Tag: Architecture

Review – Daniels Reviews 2014

Writing April 17, 2014

This past week has been the usual whirlwind of final review activity that accompanies mid-April. I particularly enjoyed this year’s reviews for the creative drawings I saw in a few architecture thesis reviews and a few particularly strong landscape thesis projects. I attended around half of the Masters of Landscape Architecture thesis presentations, and a handful of the Architecture ones. The Landscape Architecture reviews were at times impressive and others underwhelming. While thesis is never an easy time to get through, I am sure all of the students experienced an immense amount of growth and discovery in their paths this semester, and I would like to congratulate everyone who is graduating, and also those who just finished their second or third review! Attending reviews is always tough, as everybody has their own ongoing deadlines. But it is always SO worth it. I think I have been subconsciously preparing for my design thesis since I saw my first presentation two years ago. I am very excited to do it next year, after watching all the great presentations and the motion of the well-oiled machine that is a cohort of classmates helping their peers pin up. I would like to add some notes to the Landscape Architecture reviews. Of course there were the usual offering of projects that tended to urban design, urban planning, or extremely small scale study of path widths. Namely, of the presentations I attended, I felt I noticed some interesting recurring themes: Topically:

  • Unique coupling of advantageous productive program with human experience (for example, farming/mining/geothermal)
  • A series of sensitive small scale interventions (walkways, borders, levels) in a strategically chosen and immensely large, beautiful, and almost incomprehensible landscape
  • An interest in systems design, specifically relating to waterfronts (water is of course a common theme, but one project related to an escape plan for 200 islands; another, garbage management for one of the world’s largest cities)

Graphically:

  • A not so shocking lack of models
  • Similar typefaces.. you’ll see..
  • Desaturated and highly detailed vegetative textures
  • The section perspective made a successful appearance. Let’s hope it stays and maintains quality without forgetting it is not a perfect substitute for an eye level rendering.
  • Delicate line drawings in plan that are arguably difficult to read but print nicely
  • Giant context plans………. I hope that when your project starts with a world map that it was worth making that drawing compared to the amount of time you spent on it!

Trend or result of pedagogy? You decide… I wonder what will be in vogue next year! Here are some photos of this week’s thesis reviews.

Roma 10 | Art

Derive a Roma, Writing August 10, 2012
A sketch of Doris Salcedo's Plegaria Muda on exhibition at MAXXI. One of the most interesting installations I have ever seen: Table upon table with dirt sandwiched inbetween. Real grass growing through the tabletops. In response to death in the artist's hometown in Colombia.

A sketch of Doris Salcedo’s Plegaria Muda on exhibition at MAXXI. One of the most interesting installations I have ever seen: Table upon table with dirt sandwiched inbetween. Real grass growing through the tabletops. In response to death in the artist’s hometown in Colombia.

Route: New walk down Via Cavour to the Capitoline Museum on Piazza del Campidoglio, up Via Nazionale past institutional buildings to Bernini/Boromini’s opposing churches and four fountains to find that the Santa Maria della Vittoria was closed :(. To Barberini station to visit MAXXI, then metro home.

“A guilty conscience needs to confess. A work of art is a confession.” — Albert Camus

A fitting quote for a place where so much art is roped to the raft of religion. We visited two important art galleries today: the Capitoline Museum atop the Capitoline Hill, and Modern master Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts. Two drastically different kinds of gallery spaces. Two drastically different kinds of art. Two different spatial contexts.They are excellent summaries of the principles of old and new Rome that I have been investigating the past ten days.

Piazza del Campidoglio, Marco Aurelio centre.

Capitoline – Papal antiquity

Museo Capitolini is situated at the top of one of Rome’s seven hills, backing onto the ancient forums and fronted by Piazza del Campidoglio. The site is famous for it’s straightening of facades and fitting of the piazza into geometrical star-shaped symmetry by Michelangelo. In the centre of the square (circle?) stands a statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback in a pose mimicked in all of western Europe by every political figure on a horse. The collections are also Papal, so similar to what we saw in the Vatican Museums. A stunning array of marble sculptures of people with more mythical scenes and evidence of Rome’s pagan past, including a reconstruction of what the Temple to Isis in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva would have looked like using actual artifacts. It offers breathtaking views of the ruins in the Forum, as well as of Rome herself from atop the rooftop cafe terrace. The approach is extremely traditional: a sloped, strampy type of structure called a Cordonata.

