter the church you leave worldly considerations behind and focus on heaven and God.

They range from simple starry skies (this is apparently what the Sistine chapel looked like before they hired Michelangelo):

Starry Skies

To swirling angels:


To Heaven welcoming Mary as she is ascending into heaven (these last three were all from St. Mary of the People again.  It’s filled with amazing artwork):

Heaven Opens

Other ceilings use vaults and beautiful decoration to create lasting impressions upon it’s views. This next one is the ceiling in the chapel that contains relics (the skull actually) of St. Valentine, and was stunning (and very shiny due to the gilding).

Golden Glow

And last, but not least, the vaults of the entrance to the upper levels of Palazzo Mattei.  He wanted to make it clear he was both a wealthy and educated man, and did so with lots of exquisite ornamentation and things stolen from Roman tombs.  I especially like the statues, which features an imposing male as you enter to remind you of his power (forgive me I can’t remember who this statue is of) but as you descend you see a woman carrying a bounty of food to remind you of his generosity which he probably just bestowed upon you.



Silent Guards

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Looking Up

I’ve come to love looking up in this city. Not all the time, I’ll get hit by a vespa (something I fully expect to occur at some point, they’re maniacs) or run into people if I’m indoors (“oh! mi dispiace!”).  It’s no wonder that this city is so religious, they must spent all their time looking up into the heavens!  And of course building like churches are designed that way, in order that we may think of heavenly subjects (those will be covered in the next post I think). But there is something so captivating about the layering of rooflines here. I don’t have too many yet, but I plan to spend I great deal of time taking pictures of my favorites. Perhaps I’ll make a coffee table book out of them….well its a dream lol.  It will be even better if I learn to sketch and watercolor them also.  I even bought watercolor pencils today!   So here is a bunch of pictures  of all my favorites I’ve taken so far (may be writing more posts but Mandi has me beat on pictures lol).  Hope you like them and please comment! : )


Because the building heights vary so much some truly spectacular views are created, like this one of a dome rising above some apartments buildings.  I suppose it could be viewed as a metaphor where the lofty classical architecture of the aristocracy looms over its subjects of the more humble apartment buildings (or “comic” as my teacher would say, refering to Greek theater where comic plays are about the every day life of the masses and filled with humor. The classical settings are for the Tragic plays, with kings and morals.  Satirical are set in overgrown ruins and have fantastical plots.)  So you could think of it that way, but i just like how it looks like its all one very strangely designed building by an architect who just used whatever was available to build with!


A similar situation as the one above but here I love the way the 3 dramatically different buildings frame the dome, with the sky acting as the top of the frame since the building heights align so perfectly.  Its just a coincidence, but it works out so nicely.


I love the way these rooftops layer.  The strong parallel of the angles, the light and shadow differences, the bit of greenery seems to create, to my eyes, an urban mountain, with terraced paths and steep hills to climb.  I also like the hanging lamp, but that doesn’t necessarily fit my fanciful mountain theory.


These buildings look like someone just piled them up from this angle.  You get pulled deeper into the frame as your eyes climb the walls, and I like the curves and angles.  Also someone bricked in a window,  but I like how its still articulated.

These next few are actually all the same building, but have the same feeling of layering and rising heights.

Roof lines

This is an amazing example of the way a building steping back can be so cool.  I don’t know why I love it so much, but I do.  I love the way the ornamentation along the roof lines creates this awesome zig-zag effect.


This isn’t nearly as dramatic an example of layering, but I like the sense of height it creates as the tower soars above the facade of the building.  It must be very tall if it can so easily clear the building from this angle. The bands of ornamentation also slow down your eye as you work your way up, prolonging the ascension of the building.


This gate is one of the entrances to the Palatine Hill, and the ruins of the Domition’s Palace.  The grey part is much older, because I’m pretty sure the Pope and hill family added the marble top part when they turned the ruins into their personal gardens (you can see the crest at the top, each Pope has a different one).  But its interesting how they chose a different material, you feel as though the gate is somehow obscuring almost the entirety of a separate classical building.


This is of of my personal favorites.  Here the dramatic difference of the pinkish light of the setting sun sets the dome off from the rest of the building, adding drama while creating the thin illusion that it is perhaps more than one building. It’s a different way of approaching this layering I love so much, but I find it interesting.   And certainly beautiful.

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Yes. I completely went there.

And no. I don’t mean the crazy awesome pun, I mean the Roman Forum. In the time since my last post we’ve all been good little tourist going everywhere seeing everything and enjoying ourselves quite a bit. It’s been very hard to take notes and try to remember what the professor is saying, doing sketches and being SUCH a tourist and just snapping pictures.

