Having the honor of spending three weeks working closely with the Interior Architecture students of Ohio University in Rome, we would like to share some observations and insights about each of them.
Alex the resident chef at the girls apartment, embraced the flavors of Rome. Her bright engaged disposition and attitude were a visible at each of our site visits. She responded to the complex ornamental details we encountered from site to site. Alex took particular interest in the various Baroque churches such as Bernini’s St Andrea al Quirinale and Il Gesu. Alex spent a great deal of time engrossed in small detailed sketches of sculptural details found within the Baroque settings, such as the brass candelabras at the alter of St. Francis Xavior at Il Gesu. Her favorite site is the hybrid work of St. Maria degli Angeli, by Michelangelo which is housed in the late Roman Baths of Diocletian.
Andrew draws in his sleep. His appetite for capturing a site visually through drawing seems limitless as both his quick sketches and detailed watercolors tell an engaged story. Andrew’s particular interests include materials and construction methods and the rich historical layers that make up so many of the sites we visited. The Campidoglio leaves a strong impression for Andrew, with it’s varied historical uses from the processional endpoint on the Sacred Way of the Roman Forum to Michelangelo’s Renaissance Piazza. Andrew’s appetite for absorbing new people and experiences matched his interest in our sites. He quickly found some international soccer friends at the Circus Maximus and had an impromptu lunch with a Franciscan friar in Assisi.
Anna was drawn to Rome’s complex histories and the sites that unfolded their multiple layers of porticoes, entry ways and opportunities for movement. She carefully considered the sites for her sketch book studies and sought out courtyards and passageways. Her favorite site visit was St Peter’s Necropolis. We had a guided tour of the Necropolis under St Peter’s Bascilica and we were able to walk through the pagan and early Christian burial city where archeologists and scholars have located the remains of St Peter. Anna had the unique experience of attending a mass with Pope Benedict as her Aunt was visiting Rome while she was here and had plans for the papal mass at St John Lateran Bascilica,
Ashley jumped into the trip with her watercolors at our 1st day-trip to Herculaneum. She is thoughtful and considerate when making decisions about her drawing interests. Good with directions, Ashley was quick to navigate the bus routes in Rome. The sites she responded to with great interest were Richard’s Meier’s Modern Architectural expression in the Church of the Jubilee and Borromini’s St. Ivo alla Sapienza. Her interest in these sites is reflected in her sketches by way of sensitivity to line weight, careful detail studies and use of value.
Cheslea’s can do attitude and spirit brought an energized willingness to explore the time and logistic factors we encountered at various sites. Weather it was sketching standing up on a narrow side walk to capture the dynamic facade of St Carlo della Quattro Fontana by Borromini or sitting on a half brick wall ruin at Hadrian’s Villa, Chelsea embraced the challenge with a smile. She showed noticeable growth and ease with sketching as her subjects changed from early detailed value studies to more complex and complete elevations. Some of her favorite architectural elements include building facades and stained glass ornamentation. She also acted as the girls’s weekend planner for their beach getaway to Sorrento and Capri.
Isaiah embraced Rome and it’s inhabitants by grabbing a pick up Soccer game at the Circus Maximus with some other study abroad students from Poland and England within only a few hours of his arrival. Swept away by the beauty of Rome, Isaiah was always fast on his feet, combing every corner of our sites in no time flat. Taking advantage of his apartment location in Trastevere, he would visit the daily open fruit and vegetable market just below his place. His architectural interests were focused on the Baroque, from Bernini’s sculptures and ornamentation, to Borromini’s use of geometry in motion at St Ivo, to the various marble color palettes in Il Gesu.
Jesse’s open curiosity lead him to every vantage point at a given site. Sometimes we would loose him, as we thought at the Theatre of Marcellus, only to realize he positioned himself across the street on a hill to take in the entire building and it’s relationship to the urban setting. His pocket sketchbook always in hand, he would generate quick sketches and find links to the sites from past literature he’d read, like Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. He was quick to share many of the enjoyable food experiences he relished during his time in Rome. He took particular interest in the complex relationship between the baroque architects Bernini and Borromini.
