ROMA Day 6: Baths of Caracalla, Graffiti and a Slaughterhouse Thursday, Jul 15 2010 

We began today with our very first watercolor lesson at the Baths of Caracalla instructed by Peter Lang. Over the past centuries, the baths have gradually become more and more simplified in their form. Today, it takes a combination of images, the “what is” and “what once was” to piece together the story of the Baths of Caracalla. For us as novice painters, the subject matter was perfect because of the simplified nature of the forms. However, the basic form of the subject matter was really just a starting point. Looking closely at the baths, they have a complexity all their own which makes them fascinating to look at. Instead of seeing what is (the ruins) I found myself imagining what once was  which made me really appreciate my experience there.

Baths of Caracalla - Forms and Sketches

Baths of Caracalla Panorama

Subject Matter for Watercolor Attempt #1

Baths of Caracalla Watercolor

Well keeping in mind some of the watercolor analytiques that we had seen back in Newark, my first attempt at watercolor in Rome concerned me. I did make the mistake of sitting in direct sunlight which made matters even more difficult. Though the painting turned out to be very grade school looking, I did walk away with some techniques for future watercolors: 1) start out using the lightest of lite colors, if you start too dark, there’s no coming back 2) wash the page from top to bottom with a build-up of lite layers 3) add detail and the heaviest color last.

In addition to starting our painting careers, we had a group walk which began in the early evening. We met up on Isolo Tibre and set out walking on a lower path along the Tiber. The ultimate destination of this walk was an ex-slaughterhouse which sits right along the river. Currently the slaughterhouse has been converted into two seperate communal living situations which exclusively house male populations. Between these two comunities is an organic food store and snackbar. On our walk, we were fortunate enough to get a small taste of all three. We arrived to the sounds of drum beats and dancing at the first community, stopped for a snack and rest at the organic food store and were welcomed by the second community due to some past projects Lorenzo had done there. While visiting the second community, we had the time to sit in a small, intimate garden space which Lorenzo had worked on some years back. That same spot was destined to be a parking lot before this sort of sacred space was created. All throughout the slaughterhouse compound, there was the most vibrant graffiti. Some was old, some was new. There were cracks and peels in some spaces and in others, the paint still looked wet. In a way, it turned the entire place into a work of art which continues to evolve over time.

First Signs of Graffiti

A Living Art Piece

A Few of My Favorites

ROMA Day 5: Roaming Rome and an Evening Along the Aqueduct Wednesday, Jul 14 2010 

So this morning we broke from the itinerary due to unforseen travel conditions last night (waiting for hours for public transportation). Given the morning to ourselves, we were expected to accomplish several things: visit at least one site that we couldn’t get into during the Baroque walking tour and pay a visit to Ditta G. Poggi art store to get proper watercolor supplies. We would be meeting up later in the afternoon for a walking tour along an abandoned aqueduct.

I spent my morning walking through some now familiar Roman streets, revisiting a few sites that we breezed through during our walking tour. One of my favorites is the Trevi Fountain, which I can actually remember visiting during a trip to Italy in high school. There is a legend that says if you throw a coin into the fountain by tossing it over your shoulder with your back facing the water, you will one day return to Rome. Looks like I made it!

Fontana di Trevi

I also made my way over to San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane where I took some time to visit the cloister. The upper level of the cloister was an ideal place to sit and sketch or read or just think. I did a little of everything.

San Carlo Alle Quattro Fontane Cloister

In the afternoon, we met up for our group walk along the aqueduct. Similar to the basis of our lecture from the night before, this walk was meant to give us a different perspective on Rome. Walking along the aqueduct, outside the hustle-and-bustle of the city, we learned of more “outsiders”. At one time, people were actually living along the aqueduct, making their own shanties from the existing structures. During our walk we only saw small remnants of these “settlers” but it wasn’t difficult to paint a mental picture of what it might have been like.

The group takes a break to listen to our guide David

Our Fearless Leaders

ROMA Day 4: A trip to the Countryside Tuesday, Jul 13 2010 

This morning we woke up early and took a class trip to the countryside to visit the Villa Farnese and the Villa Lante. The Villa Farnese is sometimes called Villa Caprarola or Palazzo Farnesi. It was designed by the architect Giacomo Vignola in 1560. The Villa Farnesi can easily be identified by its pentagonal plan with curving interior facades that wrap an inner courtyard. Several things stood out to me at the Villa Farnese. For starters, it was strategically designed/sited to overlook the rest of the town from its high perch. Since its construction in 1560 and to this day, it has taken on a prominant position. The second thing which stands out to me is the result of a reflection upon both the Villa Farnese and the Villa Lante. Though both of this villas possess exquisite gardens and landscaping on their properties, the design for the Villa Farnesi is all about the villa.  You remember the gardens yes, but what you really remember after your visit are the breathtaking frescoes on the ceiling of each and every room and hallway and the circulation up that central stair and around the courtyard. 

