Archive for March, 2010

Today’s topic/rant/philosophical treatise is based on the walk I took last week with my teacher Anthony.  On this walk we learned about the early 19th century architecture in Italy who’s style was mostly no style.  Rather the architects at the time where searching desperately for a style, and seized upon the past.  What part of the past you may ask?  ALL OF IT.  Nothing was exempt, and it ranged from medieval to rococo to Venetian Gothic to every sort of classical decoration and all the ways people reinvented classical architecture ever.  Often at the same time!  *insert Spamalot line here*

Fake Gothic Church

The mosaic work, columns and tower all look right, but they were built after 1900.

House of the Masks Tower House of the Masks Arch

This is a very strange building. It is covered in every conceivable sort of roman decoration type things.Note the strange masks above the arch for example.

Fake Venecian Gothic

This seems to think its in Venice.  It’s missing a canal though.

Supervilan style

Anthony decided this was Gothem Supervillan style.  Its called the house of the spider because of the motif in the wondow above the door.

Fake Medieval Villa

Actually its medium density housing, not a Medieval villa.

The humble house

“parva, sed apta mihi, sed nulla obnoxia” reads the inscription “Small, but suitable for me, and not offensive” which is a piece of a longer famous inscription on another house.  Mandi described it as “bite sized” which is pretty much correct.

And its awesome, i totally love every strange bit of it.  And yet I feel shame as I do, because according to modern architectural thought (which I admit has a point in some ways) I as an architect am supposed to be looking for the style of my own time.  I blame this on Corbusier, who was all about progress because he was so annoyed at all the eclecticism/copying that the generation before him was doing (In case you don’t know, it’s an unwritten rule that architecture students have to hate everything from about the last generation.  I’m certainly no exception, I start having emotional outbursts when forced to look at 70’s architecture. It’s all awful.)  And as my teacher said today, any sort of historical copying is a lie and a romantic fantasy.  Well in this world of horror that we live in according to contemporary art (another rant for another day), I think we could do with a good dose of romantic fantasy. Now I’m not suggesting we should go all rococo gold gilding on our buildings.  First of all gold is out; silver is the new gold.  Platinum records and steel construction are things that define our age.  But this whole lack of ornament, minimalist stuff is getting to be a bit much.  I like ornament.  Ornament is the reason I like all the historical stuff.  “Don’t ask why!!!” exclaimed my teacher today, when asked why something looked the way it did on a fake medieval medium density housing attempt.  My response was “Because it’s pretty!” which he agreed with with more exclamations and sarcasm (we love him he’s hilarious).  In searching for a style they decided to try things the architect basically thought was pretty (except being an architect he probably used lofter adjectives).  Most of the rest of the world likes pretty, and only architects and designers despise the word. We put a lot of work in to get a banal word like pretty for our efforts, so I get our annoyance with it. But pretty is not a word you would apply to the geometric forms of modernity.  But a carved detail or some nice ornamentation might merit a deserving, not sarcastic, “pretty”. I like Scarpa over Corbusier.  I don’t want to live in a “machine for living”. I want to live somewhere that is willing to give and take a little, change over time, and give me something to look at.  Scarpa is good for that.  Corb is a little terrifying in his white planes and general rationality.  I feel like he reduces us to robots. I don’t hate him, he had many really good ideas and changed architecture dramatically, I just don’t take his word as law.  Which as just as well, since he’s almost a century old and soon copying him would be betraying him.  I’m supposed to be finding my own style.  And you bet your ass it’s gonna have some pretty details.

These next pictures are from the “House of the Owls” part of the property of the Torlonia family Villa (the main building was leased for 1 lira a year to Mussolini the entire time he ran the country, if the current head of the family could remain living in this house).  They have been the most hated family in rome since the first man a tailor suddenly made a lot of money, and he and his decedents have been vindictive and greedy ever since according to Anthony. Whatever its history, its adorable and eclectic and detailed and PRETTY and I want it!

Tower above the doorStairs outside

Balcony and arch

Architecturally it looks like the builder just kept adding new things on.  And in the process stuck in lots of cool details.

Owl ColumnWater feature

Look at this cool column motif of owls.  You can make out the claws on the base, right where the column ends.  And the pool has cool swirls of colored mosaic and little waterfalls.  The inside is also lovely and it has tons of arts and craft style details, like stained glass and goregous inlaid wood walls and floors.

Same stairs interior Inlaid Wood Panals

These next too are from the same room

Swallow decorationSwallow Room Stained Glass


Read Full Post »


….Hi.  Once again I really need to apoligize for ignoring this blog.  I say that a lot I know, but we are still very busy.  We were in  the Venezia region visiting Verona and Venice, then on spring break doing nothing even vaguely like work, and then came back and had a midcrit this past friday so we worked like maniacs for a week.  Now we’re writing essays that are due tomorrow afternoon and require lots of research and severely limited resources.  We were up at 8 for the sole perpose of beating everyone to the studio to get a monopoly on books.  But we really need to work on our time management and get back to writing regularly, but it is a slippery slope.  I’ll go find some sort of harness and ice climbing gear and work on it I promise.  I’ll even badger mandi about it!

Your long lost friend,


Read Full Post »