Michelle’s enthusiasm for Rome manifested itself in a variety of ways. Architecturally she was drawn to the calm that came from the white spaces of Borromini’s St Ivo and St Carlo and Richard Meier’s Jubliee Church. She looked to these spaces in a thoughtful and serious way for both their architectural elements and the opportunity for a spiritual/physical resonance. Connecting with Rome’s ancient past, Michelle was taken by the everyday elements we discovered when walking through the preserved homes and structures at Herculaneum. Her sketches reflect these connections in their sensitivity to line, value and color.
Stephanie’s soft spoken yet deeply focused and diligent presence can be seen in the way she set up her sketches and analyzed her architectural subjects. Always open to dialogue about what we were looking at and what she responded too, Stephanie offered her insights as we went from site to site. She took particular interest in the ceiling geometry of Borromini’s St Carlo alle Quattro Fontane and Bernini’s St Andrea al Quirinale. Stephanie’s interest in the architectural changes in churches over the different historical periods can be seen in her strong sketches of Richard Meier’s Jubliee Church and her studies of Il Gesu. Her interest in Rome extended to it’s cultural life as she attended an evening choral concert of international singers at St. Maria Spora Minerva.
We are honored to have shared this quality time with each of you, and will always recall our time in Rome together with you fondly.
Christine & Vince
After completing the three required History of Architecture/Furniture classes at Ohio University all that was left to do was to go see the sites first hand, so I did. These past three weeks studying abroad in Rome have been life changing. This was my first trip outside the country and I sure did pick the right place. I got to experience a new culture, meet new people, and see up close historical architecture all thanks to my parents, professors, and Ohio University. The change of culture was eye opening, the new people are now close friends, and the remarkable architecture will never be forgotten, making this trip one of the best experiences of my life thus far.
The culture in Rome was different from what we were used to and took some time to get adjust to. The food was delicious and I miss it already. My favorite meal was one of my four cheese pizzas, which was simple but so tasty. The people in Rome were a lot more aggressive but for the most part, friendly and helpful. Transportation was one thing that, as a group, we struggled with but by the end of the trip we finally got the hang of it. Our apartment was very nice and we cooked many delicious meals in our kitchen. Emerging yourself into a different culture can make you realize and appreciate your usual day-to-day schedule.
One of the first sites that made me realize I really was in Rome was the Colosseum. Everyone has seen the Colosseum through images and movies but just like a lot of the sites we saw, pictures do not do it justice. The Colosseum was built in 72 A.D. and it is the largest amphitheater ever built by the Romans. It was the first amphitheater built of stone and now all that is left to see is the substructure. Materials such as marble, wood, and travertine were once present but have been removed and reused over the years for new projects throughout the city. On the exterior, which supports the complicated interior, you will see four levels, each with rows of arches and decorated with engaged columns. Each levels column capitals are a different order. The lower level starts with Doric, the second level is ionic, the third is Corinthian, and the top level is composite. There is so much history behind this structure and having the chance to experience both the interior and exterior was an unforgettable memory.
Besides the ruins, the ornamental decoration inside the churches really caught my eye and impressed me throughout the trip. Stained glass windows were a detail that I found myself continually observing. I chose to sketch a few stained glass windows from two different locations. Colored glass has been produced since ancient times. Both the Egyptians and the Romans did extremely well in the production of small colored glass objects. Stained glass, as a form of art, reached its peak in the middle ages. It was used to illustrate biblical narratives as well as being decoration. The two stained glass windows I chose are located in S. Maria Sopra Minerva and the basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi. I loved how the light and color came through the glass and gave off a glow into the interior so I chose to do a sort of color study with the stained glass with watercolor. In both of the stained glass windows there are different religious people/symbols being portrayed with the glass.
This stained glass rose window is from S. Maria Sopra Minerva, which is located in Rome, Italy and was rebuilt in 1280 in the Gothic style. You can tell it is Gothic because of its arched vaulting, rose windows, and the excessively colorful decoration in the interior. Another gothic characteristic it has is the arched vaulting is painted with brilliant red ribbing, and blue with gilded stars, which is a 19th century restoration. The rose windows are stained glass, which adds even more color into the space.
