North Italy: a field trip.

27-29 January 2012

This weekend the architecture and studio art students went on a field trip to northern Italy. We visited so many places and saw some of the buildings that I have been dying to see!

The cities: Padova, Vicenza, Mantova, Verona, and Parma

Friday:

Padova.
Capella degli Scrovegni.
We began early this morning, driving with the bus to the city of Padova. We had an early appointment at the Capella degli Scrovegni. This small chapel has some of the most intricate and well-preserved frescoes in Italy. Created by Florentine artist Giotto in 1307, the city of Padova has gone through every mean to preserve the delicate plaster. Before entering the chapel, we sat in a dehumidifying chamber for 15 minutes so to remove any moisture and dust from our bodies, after which we could only be in the chapel itself for 15 minutes. In places, we could see the beautiful base sketches where the plaster had fallen off.

After the chapel, were had a bit of time to wander through the streets of the old center. It is nice to visit towns that are not major tourist destinations. We get to use our Italian more and see how the Italian people really live.

Villa Emo.
Palladio wrote four books on architecture that laid out laws for architects to follow. These laws were based on his observations of the “ancients” or the architecture of the Greeks and Romans he had seen while traveling through Rome and Greece.

Our next stop was Villa Emo. This villa was designed by architecture god Andrea Palladio.Villa Emo follows the classical rules set in his books. Palladio created a monumental center building for the family to live, with two wings that encompass the surrounding countryside. The interior living spaces has beautiful light quality and frescoes. I would love to live here!

Tomba Brion.
Our next stop is one of my most favorite architectural projects. Designed by my favorite Carlo Scarpa, the Brion-Vega Cemetary is absolutely amazing. This tranquil garden-tomb does something to you. With an amazing view of the alps, this spot brings you peace; I can see why Scarpa requested to be buried here.


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The Brion family founded the Italian electronics company Brion-Vega and hired Scarpa to design a tomb within the San Vito cemetery. Scarpa has an amazing eye for detail and understands light. Each space glows, creating a heaven on earth. With Japanese inspired designes, each detail has a function. The chapel is so beautiful and showcases Scarpa’s ability to use circles, as doorways, in his designs (he is one of the few architects who can use circles successfully). My favorite moment in this project is the door between the garden and the pavilion on the water. The door is raised and lowered by counter weights. As the glass division is raised and lowered into the floor; from the outside, you can watch the counterweight and gears move. It is so cool!

Vicenza.
Theatro Olimpico.
Palladio was born in the city of Padova, but his projects can be seen all over the Republic of Venice. The city of Vicenza is crawling with Palladio’s works. Our first stop in Vicenza was the Theatro Olimpico.

Built in 1580, this theater also takes inspiration from Greek and Roman amphitheaters. With curved seating facing the stage, every position has a good view. Behind the stage, doorways give view to a built city street that is in perfect perspective. This section shows how the back part of the stage is short, but the shape of the buildings allows the sections to look real from the audience.

We wandered through Vicenza back to the bus. Our hotel is in the city of Parma (yes, Parmesan cheese is from here). We enjoyed a group dinner at the hotel and got to taste Parmesan Risotto. Yum!

Saturday:

Mantova.
This morning we took the bus to Mantova. We explored many beautiful churches and also the Duke’s Palace.

Villa Te.
This villa is just outside of Mantova and was designed in the Mannerist style. The more exaggerated sibling of the renaissance, mannerism’s paintings are much more flamboyant and brightly colored. This party house for the duke is filled with many fantastical frescoes, most notably The Fall of the Giants.

Verona.
Last stop of the day was Castelvecchio in the town of Verona. This is the Verona of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliette and we were able to visit her house. There is a large, bronze statue of Juliette, and legend says that if you rub her, you will receive luck in love.

Castelvecchio.
Renovated by Carlo Scarpa, Castelvecchio was the old fort on the river of Verona. It has now become an art gallery, with the museum itself as a work of art. Again, every detail was thought of. Visitors are led around the art and up onto the ramparts with a view of the city.

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Sunday:

Parma.
Our last day in Parma was very cold and windy. We even got a bit of snow in the morning! Our professor led us through many churches, down small streets, and to a renovation project by Italian Architect Renzo Piano. For Lunch I had some more yummy Parmesan Risotto.

All in all, a great trip! I think it was the best field trip with my school. Best trip? because we were traveling with a much smaller group then usual, and also it was geared towards our interests. So, great architecture and great food!

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