Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Holy Saturday Easter Vigil, An All Day Event

On Saturday a couple of us got tickets to the Easter Vigil at the Vatican. I was super excited for this as I have always wondered what it be like to attend mass in the Basilica. We arrived at St. Peter's square around 2pm and the line had already begun to form. We found a spot and sat down to begin our wait. We met up with some of our friends we made during the Field Day and that made our group even larger. We had snacks and brought some of our HW with us; I was able to finish my sketchbook.
As it got closer and closer to the time they would start letting people into the Basilica, 7pm, the line got more crowded and a bit more dangerous. One highlight was seeing a Sister deliver pizza to some people in the line. When the gates were opened is when I was scared. The crowd was pushing so much I was being crushed. I felt that it was a very un-Christian approach to the Easter season.
Once we got into the Basilica we managed to get a seat about half way into the church and 4 seats on the aisle. So that means we were about 5ft from the Pope when he entered and exited. It was a new experience to have the Mass entirely in Latin. It was nice though because I could keep up and understand what was going on. The Mass was only about 3 hrs long and we made it back to the dorms around 12am but after an entire day at St. Peter's I was exhausted.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Night of Some Culture

On Good Friday we were treated to a special evening. We went to a concert at Renzo Piano's Parco della Musica, Mozart's Requiem. It was a nice night, we all got to get dressed up and mosey on over to Piazza del Popolo, using 2 buses and walking the rest of the way, then catch the tram to the complex. All in all we got there only 5 mins after we were supposed to meet, not bad for a holiday public transportation day. We got there and the buildings are completely different at night, instead of the three auditoriums being the main focus the piazza becomes the main space with its lighting scheme.
Finding our seats was a whole new challenge. I haven't been to many of these events in my life and the ticket being in Italian didn't help the situation, although my Italian has greatly improved lol. We ended up having seats in the 10th row dead center! Best ones in the house. The music and experience was amazing. That's the kind of music I listen to when I need to render a project I find it relaxing.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Is Anyone Else Itchy? (Stabia)

We arrived in Stabia, which was another city on the base of Mt. Vesuvius. I started our time in this hotel by blerting out "Is anyone else itchy?" This turned into one of the jokes of the trip. We were staying at a school and we immediately noticed that there was a sports field. We got out and started with a game of basketball and then moved into soccer. It was so amazing to get out and run, this was probably the first to second time we were able to do this while in Europe. We took a couple day trips to Pompei and to Erlano, but we came back to Stabia and ate dinners together in the dinning hall. It was nice to be together and celebrate being away and almost done with the semester. We also toured the surrounding area with visits to Cuma and some Greek ruins and to a smaller amphitheater where the lower gladiatorial level was open. This was so interesting to actually see some of the mechanics behind the games.
One night some of us got stuck in the elevator, but they got out with in 20mins and then we all hung out on one of the roof terraces all night (or the actual roof lol). The sun sets were the best ones I have seen in my life. We could see the entire bay and the scene was framed by the mountains. Absolute Beauty. Overall, I enjoyed our time in the South the most. We had interesting things to see, great times bonding, and memories that will last a lifetime. I am really dreading to go back to the US and the "real world" of school and work.

Monday, April 11, 2011

In 79 AD the Mountain Exploded (Pompei and Herculaneum)

Visiting Pompei and Herculaneum was like wandering the desert.
We took the tram from our residence in Stabia to both sites, and along the way as well as once we arrived it didn't seem like the cities had been buried under meters and meters of ash and debris. The surrounding cityscape actually was thriving and no one would've guessed that there was a volcano around. We proceeded to the ruins and it was as if time rewound. The ruins of Pompei felt like a ghost town. The landscape was desolate and most of the buildings were reduced to foundations (other than those that were being restored).  Herculaneum was the same as in a complete shift from populated city to archaeological site. This site was much smaller than Pompei and in better condition due to its distance from the eruption.
 Stillness was the over all feeling while walking through the streets and houses. As if life had froze, it was eerie to see preserved frescoes, people, and every day items still in the places they were left. The feeling of destruction and emptiness was compounded by the lack of vegetation and a clear sky. Both sites had an arid sense about them.
While sketching these sites, it was interesting to draw what we actually saw and then attempt some recreations. Some examples were attempted in these cities so we had a couple ideas of a direction to pursue.
After the visits, a small group of us decided to climb Mt. Vesuvius. That consisted of a bus ride to about 1000m then walk up a path that had been carved into the side of the volcano. When we were at the rim of the crater, I could definitely smell the sulfur and some of the vents were steaming. From that high up we were able to see each city we had visited. We could make out Napoli, Pompei, and Stabia. We thought we could make out Capri but we weren't sure. Atop the volcano, there was a different sense, yes this was the source of all that destruction however over the centuries people returned and had rebuilt cities around the base. Life had returned and we were at the vantage point to see its progression.

