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  Cornell University

Cornell in Rome

College of Architecture, Art and Planning

La prima settimana

At the moment I am sitting in the beautiful Palazzo Larzzaroni, that we call studio, and drawing for our first assignment. This building is very different from Milstein Hall, to say the least. Instead of the floor-to-ceiling glass panels that I am so used to, the palazzo has windows with shutters. Instead of a white ceiling with skylights, there is a vaulted ceiling, ornately painted. What concerns me most at the moment, though, is that instead of having an electronic sensor which controls the HVAC system, the palazzo is back-to-basics, which means opening the windows to get some fresh air. Unheard of!

Classes started this week, and yet today is the first time I am actually spending several hours sitting in the palazzo. This may seem a paradox at first glance, but, in reality, it’s pretty typical of classes in Rome. Every one of my classes went on a “site visit” this week around the city. Textbooks are almost unnecessary here because “the city of Rome is our (free) unique textbook that offers the images on a scale of 1:1 and in 3D”, as Jan Gadeyne, one of my history professors, so eloquently stated in his syllabus.

This semester I am taking studio, two history classes (one about ancient Rome, and one about the Renaissance and Baroque), a theory class, and a contemporary Rome seminar. Studio meets twice a week (a welcome change!), on Mondays and Thursdays. This week we started working on our first project, for which we are drawing and analyzing several palazzi and other buildings from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Thus began a week of walking around in our large group of students, while each professor lectures in situ.

It almost feels similar to walking through Rome with a tour guide, but with several important differences. For one, the walk involves juggling a sketchbook, SLR camera, and water bottle, while avoiding tourists, listening intently, and taking notes. This may seem like an impossible feat, but while there is definitely an art to it, I think I’m getting better. More importantly, the lectures are much more intelligent, relevant, and interesting than what a regular tour could offer, so it’s worth the occasional struggle. Luckily, I haven’t dropped my camera yet.

Excitingly, this semester marks the first time I don’t have class on Fridays. Because studio always meets three times a week in Ithaca, this will also be the only time I get to experience such a luxury. The potential of this is really exciting, because it means I can take short trips on the weekends without feeling as much pressure from my classes. Even without traveling, having a three day weekend allows me to get my work done at a leisurely pace, while still having time to explore Rome.

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