Villa Farnesi Ceiling Detail

Villa Farnesi Closet Detail

Villa Farnesi Gardens

Villa Farnesi Gardens

The Villa Lante on the other hand is a scheme that, in my opinion, is all about the gardens and landscaping. The villa becomes secondary…in fact we didn’t even go inside. From the minute one sets foot on the property, that explorers urge sets in. The Mannerist gardens were originally designed by Jacapo Barozzi da Vignola in the late 1500’s. Using the slope of the site, he sets up a series of terraces which each provide some different water feature and garden element. The plan relies heavily on a central axis on which lies the primary element of each terrace. At the lowest level, there is a grand circular fountain “Fountain of the Lamps”, then at the middle terrace a large “dining table” on which the plates were sent floating, and finally at the top terrace is the “Fountain of the Deluge” which rests between two smaller structures referred to as the “houses of the muses”. Overall, the element of this garden which appealed to me the most was definitely the dining table. I have never seen anything like it. It was one of those things that made me feel like I wished I could have been alive 500 years ago to have dinner here. Clearly not the most architectural of desires, but something about the concept just fascinates me. 

Villa Lante Water Table

Following our day trip to the countryside, we made our way to the Villa Massimo for the evening session. The atmosphere was very relaxing and we had a great dinner from the BBQ. Dinner was followed by a lecture about origin and what it means to be an “insider” in society/culture/cities as opposed to an “outsider”. This lecture was strategically planned as a way of planting a seed in our heads for the weeks to come. Tonight we also met Lorenzo and Giulia for the first time. They both seemed extremely enthusiastic about having us in Rome and working with us in the weeks to come. 

The Villa Massimo

Villa Massimo Sketches

ROMA Mapping and Villa Giulia Analytique Monday, Jul 12 2010 

Mapping The Journey

This is the end result of my mapping after several trips to the Villa Giulia. It is meant to be seen almost as a film strip of my experience. The first slide represents the first leg of the trip which I took with Raptor and Neil (note the sunglasses). The next slide represents the secondary goal of our first trips in Roma which was to acquire as many free maps as possible. The third and fourth slides represent the bulk of the journey: travelling on the Metro, stopping at the Spanish Steps, then walking our way to Piazza del Popolo and eventually Villa Medici. On the fourth slide, there are only two pairs of shades because our team of three dwindled to just two. The final slide is me finally reaching the Villa Giulia which is within Villa Borghese and cut-off from the majority of free tourist maps. Only one pair of sunglasses remain because I have reached my destination and discovered a beautiful place of solace from the city.

Villa Giulia Final Analytique

Analytical drawings cannot express the true beauty of the Villa Giulia, it is the fine detail and the fabulous transitional quality of the spaces which truly captured me during my visit.

ROMA Day 3: Baroque Walking Tour Monday, Jul 12 2010 

This morning we set out from the Derby as a group on our first Baroque walking tour. The first stop on our list was the Piazza del Popolo, already an old friend of mine. Something new to my eyes was the interior of the Chiesa di Santa Maria del Popolo. The facade and nave sculptures were done by Bernini circa 1660 and the apse by Bramante between 1600-1609. I enjoyed the interior of this church because to me it felt pristine and not overly adorned with gold plating and gaudiness. The Cappella Cerasi within Santa Maria del Popolo also had two Canvases done by Caravaggio, one of Italy’s foremost Baroque painters.

Santa Maria del Popolo

The next stop on our list was the well known Piazza Navona. The main structure, St. Agnese was designed by Francesco Borromini while the center piece of the piazza, the Fontana dei Quattro Fiume was the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Despite the fact that the two designers may have had a bit of conflict back in the day, Piazza Navona has become an icon of Baroque architecture and art. It is difficult to simply pass through the piazza without taking time to observe the fountains or simply take in the spectacle of people just being people.

St. Agnesi

Following the Piazza Navona, we made our way over to Santa Maria della Pace. As the church was closed, we were only able to take in some of the details of the exterior facade. There was definitely something that struck me about this church and I knew I would be back another day. Perhaps it was the way that the church occupied its space at the end of a small street or the way the facade seemed to gently fold and draw people in?

Santa Maria della Pace

During the “intermission” of our walking tour, we grabbed lunch and stopped at the Pantheon. This is obviously a must see while in Rome and despite the swarms of tourists, I would say it was pretty incredible. The way the oculus allows light to enter the dome and the main drum was innovative for its time and to this day is experientially unparalleled.

Pantheon

 Our afternoon session was primarily focused on a visit to Bernini’s San Andrea al Quirnale. As a means of understanding Bernini’s intentions, we were asked to sketch a rough plan and section of the church. In doing so, it was hard not to notice the richness of material and attention to detail that are part of Bernini’s design. By sticking with the order of classic forms, he empasizes both the materiality and construction technique.

