Journey of the Exile – Rome

Posted: November 19, 2012 in Architecture and Culture, Life, Projects, School, Thought Provoking
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We set the stage with many millennia of history, ruins, stories, lives lost, wars won, emperors, peasants, scholars, culture, and, most importantly, architecture. We step back, glancing up at the piercing sun, squinting slightly as we recoil from the harsh glare of that which is now obscuring our view of the meeting place. We see that business continues as usual here, that men are discussing policy, while others peddle fruits and other wares, and that there are those who merely wander through. We are dwarfed by the structures around us, forcing us into awe of their majesty. We come to realize why we are here, and more importantly, where we are now.

We are in Rome. All times of Rome meshing into one coherent culture that we can experience even today if we choose to travel. My commentary on Rome for this matter will focus primarily on the current city of Rome, but I will be referencing the past for a few of the points that I will make to illustrate the complexity and power of the city. We begin our look at the city by analyzing the overall structure of the transportation system that is most prevalent for my experiences, the metro. We used the metro to get to the general vicinity of whatever we were going to go see, because you could not get too close to it due to the fact that when constructing the metro in Rome they build about 10 feet, then hit ruins that need to be excavated and evaluated for their worth. Because the metro only takes you so close to what you want to see, you are forced to walk through the rest of the city and experience all of the joys, wonders, and annoyances that Rome has to offer.

The first joy is the fact that the metro is easy to use to anyone who has a map, if you have one then you are good to go for your stay in Rome. Once you leave the metro, you have many options for what you could do next: grab a cappuccino at a local bar, wander around looking at all of the monuments and ruins, grab some pizza to walk around with, visit a fountain to relax at, or go around shopping if you like. Most of the time, we chose to get a drink at a bar and then continue on to our tours that we had planned with our professor. The wonders of the city are all around you because the entire city is many layers of ruins upon ruins upon future ruins. It’s all a great tapestry to stare at for years. The annoyances start with all of the annoying gypsies trying to sell you something useless at every corner. Every turn you make, there will be one there, trying to sell you something stupid, and they will continue to try to sell you stuff even after you’ve said no a million times.

Now that we have navigated some of the streets for the most part, we find ourselves wondering about how this city still functions in modern day society. Well, for the most part, it stays true to its old roots and keeps the Italian style of life strong. The only real addition that I feel has been made to the city is the addition of the roads to accommodate cars and other modes of transportation.

I will finish this brief analysis of Rome with just one thought: Saint Peter’s. Everyone should visit Saint Peter’s whether or not they believe the same way or not, the space is one of the most daunting spaces you will ever experience when it comes to religion. My professor railed me once for saying that many cathedrals, churches, what have you, are supposed to make you feel small and insignificant compared to the powers and grace of God. He believes the exact opposite of that and proceeded to completely disregard the conversation about Kahn, and instead voice his own personal views on the matter while shutting down that one statement I made. Experience St. Peter’s and you will definitely know what I am talking about. You will not feel close to God and it does not make you want to be close to him if this is what is meant to be brought about in his name. I won’t get too much into the religion aspect of this, but St. Peter’s is an experience.

We now look at the city of Rome and how it is dealing with architecture in the modern era of society. We went to see a few modern buildings in the Rome and found that they were either not well received or underused for the scale of them. The MAXXI is barely used and isn’t even finished as the original concept had intended for it to be, it’s only half done if anything. Designing in such dense areas of history now is becoming a great challenge. Do you try to mimic the past? That’s hard because most people don’t have the formal teaching to use classicism correctly. Do you try to contrast to the past with a very modern structure instead? Well most of those aren’t well received because they are so out of place amongst everything else that the city has. Walk two steps and you trip over a church, forum, coliseum, or other great structure; so having some giant white monstrosity next to it, doesn’t seem to make much sense either. Do we try to fuse both together to create a more dynamic structure that embraces both the past, present and future? Personally, I think this is the most appropriate way to go about designing in places such as Rome. I personally think the works of Carlo Scarpa should be looked at by anyone fortunate enough to design within Rome, that way you may make a more informed design choice.

Whatever the risk, still onward.

-The Exile

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