To give you the quick rundown of the last couple days:

Wednesday we walked up to the Piazza di Popolo in the northern part of the city and meandered down the very fashionable streets passing by all the very fashionable people, shopping in the very fashionable stores buying very fashionable clothing for very unreasonable prices.

Thursday we walked to Palatine Hill, and I keep trying to type Palpatine as in Star Wars but I know that’s wrong. Palatine Hill in Roman times during the monarchy and the republic and later the Empire was where all the very fashionable Roman Aristocracy lived very fashionable lives. I won’t get on that rant again but needless to say it was very exciting to walk the ancient streets of one of history’s most famous civilizations, thinking back and imagining the ghosts of say, Caesar Augustus and other emperors walking alongside our group. It was truly the heart of Rome and overlooked as I mentioned earlier, the roman forum. It’s odd, because in the States all things in the museums are behind glass or high-tech security when in Rome most of this is just in the open and tangible and a part of the city fabric. We ended up by the Coliseum, which I would have loved to see the inside, but that will be for a later date when we’re not frantically jumping from class to class and completely across the city. I did, however, get to find Michelangelo’s Campidolio in the center of Rome and I was very excited about that because it’s Michel-the man-anglo.

Friday we took another walk, this time more in our own neighborhood and looked at the more medieval side of things and the literal turduckin of churches. It’s a stylized medieval church, built of a baroque church, built of a medieval church, inside a cattle hold, and built of a roman temple. And last night was amazing because we all got dressed up and we went to this fancy restaurant which had completely amazing food and MOM, no offense, but if you could make lasagna like that I wouldn’t have complained every time we had it over the past 20 years.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. Magdalena, Sarah, and I will be roaming the city today, I want to find some art supplies to pretend to be one of those hip art students just planting themselves in the middle of the piazza painting some random something, but I know I can’t and never will be that good so I’ll probably just enjoy the city while Mag and Sarah are being very fashionable people in the very fashionable shops, looking for very fashionable things at hopefully very reasonable prices. I’ll post some pictures later tonight when I’ve had the chance to organize them.

And Sean. If you’re reading this, please tell me you hugged Leonardo, I can’t remember if you did or not.

I still have yet to get gelato, WHY HAVE I NOT HAD GELATO? Ciao!

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OK.  See the building on the right in the photo? With all the arches?

Cool Building!

It has three different materials!!!! How cool is that?

That is maybe the coolest collection of building materials I’ve ever seen.  The stuff on the bottom right is marble, and forms a lovely colonnade that clearly was ruined at some point.   So someone then decided to fix it, and added the brown stone to finish the colonnade off.  THEN someone else decided that they wanted to live there and built brick on top of that with windows and whatnot.  I’m kind of in love with it.  I may be in a minority, but I love the juxtaposition (one of the many new words I learned to apply to architecture in lecture today) and the contrast it creates. In some ways I agree with Venturi’s theories (for those of you who have read him), I just hate the way he carried out his theories.  Complexity and Contradiction are wonderful tools. I love seeing a modern glass and steel building next to a 18th century one next to a 2nd century one.  History is as new as yesterday in my opinion, and we need to mark our own mark. We shouldn’t be ashamed of our new technology and building materials.  Clearly the Roman’s we’re ashamed when they used the newly invented concrete to build a dome with a hole in the top!  And the Pantheon is one of the most enduring and incredible pieces of architecture ever. So I don’t mean that we need to go around knocking down old buildings (God forbid actually, it is such a waste).  But i have no problem with reusing and adding and some modifying here and there.  And if you build next to another building in a totally different styles, thats awesome in my opinion.  Differences don’t detract them emphasize in the best way possible.  By showing of the differences each building can seem unique.  This building has been saved.  Transformed maybe, but its partial destruction allowed builders to give it a new life, a life it would never have had if it had just been left to fall apart and be scavenged for the pieces.  I’m not saying persevering buildings is bad either, the entire museum of Palatine hill with the Imperial Palace ruins and the forum and Colosseum is amazing.  But even that has been reused it still holds a Monastery after all.  Their importance to Rome’s history have saved them now, and they will not be allowed to fall further into ruin and be lost to history.  But most buildings don’t have that out and need us to help save them.  Even the Pantheon only survived because a Pope wanted it to become a Catholic Church at some point.  Otherwise it would have been plundered shamelessly for its materials, like most other ancient buildings.  And if we can create some ridiculous architecture that mixes old and new, balancing the differences in such a way as to highlight and not detract from either side, than hell yes!  (This is not my best writing ever btw, I should really do some serious editing but I hate doing that.  It’s boring.)

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