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  Cornell University

Cornell in Rome

College of Architecture, Art and Planning

Neil Spiller Lecture


Spiller giving his talk


Neil Spiller entering the lecture room at Palazzo Lazzaroni with Professor Mark Morris

On the 27th of October Neil Spiller came to give a lecture at Cornell in Rome. Spiller is the founder of AVATAR: Advanced Virtual and Technological Architecture Research Group. Avatar is fundamentally interested in the impact of advanced technology on architectural design. Spiller, who was recently made Dean at the School of Architecture and Construction at Greenwich, presented Avatar’s research on innovative approaches to saving Venice using protocell technology to transform oil and water into a limestone-like substance, replacing the deteriorating timber piles that currently support the city. This is an alternative that has garnered much approval, a lot of recent press and was featured Architectural Design magazine. It is a more favored approach than the current plan to install a series of floodgates to control tidal movements in the lagoon. Spiller showed us recent work on the project and renderings of how the protocells would grow and multiply, attaching themselves to and supporting the ancient structure of Venice.


Spiller in front of a slide of his work

Based on technological advances and bio-genetics, Spiller’s showed us more of his work and the work of his students at the Bartlett School of Architecture at the University of London where he taught previously. The work was of a fantastical quality. He described architecture as ‘a brand of magic’ and through his highly complex and vibrant drawings of fantastical little mechanical creatures that he imagines to inhabit and create space, Spiller created links between artists such as Dali, Bernini (based on the Rome theme of his lecture) Velasquez and authors like Borges, translating them to create his own architectural art. Spiller’s belief is that one has to relate to things outside oneself to create interesting architecture because within itself there is only ‘vacant formalism’.


Neil Spiller speaking with Professors Mark Morris and Marina Kavalirek at the reception


Answering student questions – with Yi Li ’11 at the reception

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