A Review and a Lecture
Last week the small enclave of Cornell Architects in Rome ended the first phase of our design studio with a review of site research. This primarily consisted of a series of analytic maps, a catalog of architectural actions, and the requisite site model produced for each of the four sites. This was then followed by a lecture by Andrea Boschetti, one of the founders of Metrogramma.
To give you a little context, the Rome studio is focused principally on large scale urban design strategies meant to occupy peripheral voids in the urban fabric. Four distinct sites were chosen as the basis of the design project. Led by professors Maria Claudia Clemente and Francesco Isidori, founders of Labics (which can be found here http://www.labics.it/labics-en.html ), the Rome Architects divided into four groups to map each of the four sites spread throughout Rome.
A quick note on size: the chosen sites are actually massive in scale, like really massive. I (along with the other architects) have been to the so-called ‘snake’ site three times for upwards of 12 cumulative hours and have only seen roughly 75% of it. There is an additional complication in that, though unused, many of these sites are void conditions – specifically because of inaccessibility due to infrastructure such as roads and train tracks and the like, as well as fences (presumably government or private property). Nonetheless, these proved only minor obstacles to Cornell in Rome’s intrepid architects. Thus we were able to conduct analysis, construct maps, and so on.
Our first review consisted of our two professors and Dominique Rethans, another architect from the Labics studio. The discussion covered questions of representation, future site strategies, possible avenues of exploration, and issues of design process and pedagogy. There was even a slightly heated discussion between myself and the assembled critics, which led to sincere questions about my motivations as a designer. But this -as my colleagues might note with exasperation- is becoming routine and is of little interest to bystanders. All in all, it was a standard review.
After a short intermission, in which some of the less fortunate of us had class, Andrea Boschetti of Metrogramma (you can find them here http://www.metrogramma.com/ ) arrived. Metrogramma (and by extension its co-founder Andrea Boschetti) is an award-winning firm specializing in master planning strategies. With projects from Turin to Manhattan and cities in Korea, they are indeed an international studio with proven expertise in the field of master planning, though it should be noted they also do work at the architectural scale. The first half of the presentation showed a truly staggering range of projects at a variety of scales. Unfortunately, due to the large number, each was little more than a plan, a name and a rendering, out of which my tired brain was incapable of synthesizing much. This was followed by a more in-depth analysis of a single project, notably the current redesign of Milan. Though this project had the potential to be incredibly useful to our studio, the presentation suffered from the ever-present language barrier. It was followed with food and wine, graciously provided by Cornell, with ample mingling until the food gave out; then each of us slunk off to our respected apartments to get some sleep after a long day.