Understanding Siena: Lorenzetti’s Good and Bad Govt. Tuesday, Aug 17 2010 

Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico is home to the most revolutionary achievement of painter Ambrogio Lorenzetti. Inside the room where Siena’s chief magistrates, the Nine, held their meetings, Lorenzetti painted the fresco series which depicts good and bad government. The fresco lines three of the four walls within the room. What makes this painting so remarkable is the fact that it is unprecedented. Lorenzetti was called upon to paint allegorical depictions of good and bad government and to represent the effects such regimes would have in the town and the country. The result is the first panoramic city/countryscape since antiquity, and the first expansive portrait that we have of an actual city and landscape. Today, the cycle is usually identified as Good and Bad Government. Ambrogio chose the best-illuminated walls for Good Government and its effects, leaving Bad Government in the shadows on a wall that has also suffered considerable damage.  


Lorenzetti's Good and Bad Government

Having had the opportunity to see the Good and Bad Government fresco, we were asked to create our own interpretations of both good and bad government using recycled magazines and newspapers. This proved to be an interesting challenge, first in acquiring the necessary materials and then in assembling the representations. The images in my collages were taken primarily from magazines that I had scrounged along the trip plus some local flyers and brochures. I went with the desaturated, black & white look for bad government as a way of saying that bad govt. has a limited perpective on things. The images I used in this collage were meant to be harsh and unhappy, representative of the effects bad govt. has on the people. Using some Italian words which translate literally to “destroyed, torn, damaged, etc” I tried to stitch the piece together. Other words such as “seduzione” and “disillusione” are in the stitching as well because unfortunately, they are the basis of bad government. As for the good government piece, I went for a completely different approach. This collage is bursting with color, symbollic of livliness and well-being which are promoted by good government. I broke it up into three categories which I feel are essential points of good government: intellect, compassion, and spirit (left to right in the collage). Also important to note is the minimal use of words as compared to bad government. I have only included three statements in the good government collage: “declaring independence”, “il mondo verde”, and “freedom”. All of these can be fully revealed by lifting the watches. This was deliberate because a good government realizes that time is precious and should not be wasted. Here are my collages:


Bad Government

Good Government


Understanding Siena: Pop-Up Piazza Style Thursday, Aug 12 2010 

Following our analytique assignment, we took on the challenge of the “Pop-Up Piazza.” To complete this challenge, we would each have to create a miniature version of the assigned piazza by cutting and folding one sheet of A3 watercolor paper. No tape, no glue, no “control z” when you cut instead of fold. This was going to be quite a challenge.

My pop-up was focused on Piazza Provenzano Salvani, a quite piazza located northeast of the Campo. Before the assignment I had never visited this piazza so it was a nice discovery. The defining feature of Piazza Provenzano is definitely the church, Santa Maria di Provenzano. In comparison to the rest of the neutral masonry buildings which define the edges of the piazza, the facade of S. Maria di Provenzano is a stark white stone. This immediately caught my eye and I decided that emphasizing the church would be one of my goals for the pop-up. Another idea which sounded great at the time but proved to be very difficult in the end was the idea of making the actual piazza a void. In this way, whatever surface I placed my pop-up on would become the ground surface. This seemed like an interesting effect. Here is an idea of what the piazza looks like:

Piazza Provenzano Salvani

 And some of my initial sketches studying the piazza and coming up with a strategy…

Process Sketches 01,02,03

01: First sketch of the piazza done on site

02: Strategy #1, working from the outside-in

03: Strategy #2, working from the inside-out

Process Sketches 04,05,06

04: Piazza Sketch including some detail of buildings

05: Relative height comparisons

06: Inside-out strategy

Small sketches were semi-helpful but to fully comprehend this design problem, my next step was to confront it at full scale on an A3 sheet…

Full Size Trial

This trial was a learning experience, as I mentioned before, there was no “control z” when I cut the wrong piece instead of folding. The next step was to draft out the final piazza with specific markings on where to fold and where to cut.

Cuts and Folds

Then it was time for building details and watercoloring. Similar to my analytique strategy, I kept with a fairly neutral palette, lots of browns and greys. Since I was working from inside-out, my piazza was going to pop up from both sides of the paper. These are the two sides prior to cutting, folding and eventually popping:

Pre-Pop !

 My final Pop-Up attempted to use the void as a strong element. I was happy with how it turned out but I’m not sure I would have taken the same road if I did this again.

Final Pop-Up_01

Final Pop-Up_02

Final Pop-Up_03

Final Pop-Up_05

Final Pop-Up_06

Understanding Siena: Porta Analytique Monday, Aug 9 2010 

To help us get an understanding of Siena, one of our first individual assignments was the Porta Analytique. The boundaries of Siena are defined rather strictly by the wall which extends around its full perimeter. During the Medieval period, these walls served as the first line of defense against intruders. Back then, the portas were heavily guarded as they were the only ways in and out of the city. Today, most of the original portas still exist and continue to function as the main passages into and out of the city.

For this assignment, I would be studying Porta Camollia. This porta is located in the far north portion of Siena. Unlike some of the other portas being studied, Porta Camollia is more of a continuation of the wall than an insertion. Despite the fact that no “interstitial space” is created by the porta, it has a surprisingly strong presence on the surrounding area. What fascinated me most about it was how different the two facades of that single plane were. Approaching from Via di Camollia, the porta appeared very heavy with dense masonry work and little ornamentation. But then, passing through to the other side, I was very surprised by what I found. The other side was much lighter, designed with ornamentation and detail. This contrast was a pleasant surprise which made my documentation of the porta much more interesting. Several details caught my eye during my study. For starters, the main visual connection I made between the two facades of Porta Camollia was the IHS Crest which had a prominant place on both sides. The I.H.S. Christian Emblem is an acronym of the Latin: Iesus Hominum Salvator which translates as Jesus, Saviour of man. Another detail which I noticed and decided to investigate was the inscription above the central arch on the outside of the porta. The arch bears the inscription “Cor Magis Tibi Siena Pandit”, which translates to  “Siena opens its heart to you wider than this gate”. The words were a tribute to Ferdinando I, Grand Duke of Tuscany. 


Inside and Outside Porta Camollia

 And so began my early documentation of Porta Camollia…


Facade Sketches Plan Sketches

Site Section Sketches


Once I felt that I had the appropriate analysis and background on Porta Camollia, I took my first shot at assembling an analytique composition. . .

Analytique Sample Layout

After completing this first attempt at a layout, there was one very obvious problem…that weird shape that resulted in the middle of the composition. Other than that, I felt that Porta Camollia was being represented from macro to micro. So the next step in this “iterative process” was doing a little bit of rearranging/repositioning so that I would not be left with that awkward middle space. I sketched out a few possible solutions and ideas before moving on to my final composition and watercolor version.

Analytique Trial Sketches

Since finding out that the final composition would be done in watercolor, I had this vision in my head for exactly what my technique would be. Just visualizing the Porta Camollia, i felt that it would be best represented in a sepia tone scheme. So without any prior experience with watercolors, I made this my goal. There are certain things I would change and I was not prepared for the amount of time and patience watercoloring takes, BUT I will say I enjoyed both the process and result of this assignment.

Final Analytique