The view of the Imperial Forum from the Museo

The museum itself is split into three buildings, one of which dips below into the hill to provide views of the Forum and provide passage between the East and West wings. They are each punctuated with outdoor courtyards which held the larger sculptures and allowed for great light to fill the museum.

The first time I saw striped marble used as a textile. Extremely skillful.

Interestingly, we were not allowed to sketch in this museum, but were allowed to take as many photos as we liked. The plan had no logical flow, at least that I could tell, and we wandered through halls back and forth back and forth, the sculptures all blending into one amorphous white, eyeless head. Another testament to it’s plan: our group split up after the main courtyard and remained scattered for the entire visit. Such is the case with other older buildings restored to have second, third, and tenth purposes.

Visible: the wooly mammoth leg, an array of clotheslines carrying childrens’ clothes, the long peekaboo horizontal windows, the strange futuristic silhouette.

MAXXI – Contemporary speed

If I had to use one word to describe Zaha Hadid’s contribution to Roman art, it would be speed. The entire building felt like a grey futurist painting with a streak of red smeared across. MAXXI is sited in the nearest northern suburb of Rome near where the rail tram turns around, so it looks almost like a train station. The approach is through colourful flags, afternoon glow, children running in the plaza shared with a daycare. All approaches are diagonal and unsloped: there is no clear way to say, this is the entrance to the building and you should walk here. The most direct route, which at this point, we were extremely accustomed to looking for and having laid out for us, was across plantings of trees, gaps in concrete slabs, and dangerously trip-hazard low fencing. Oh, and the wooly mammoth leg. It gained more architectural relevance to us when we found out it was actually supposed to be reminiscent of Brazilian huts, and I actually enjoyed the sound it made in the breeze. Still a wooly mammoth leg though. And still ugly. The building itself felt cold and inhuman, but not in an imposing way like the Vatican or the EUR. In a curious, futuristic way that encouraged you to reach out to touch it. There was so much negative space, especially compared to the wall to wall bust adornments of the Capitoline Museums. We carried out 15 minute sketching exercises in each room but were not allowed to take photos. MAXXI reminded me most of the VAG out of ever gallery I visited in Europe, because it was filled with unknown international artists, temporary installations curated on six different coalescing themes, was extremely air conditioned, and had a ridiculously capital A Art bookstore.

Speed.

Agility.

Flow.

Architecture that photographs extremely well but feels strange to be in.

Roma 8 | Fascism

Derive a Roma, Writing August 10, 2012

11_unknown church

Route: Metro to EUR, walk halfway then to and from and back ??? church, bus back to Statione Termini, afternoon capo cornetto, delirium, early night.

A Crisis of Identity, a Crisis of Faith

Today we went to the EUR, the business financial district of Rome, and also the most “modern” and car-based culture in Rome. It stands for Esposizione Universale di Roma, which was slated to happen in 1942 to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Fascism in Italy, but never did because of the second World War. Although the buildings in EUR were commissioned to a variety of architects, they ended up looking very much the same. Get ready for a lesson in Fascist Architecture 101.

Continuing the discussion on day 5, modernism in Italy did not completely adopt the style of flat roofs and long horizontal windows. Instead, it tried to avoid historical reference while still respecting the context of a strong history by keeping forms like columns and arches but eliminating any sort of ornamentation from them. Where there is a break

aesthetic – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –                           – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – meaning

between aesthetic and meaning. The result is a lost-looking concrete and steel architecture that, when blown out of scale in order to proportion itself to the power of Fascism, was not only void of reference, but of feeling. See Italian surrealist/pittura metafisica artist Giorgio de Chirico for art historical adjacency.

