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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Venice (through the eyes of an architecture student)

30 September – 2 October 2011

Venice is a fantasy world. Everything is too perfect: the architecture, the art, the fact that you must take a small boat everywhere. Plus, the cluster of small islands is over-run with more tourists then Venetians.

My conclusion:

Venice + tourists + perfect architecture = Disneyland

Friday.

After our Italian test, JC, Sar, and I hopped on the 13:30 train to Venice. After three hours, we were there! Finally in Venice! Our hostel was easy to find, we ate a decent Italian dinner, and we went to bed early so we could start Saturday off running!

Saturday.
Gelato: Tiramisu

We spent the morning exploring our neighborhood. It was so nice to walk along the canals and find architecture. We discovered the entrance to the Venice School of Architecture (designed by one of my favorite architects: Carlo Scarpa), the University of Venice Faculty Offices (also by Carlo Scarpa), and the museum Querini Stampalia (again, by Carlo Scarpa). Scarpa, a native Venetian, is one of the architecture gods that most architects worship. The simplicity and perfection of his Japanese inspired designs are what we all try to achieve. Visiting Querini Stampalia, is a pilgrimage destination for every architecture student and was one of the reasons Sar, JC, and I wanted to visit Venice. The Querini Stampalia houses a collection of modern art in a very elegant way. Everything was thought of: the materials used for the floors or handrails, the weight of the door and placement of the hinges, and a moat was added along the floor to accommodate for the rising waters every year. The back garden was very serene and was given just as much care as the interior of the museum, with small water features and café. We also enjoyed photographing the beautifully crafted bridge that leads to the entrance.

After carefully examining the Querini Stampalia for several hours, we ventured to the Arsenale for Venice’s Biennale d’Arte. The Biennale is THE international, contemporary art exhibition. The art was… interesting. There was a unique pavilion for each country to display their exhibits in. My favorite piece was in the general submissions and was made of wax and was always changing. I think at the start of the Biennale, it was a full statue, but as the show has gone on, these large candles melted, leaving their remains as an ever changing, piece of art.

That evening we wandered around the narrow alleys, ate pizza, and sat under the Rialto Bridge watching the tourists, listening to the gondoliers sing in their red and white striped shirts, and screaming as we saw a rather large rat slink into the waters of the grand canal.

Sunday.

Up early again, this time to attend mass and St. Marks Cathedral. This cathedral is covered in gold and byzantine mosaics. Next we took the ferry to San Michele, the cemetery island. Here we were able to see the graves of writer Igor Stravinsky and some popes. Then we headed to Murano, know for their glass blowing.

Last, JC and I visited the Doge’s Palace in Piazza San Marco. Venice was a republic for hundreds of years before the unification of Italy. The Doge was the elected leader of the city and was chosen from the most important political families of Venice. He held this office for life and represented the opinion of the people when the city council made executive decisions. We toured through the Doge’s apartments, the chambers of the city council, the prison, and the Bridge of Sighs.

Despite how touristy Venice has become, I just loved it! The architecture is stunning. Though built slowly over so many years, each palazzo seems perfectly planned to fit with the one next to it. I found so much beauty in the pointed arches, white marble, and the slow decay of wood from the rise and fall of the tide. Each bridge effortlessly slides across the canals allowing for the passing of pedestrians above and gondolas below.

Sights of Venice:

Top-Left: Sar, JC, and I at Piazza San Marco. Top-Right: Pigeons everywhere, even in the drinking fountains.
Bottom-Left: Interior of Doge’s Palace looking at San Marco Cathedral. Bottom-Right: Yeah. 🙂