This second stained glass window is from the basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi located in Assisi, Italy and was built in 1253. This is the burial place of St. Francis and the basilica is one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage in Italy. The church consists of an upper and lower church with a crypt below the lower church where you will find the burial of St. Fransis. The two churches are said to have two different feelings. The lower church is for sorrow and grieving while the upper church is for celebration. One main way I saw this accomplished was by how much light entered the space and one way this occurred was through the stained glass window, which is found in the upper church. Another way this is accomplished is through the ceiling height. The lower church has lower ceilings while the upper churches are much higher. The church is a combination of gothic and renaissance when it comes to style and has many frescos along the interior walls. The stained glass windows are said to be among the best examples of 13th century Italian glasswork. When the glass is illuminated the gothic tracery around the glass is put under a shadow, exaggerating the gothic shapes.
Favorite Dessert: Baked Whipped Cream Gelati (Tasted like toasted marshmallow)
By Chelsea King
Having the opportunity to study abroad in Rome has been both rewarding and a challenge. The days were long and it was difficult at times adjusting to a different way of life, but they were full of experiencing the Roman culture and visiting historical sites. One of the hardest things for me to get used to was living a slower paced lifestyle. For example, in Italy along with some other European countries they have siesta which is a time during the day that people have lunch, relax and spend time with their families for a couple of hours before returning to work. Being from America I had never experienced siesta and it was just one of the many differences between our ways of life.
The past three weeks have been full of new experiences and much of it seems unreal. It is hard to describe the feeling you get when walking through both ruins of cities and magnificent churches and basilicas preserved in time. I am grateful that not only did I get to tour many sites such as the Colosseum, the Vatican, and the Pantheon but we had time to draw on site which has helped me continue to develop my drawing skills and add new work to my portfolio. I feel that I have also benefitted from this experience because unlike a photo, drawings not only show the site but for me personally I will remember being there much better than if I had looked around for a little bit, snapped a picture, and moved on to the next location.
Memorable Site: Sant’Andrea al Quirinale
The site that stands out the most in my mind and I feel I got the most out of was Sant’Andrea al Quirinale. This church was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the Baroque style, it was completed by 1670 and is often considered to be “the most beautiful church designed by Bernini”. I enjoyed drawing at this church because it had so much beautiful ornamentation and every detail and painting has a meaning which gave even more importance and substance to the structure itself.
The floor plan of the church is an ellipse with multiple chapels and niches. Pink and grey marble, gold ornament, stucco-work, statues and cherubim fill the inside of this space. There are windows behind the altars up near the ceiling along with windows inside of the cupola, illuminating the interior.
My favorite part of the church was not heavily decorated but it caught my attention because of the clever use of architecture. There is a niche near the altar within which is a statue of Jesus on the cross. The size of which is large but the open arch leading to it is smaller than the first open arch making the cross appear to be much bigger than it really is. This a good example of how to use design effectively, in this case it emphasizes the symbolical meaning of Jesus on the cross.
Favorite Dessert: Raspberry Sorbetto
As our trip wrapped up in Rome, it became a bittersweet ending. I was missing home and family, but on the other hand was finally getting used to the “Roman” way of life. As I traveled back to the states and reminisced on the life experience I had just endured, I had found myself already wanting to go back. In the last three weeks I have been on a journey that has opened my eyes to what the world has to offer. As my first time traveling overseas, I was amazed by how different our life is here in America.
Throughout my years of education, I have learned about the great roman structures such as the Coliseum, and the Pantheon, but actually walking around and into them, put the buildings into a completely different perspective. These structures standing in front of you, envelope you in awe, as you stand there realizing that these were built without all the modern technology that we have today and that they were once a peoples way of life. Now that I have experienced these structures in person I have a far greater appreciation and understanding of them. Reading about them in a book, or just simply looking at a photograph of them does not give them any justice.
Over the past three weeks we have journeyed through ancient, medieval, renaissance, baroque, and 20th century architecture. We were able to see and learn how each one evolved from the one before and how they all relate. As I walked the streets of Rome, I felt myself become somewhat envious of their lives. It is so rich with culture, architecture and life, which it is nothing like what we experience back here at home. Their cities are built right around the ancient structures embodying them as part of their modern day lives.
After having the chance not only to visit these sites but draw them, they are now built into my memory, and have richened my education and also my life. I am grateful for having the opportunity to be a part of this trip. It was a lot of hard work, with long stressful days but I do not regret any minute of it.