Where streams of parked cars form a second river.

Where 416 arcaded collonades house a completely empty glass box adorned with statues of men. A nation of poets, of artists, of heroes, of saints, of thinkers, of thinkers, of scientists, of navigators transmigratory.

trans·mi·grate  (trns-mgrt, trnz-)

intr.v. trans·mi·grat·edtrans·mi·grat·ingtrans·mi·grates

1. To migrate.
2. To pass into another body after death. Used of the soul.

To assert power and the strength of men in the face of an oncoming storm.

Where they named a piazza after JFK to show the strength of principle alliances.

To contemplate the heavens staring up at a church you can never reach.

Where in isolation, the manmade lakes and manmade tower boast their internationalism, asking “look at me, I am the future”

Where the streets are named after countries and dead presidents whose presence can only elevate us.

The EUR deals with scale in a different way than in Vatican City. While both are completely at an un-human scale, the EUR not only does it with it’s buildings but with it’s approaches. We were warned that walking from one point to the other would appear near but actually be far, but we also experienced this in an accidental way by walking 7 km to the wrong church on a highway. That aside, tiredness, six lane highways, sedans and suits, square columns, and a reading presented by Rosa on memory made me feel more than a bit empty inside.

I had a bit of a crisis of faith and identity today. And for this reason, I think this was one of the most interesting days in Rome, because usually people talk about spatial affect only when it refers to beauty: the joy you feel when you walk in an elaborately decorated church or your childhood home. That the EUR can make you feel uncomfortable to the point where you question your own existence is even more powerful. I wasn’t left with a lot of conclusions after today: mostly questions.

Why did modernism fail, on an international level and specific to Rome?

Why did it result in the cars and suburbs and keyholes that we see today?

Why do we keep a record of our family histories, do they matter, what what does it mean that I do not exist in my written history?

What happens then to people that have never existed in any?

Why do we build objects that fail to bring us joy?

What use is it to strive together for something beautiful in a world where one terrifying power can end it?

What of individual creativity in a world where we are constantly asked to give to others?

I took an unopened pinecone from the EUR. It sits on my mantle reminding me that even when all you can see for miles and miles makes you want to shake your head, you look down. There is new life waiting to spring forth, with the scent of gin and the vitality of a hundred year old tree.

A Poem for the EUR:

Existential Surrealism.

Meaningless Monument.

Abstracted form.

Distance of scales, Scales of empathy of distrophy weighing.

Third Rome, a Fourth.

A secular god to a Fascist religion.

Where is the Temple to Human Spirit now?

That is to stand when we are forgotten.

Non-descript among the leaves of our families’ trees.

This is why we remember.

I will find meaning in everything I do.

The song I listen to when I have days like this:

Roma 5 & 6 | Modernism and Modernity

Derive a Roma, Writing August 10, 2012
Montemartini detail Sketch

Montemartini detail Sketch

Route: metro to Statione Flaminio, took the mini tram to see Renzo Piano’s Auditorio de Musica and Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI contemporary art gallery just north of the City Walls. Walked back to Villa Borghese (Rome’s Stanley Park), and visited Galleria d’arte Moderna in the park, Rome’s biggest modern art museum. Walked to Richard Meier’s Ara Pacis memorial to Augustus, gelato and wine in the afternoon shade, shopping in Trastevere, walked along the Tiber back to Piazza Navona for dinner. Tried to get back to Statione Barberini, got us lost. Stumbled upon Trevi Fountain at night. Serendipity.

Route: Metro line B to Pyramide, walk along Via Ostiense to Montemartini Art Centre, walk back, Metro line B to Metro line A, Metro line A to Flaminio, walk about Villa Borghese, read for two hours, then walked to Statione Spagna to get home.

Juxtaposition and Success

Friday and Saturday were a study of modernity in the city of ancients, as we visited some starchitecture within and around the city, and I read and summarized a 53 page reading on Modernism in Italy. What follows are my findings from the two journeys.