San Andrea al Quirnale

ROMA Day 2: Return to the Villa Giulia and Find the Flea Sunday, Jul 11 2010 

For the second day exploring the city, I had two main goals: return to the Villa Giulia and then make it  over to the flea market at Porta Portese. So in the morning, I returned to Villa Borghese and the Villa Giulia for a more in depth visit. After exploring the property again, I ventured inside to what is now a large historic museum. There was alot to see, most of the content centered on the early Etruscan civilization. However, the room that I found most interesting was one that could have easily been overlooked. In the back corner of the original villa was a small room which held an array of beautiful models and drawings of the original design for the villa. A sort of homage to Pope Julius III greeted me before entering the small room. As far as history goes, the pope assigned the initial design for the villa to Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola. However, there were others who worked on the garden structures including Michelangelo. The pope himself made sure that he had a hand in the design and he spent large amounts of money maintaining and enhancing the villa. Perhaps the most important thing about the Villa Giulia is that it lies on the dividing line between Roman city and Roman country. This remains a very important concept in Roman architecture and it is one that can definitely be experienced while walking through the villa and its grounds.

Villa Giulia Plan Sketch

Villa Giulia Section Sketch

After visiting the villa, we rendezvoused with a small group and set out for the flea market at Porta Portese. I’ve always been one who loves a flea market, so I was thrilled to get the opportunity to experience one of Italy’s largest and most chaotic. Located in the Trastevere neighborhood, this market gets its name from the 17th-century archway that marks a main entrance. I was disappointed to discover that the market was wrapping up by the time we arrived in the early afternoon but from the remaining vignettes of chaos, I generated a mental image of the market in full swing. This seemed like an excellent place to immerse oneself in a foreign culture because at a flea market it’s all about unique finds and bartering with the vendors 🙂 we’ll meet again on another Sunday Porta Portese.

The Entry Arch at Porta Portese

ROMA Day 1: Early Explorations and The Villa Guilia Saturday, Jul 10 2010 

Still feeling a bit jet lagged, we met as a group to discuss the first day of exploring the city. For our first analytique assignment, I have been given the priveledge of studying the Villa Guilia. This beautiful villa was built for Pope Guilio III as “a place to change clothes and take a bath.” To reach the Villa Giulia from the Hotel Derby, I would be taking the underground Blue Line from Garbatella to Termini then switching trains to the Red Line from which I would get off at Flaminia. A bit of walking the city streets and I would be able to find the villa.

Being that it was our first real day in the city, my journey was arranged around a small group. We took the underground from our hotel to the Spanish Steps which were quite a spectacle of people. Climbing to the top of the steps, we began to approach the first stop on our list: the Villa Medici. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to get inside because as we approached the gates, they shut dramatically in our faces. Unphased and eager to explore, we walked the perimeter of the building and experienced the phenomenal view of the surrounding city from the Medici’s high perch. From our elevated position, the Piazza del Popolo was clearly visible, so we began our descent. The Piazza del Popolo is a grand space with a giant Egyptian obelisk and lion fountain in the center. This was a great place to observe the way that people move through a public space. Many use the obelisk as a navigational tool, associating it’s image with their location in relation to other Roman monuments. While some simply cross through the piazza, others gather near the fountains to chat or along the edges if they are seeking more of a private space. After experiencing this for myself, it was on to the Villa Giulia.

After crossing through the threshold of the Piazza del Popolo, I walked along Via Flaminia, eagerly awaiting the turnoff for the villa. Turning off the main road onto Via di Villa Giulia, the road became more narrow and the villa was visible in the distance. Up close, the exterior seemed simple: symmetrical facade gently affected by years of aging…something very natural about it. Once inside, the experience was quite different. The axial layout was comprised of the villa itself and a central courtyard with gardens on either side. Inside the central courtyard I felt secluded and secure, almost to the extent that I forgot my journey outside the walls. I felt particularly at ease in the peaceful gardens on either side of the court but there were really two spaces that piqued my architectural interest. The curved arcade of the villa itself was a phenomenal space to inhabit as well as view the rest of the property. Also inline with the central axis was a fascinating sunken space which I did not expect to find. I was immediately curious as to what went on in this special sunken courtyard and couldn’t help but observe what an interesting contribution it was to the sectional qualities of the overall site.

Panoramic View of the Villa Giulia from the Central Court

Beneath the Curved Arcade

The Mysterious Sunken Space In Line With the Central Court

Overall, Day 1 in ROMA was a great success 🙂

Primo notte Friday, Jul 9 2010 

This evening we landed in ROMA. After collecting our luggage [Jims never arrived 😦 ], we headed over to Stazione Termini where we encountered an interesting situation…the Metro was “on strike” so none of the trains were running. This meant that an alternative means of transportation to our hotel in Garbatella would be necessary. Some of us were lucky enough to hail a cab in front of the bustling station, but not all were took the same route. After settling in at the hotel and grabbing a bite to eat, we saw the remainder (about 1/2) of our group hiking up Largo della Sette Chiese, baggage in tow. Despite the somewhat gruelling journey after the flight, this crew was the luckiest. Their first night was a chance to see the city a-glow and a great foreshadowing of the walking and exploring to come.