One of my favorite sites was actually the last site we visited. It was the Church of the Jubilee. It is a 20th century church, different from all the previous sites we visited on the trip. I particularly enjoyed this church because of the modern architecture, the clean lines and the white color palette. This is personally the type of architecture and design I am drawn to. This church was designed by Richard Meier and was completed in 2003. As you pull up to the church, you are welcomed by three large curving exterior walls that are meant to resemble sails of a boat, and also are meant to represent the Holy Trinity. Glass ceilings and skylights in the church span the entire length of the building filling the space with natural light. This church is not a traditional church and was not intended to be. It was intended to be a contemporary work of art and to keep up with the architecture of the time.
Favorite Dessert: Warm Croissant filled with Nutella
It is difficult to articulate the impact that walking through the streets of Rome has on one’s psyche. You can see all the photographs of ancient ruins and churches you want, but when you are actually there, the real thing exists on an entirely different plane.
A reoccurring thought crossed my mind throughout the trip: how lucky modern Italians are to see these structures day in and day out. They go about their business – walking the dog, traveling to work, picking up groceries – all against the backdrop of ancient ruins and old basilicas, structures people centuries ago designed and inhibited. It seemed as if ancient sites were integrated into these people’s lives. The Pantheon, easily one of Rome’s most iconic structures, stood amongst residential buildings and various cafes. While I’m turning pages of textbooks, they’re turning street corners. But this anticipation of new discovery captivated me. Eager to see and learn, the feeling left me wanting more.
I turned one corner, approaching the Vatican square, and the colonnades seemed to be sweeping out to greet me like giant arms about to embrace the world. As I walked into various churches and excavations sites, I was cowed into complete and awesome silence. I felt small. And I felt even more so as I entered the great basilica at the heart of Vatican City. The scale of the place, the paintings, the beauty, the statues, the face of the Pope – no experience comes remotely close.
The vast power of Rome’s churches pulled me in different directions. It was inconceivable, and yet so attractive. They had everything that American architecture lacked: history, beauty, self-conscious identity and, quite frankly, class. There is a certain attraction of Rome: the sheer mass of the organization; the overwhelming aesthetics; the confidence of an ancient institution that knows what it is, where it comes from, and where it is going; and the plethora of brilliant intellects that have studied it over centuries.
In my understanding and reading of space, light is the protagonist. Light is the means by which we are able to experience what we call sacred. It is the goal of most religious architecture to convey great spiritual power. Francesco Borromini was successful in his design for S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. Upon visiting Borromini’s church, one will experience a glorious white interior filled with light and magic. It is an iconic masterpiece of Baroque architecture. Although dedicated to Carlo Borromeo, the 16th century Milanese cardinal canonized in 1620, San Carlo is as much a monument to its creator, Borromini. Both the façade and interior employ bold curves that give light and life to a small structure. The oval dome and lantern are particularly ingenious. The undulating lines of the façade are decorated with angels and a statue of San Carlo. Finished in 1667, the façade is one of Borromini’s very last works. It contrasts most other Baroque churches in that it is not adorned with gold and colorful frescoes. Walking through various basilicas of the city, we became accustomed to overdone (and should I say “gaudy”) church interiors. The pure whiteness and simplicity of S. Carlo was refreshing. One is capable of viewing the church in its entirety without being bombarded by paintings, colorful material choice and ornate décor. Instead, Borromini uses concave/convex arches to create symmetry and add his own characteristic style to the church. I felt a certain spiritual connection to the space. This was certainly brought on by the light that flooded the church from the dome. The play of shadow was especially intriguing. I had great appreciation for the more private and serene environment for meditation that the church offered. The words H.G. Gadamer in The Relevance of the Beautiful specifically remind me of this experience: “We only have to think of certain expressions like the ‘play of light’ and the ‘play of the waves’ where we have such a constant coming and going, back and forth, a movement that is not tied down to any goal. That the sense of freedom and movement – both in human festivities, and also in natural phenomena as the play of light – may be seen as fundamentally theological.”
Favorite Dessert: Nutella filled croissant; combination of Strawberry/Lemon gelati.
Post by: Michelle Merker