In sum. Romans have long pushed back against modernism because they are proud of their past, and the whole premise of modernism is rejection of the past and it’s associated values. I would also like to speculate that the strong presence of religion has also played a part in slowing the adoption of modernity into the city itself. But the rejection of modernism does not mean a rejection of modernity necessarily. In terms of transportation, conservation, and a history of reuse, Rome is in many ways much more modern and contemporary than most Canadian cities. Conservation of buildings and renovation over the building of new has a lot to do with the success of surviving artifacts and preservation of the historical fabric of Rome. Condominums atop of a 2000 year old theatre (Theatre of Marcellus, see Day 3)! Subsequently, modern architecture has had to work around this surviving fabric, literally at times.

Renzo Piano’s Auditorium Parco della Musica

During the construction of Renzo Piano’s Auditorium Parco della Musica, ancient ruins were discovered while digging for the foundations; a problem commonly “run into” for new building projects, especially Roman metro lines. In the case of Piano’s auditorium, they were preserved and turned into a featured dig roped off as part of the buildings themselves. The three buildings also reference the form of ancient outdoor Roman ampitheatres, as they all approach on a large outdoor seating space. MAXXI we visited another day when it was open, but we visited three other galleries over the two days that are excellent examples of the juxtaposition of old and new that are all extremely successful.

Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna

Situated in the middle of old Borghese private property, the National Modern Art Gallery looks nothing like MAXXI, it’s other contemporary. Although it was built in 1911 at the height of modernism, it uses a neoclassical facade that fits in with the look and feel of the rest of the Villa, and is approached by a large descent that equals the ascent, giving it an imposing quality. It’s modernistic aspect comes from the most comprehensive collection of Italian modernist art in Italy housed inside.

The art itself is worth discussing in the “Modernism” section of these chronicles, because, like the building and other modernist architecture in Italy, it takes on new forms, new materials, and tries to struggle free from the holds of history and antiquity that steep and surround them. Marble sculptures in the vein of ancient and renaissance classics began to writhe and pull towards Rodin, set in a gallery with a broken mirrored floor. Experimentations with material and scale stand painfully beside the reminder of an arched doorway, rejecting the monochrome abstractions housed behind.

Why it works: because of the struggle that Italian modernists faced in both architecture and art, this museum stands as a testament and storehouse of a unique and complicated history.

Approach to the gallery.

Mirrored floor.

Richard Meier’s Ara Pacis Augustae

One of my favourite spaces in Rome: Meier’s signature white concrete planes set beside a classical church facade and the ancient rotunda of Augustus’ Memorial. The straight planes were a welcome relief after having spent a week drawing column after column after column.

Inside, materiality felt consistent with the monument to peace that it housed, and it was extremely cool. Air conditioning! Ara Pacis refers to the era of peace brought about by Augustus, also known as Emperor Caesar. The monument to peace was discovered in the Augustus memorial (the brown rotunda), and placed outside for public visitation before it was determined that deterioration was inevitable and a building must be commissioned nearby to house the artifact.

Why it works: because it is a peaceful jewel of modernism that houses a jewel of ancient peace. It is non-confrontational but serenely bold. The colour palette breaks with Rome only insofar as it is white, carte blanche, tabula rasa.

Montemartini Art Centre

Again, located on the outskirts of the city, this time on the South side. Entry #6 in my travel book’s list of “Top Ten Beyond the City Walls” describes “Rome’s very first power station has been transformed into a remarkable showcase for Greek and Roman statues – parts of the Musei Capinolini collection…The effect is extraordinary, playing the monolithic might of modern technology off against the noble, human vulnerability of these ancient masterpieces.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. The permanent exhibition, called Le Macchine e Gli Dei or “The Machines and the Gods” tells the narrative of the development of two kinds of power in Roman society: power through art and representation of important figures, and powering a city with resources. Against the stark contrast of black cast iron stand fragments of torsos, limbs, asses, all in white marble, shocked to find themselves surrounded by such heavy industry.

Why it works: because it is absolutely beautiful, surreal, and perfectly frozen in time.

Modernism failed in Italy for two reasons.