When we got back to the hotel, I made it up to one of the roofs just in time to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen, a perfect ending to a long day of walking and drawing.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Casa Mala-partay!!!!! (Capri)

After Our excursions in Napoli, we went for a day trip to the Island of Capri. I'd heard about the island before and the ferry ride over, and was unsure of what to expect. Luckily the weather turned out to be amazing that day and it was smooth sailing all the way.
We had all heard of Casa Malaparte and we have studied it in a history class briefly, but I never actually knew the history of the man or the building. The story turns out that Malaparte ( which wasn't his real name) started as a Pro Fascist writer in Italy. He slowly changed his perspective and ended up writing against the regime. He then went through a period of time in and out of prison, where he developed the dream of owning land.
After his final stint in prison, he buys some cliff property on Capri and began planning for his home. He brought in a well known Architect of the time and together created the plans for the site. After getting into a dispute he took the task of designing the home, all done on site during construction, upon himself. The result?
The amazing retreat that we as a group ended up visiting for the entire day.The house was designed completely from the inside out; views are framed and the room in which this "picture" sits is designed based upon which side of the house it is located. The site took a bit of effort to get to, but once we arrived everything seemed to melt away and it was just us and the ocean.  It was as if the landscape had been refined to form this piece of art. The House seemed to invoke memories of my grandparents lake house and really made me miss those summers. We were asked to do two studies of the house, one of the analytical type and then compose a page of our emotions. It was hard to not imaging the water when thinking of Casa Malaparte. There was every shade of blue possible and later in the evening the line between sky and earth was indistinguishable. Shear Paradise.
I was truly moved by this experience and it helped me refocus as to why I am studying in Rome. The time spent there helped me recall all that I accomplished to get to this point.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Getting A Tan In Southern Italy (Napoli)

Well we are back from the South and boy do I have a lot to talk about.

We started in the city of Napoli ( or Naples for everyone else, I don't know why we translate city names but anyways) we get there and our hotel was amazing. Kinda surprised it was so nice, but the views from the roof were breath taking and I'm not complaining lol. The city is right on the coast and at the base of the mountains where Mt. Vesuvius is located. We began by walking around the Spanish quarter which was a densely packed residential district, planned and constructed when...Yes the Spanish controlled the city of Napoli. Napoli was and still is one of the most important ports on the Italian peninsula, thus anyone planning on conquering the territory wanted to start with Naples. There has been so many influences on the city and its architecture.

We then walked a bit further and say another Galleria, similar to the one in Milan. We were asked to compare these two sites through section and the results were interesting. The Spanish Quarter even though planned in a grid had much more organic and vibrant variations, when the Galleria was classical and ordered which I felt led to its limited use and thus it becomes just a space to pass through rather than inhabiting.

We also examined several church facades and piazzas, we also tried to see the two castles that are in the city but they were closed, before returning to the hotel for a quick nap and then out to dinner for some great Napoli pizza.

The next day we were bound for Capri and maybe the best time of my life (I'm Just saying,,,)

Galleria in Napoli

Fascist period Postoffice

View from our roof

Friday, April 1, 2011

I've been living in Rome.....Gosh this is Amazing.

These last few weeks have been pretty stressful. We are continuing to work on our third and final project of the semester in studio while two of our other classes are coming to a close. I am not looking forward to the Italian final.

The final project consists of drawing a classical Renaissance facade in Rome, analyzing it, then transforming it into a modern facade while maintaining the same language as the original. The first two parts were interesting because we needed to trace the facade perfectly, then carry the same size board out into the field and sketch the analysis at the site. I feel that doing that really helped my sketching skills and my layout ideas; I'm excited to see how my sketchbook will change.

We have had some highlights though during the work. We took a field studies trip to the Jubilee Church by Richard Meier, the proposed Roma 2020 Olympic site by Calatrava, and then we visited the MACRO museum. That day was so exciting and we got the chance to see some really innovative architecture. Each was unique in its own way and I enjoyed each site for that special quality.

We also had a week long visit from Stanley Hallet. He used to be the dean of the Architecture school at CUA and now he makes films with his wife. He had us make a still frame movie about a site in Rome which was to capture the architectural qualities of the space as well as the experiential aspects. Now I have never made a movie with still frames nor do I know how to use a Mac, so I found this project to quite enlightening and thrilling. I plan on looking into a way to make movies with  PC and doing this for some of my pictures once I'm done with the Rome program. I found it a really interesting way to present a place to an audience.

My cousin also came to visit me from her semester spent working in Germany. That was really nice to have a family member come and see how and what I'm doing in Rome. She sat in on a pin up, we cooked dinner together, and on the weekend we all went to the beach in Ostia Lido, which was amazing. I don't really have beaches back home but it made it feel like summer was here, plus it was 75 out and that day our courtyard lawn was mowed making it smell like summer too. The last big thing that we are doing before our trip to the South, is that we are all going to a AS Roma game. This should be so exciting, I love to play and watch soccer but had never been to an European game; Can't Wait.

Well we go to the south of Italy soon and I can hardly wait to see if it is as nice as Rome is becoming. I'm looking forward to seeing all of the different styles of architecture and experience the scenery of the area.