  1. It was mired by context and did not fit in with the palettes, forms, and shapes of the past.
  2. It was taken up by Fascism.

CIAM, the Congres Internationale d’Architecture Moderne formed by Corbusier and co. in the early 20th century, condemned Italian modernism for not breaking with the past. But with a history as strong as the Roman Empire, what reason did Italy have to reject it’s proud past? With the resurgence of powerful leadership under Mussolini, what choice did they have to really have in pursuit of a new world order? Rome especially found it’s out in the form of “The International Style” and in the proliferation of suburban low-income housing projects that Modernism became so famous for. Even today, commercialism remains the plague of Roman suburbs, leaving the historical centre clean and free from the apparent class divisions that Modernism claimed to want to solve.

One of the main goals of Team X following the dissolution of CIAM was equitable social housing for the masses. Although we passed through one of these suburbs, Garbatella, on our way to the EUR on the following Monday, we did not study them. It would appear that the suburbs are for the second-time traveller to visit and the full-time citizen to live in. They do, however, provide an interesting foil for exploring the historic core, to help define what a Roman Drift really means…

Roma 3 | History

Derive a Roma, Writing August 10, 2012
My sketch of the Pantheon. I think I switched perspective points about three times so please forgive the awkwardness.. Still warming up.

My sketch of the Pantheon. I think I switched perspective points about three times so please forgive the awkwardness.. Still warming up.

Route: Santa Maria sopra Minerva (Piazza and Church), Pantheon |(tombs of Raphael and Vittoro Emanuel II, former King of Italy) and Piazza della Rotunda, Area salra Delargo de Argentina, Jewish Synagogue Museum, Temple to Hercules (formerly Vestal temple), Temple of Fortunes, Basilica di Santa Nicola in Carcare, Teatro di Marcello, Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin which holds the Bocca della Verita/Mouth of Truth, Circus Maximus, and later stumbled upon Campo dei Fiore and Piazza Navona on our way back to the Pantheon.

Roman Mornings was first published in 1956 by James Lees Milne. It recounts eight buildings in Rome as examples of certain eras of Roman history. They are mostly churches, and today the most significant historical sites we visited were two of those churches. In the vein of Roman Mornings, day three of Derive a Roma took us on a historical tour of the city, because if one is looking to read into the layered and conflicted history of a deeply religious and powerful empire, look no further than the buildings which house her faith.

Strata

In studio in January, we did a series of case studies based on the interpretation through lenses of stories, strata, and streets  “in such a way as to illuminate the dialectical character of the historical process: one that yields a specific built morphology and a truly unique built entity, and one that is to be found in only one place.” Rome is the perfect place to address through these lenses because it is full of myth, has a visibly layered historical strata, and winding streets that relate directly to papal planning processes. Today, I am interested in strata because it best depicts the multi-layered filo pastry that is Roma’s past. The strata of her churches begin on Pagan foundations overtaken by Christianity, converted from circles to crosses.

Although these churches tell the story of conquest and persecution of religion, faith is the reason that their structures are still so well preserved to this day. We began our day at the Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, the only Gothic church in Rome, and even then only on the interior. Lees-Milne explains:

“One of the most remarkable things about mediaeval architecture in Rome was its almost complete resistance to Gothic elements. This is the more strange when one recollects that the Gothic style is wholly derivative from Catholicism, of which the fount and seat was Rome itself… In the middle ages the city was still so rich in classical remains, in columns, entablatures, capitals and marble details of all sorts, legacies overlooked or spared by the succession of depredations made on classical monuments throughout the dark ages, that there was little need for builders to tax their creative powers. Through the long millenium there was very little new architecture at all and constant alteration and adaptation of old buildings.” — James Lees-Milne, Roman Mornings, Romanesque, Santa Maria in Cosmedin

Being a huge fan of Gothic churches, I was surprised by this fact, and pleased to know that there was at least one, even if it was built on an ancient temple to the Egyptian goddess Isis. The hint of what lies beneath comes from a Bernini obelisk in the adjacent piazza. The obelisk is carried by an elephant, seemingly happy to have found itself by the Pantheon on it’s way from Africa to the North Pole.

Bernini’s Obelisk outside the Santa Maria Sopra Minerva’s unassuming facade.

Two other churches we visited today explain Less-Milne’s point very well: Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin and Basilica Santa Maria Nicola in Carcare. Situated about a block apart from each other and separated by two carefully preserved ancient pagan temples, Carcare was also built on pagan foundations, and Cosmedin was “not truly Roman, Lombard, or Byzantine, but a protracted evolution of all three styles.” Caught in the transformation of a great empire between two religions, the churches illustrate a careful set of decisions to preserve and conserve specific pieces and versions of history, including remains, materials, and art.

Santa Maria in Carcare. Note the columns and porticoes still evident from the previous church.

The beautiful mosaics in the Santa Maria in Cosmedin.

Interior shot of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin taken over the choral barrier. The wall used to separate those worthy of witnessing a worship from the common people and women during mass, which was usually given in latin, a language they did not understand.

Taking a step back, one block northwest of the small marble oliphant in Sopra Minerva lies one of the greatest architectural works standing to this day: the Pantheon. Originally built in the 2nd century AD as a pagan temple (hence the name Pantheon, or multiple) to the great Greco-Roman Gods of Venus and Jupiter alike, it was converted into a Christian church in 608, thereby preserving it’s beautifully domed structure and it’s famous keystone-free oculus. Lees-Milne uses the Pantheon to open his book as an example of Ancient Roman architecture, although the story it tells is much more than that of an ancient Rome. I presented Milne’s take on the Pantheon, and here were the most important/interesting facts:

  •  The structure mimics that of a cube, as it stands 140 ft. tall and 142 ft. in diameter. It can fit a perfect sphere inside.
  • The supporting circumference of concrete is in places, 20 ft. thick. It is actually not one continuous mass but instead eight separate piers with weight relieving arches.
  • The sixteen columns supporting the portico are monolithic Egyptian granite, meaning they are each made of one. Piece. of. Stone.
  • It appears bare because all of it’s valuable ornament has been stolen and repurposed into other structures. 60 years after it’s Christening, the gilded bronze in the dome was removed, not to be redone (without gilding) for 700 years. Bernini used bronze beams originally from the Pantheon’s portico to create the Baldiccino in St. Peter’s Cathedral.
  • The Pantheon also uses materials pilfered from other churches.
  • When it rains in the Pantheon, the water drains to the centre directly underneath the oculus to a small hole the width of my finger, but in extreme cases would likely drain to the circumference of the structure because the weight of the walls has depressed the ground they stand on over hundreds of years.

Approach to the Pantheon from behind, with scale.

The inside of the Pantheon’s domed roof.

My sketch of the Pantheon. I think I switched perspective points about three times so please forgive the awkwardness.. Still warming up.

The partial section elevation of the Pantheon from Roman Mornings

The way the light moves.

Where the water drains.

The Pantheon was not the beautiful Pagan church that I expected, where the sun would alight on specific gods and goddesses during the appropriate season. It was a Christian church without an apse; a tomb to two kings and a poet, with an eternal light more successful than any glass windowed church could ever hope to be. Two close, two quotes that I feel describe the magical aura that once existed and that I had hoped to see in the Pantheon:

“Whereas the gothic cathedrals of the Christian builders were aspirant — their pointed pinnacles and spires reaching to the highest heaven in joyous praise of a beneficent Almighty — the Pantheon was meant to be propitiatory. Instead of striving to epitomize in stone the supreme attributes of a single celestial god, the architect of the pagan shrine endeavoured to devise a worldly habitat which the elusive Roman deities might condescend to visit from time to time… a microcosm of that limited universe which the Roman civilization understood…” — James Less-Milnes, Roman Mornings, Ancient Roman, The Pantheon

“Here lies Raphael, whom Nature feared would outdo her while alive, but now that he is gone fears she, too, will die.” — Inscription on the tomb of the Artist Raphael