Towards the end of February, we took a week-long field trip with the professors to parts of Northern Italy, which consisted of Turin, Como, Milan and Venice. Needless to say, it seemed like one of the longest yet fast-paced weeks of my life, constantly jumping from place to place. Packed with thousands of years of history, each city entailed such an unique experience that it could take several blog posts to outline everything. But for now I’ll start with a comparison of the fondest memories I have of the different cities we visited.
Here, the streets run wide and there are multiple public spaces, including covered porticoes that run through the main streets. The historical city is only just starting its battle with modernization, as the construction of its first two skyscrapers is currently underway. Speaking of modernization, we visited Renzo Piano’s FIAT factory renovation, which had inserted a shopping center, theatre and several other functions into the abandoned factory. The highlight was the preserved racetrack on the rooftop, which was once used to test cars. Many of us had fun sprinting through the race track, which turned out to be a lot longer than we thought it would be, leaving us all out of breath by the end. As the abandoned building once again has a purpose and a use, it is an excellent example of architectural preservation as well as the beginning of modernization.
Of all the larger cities we had visited, I appreciated Como the most. The scenery is incredibly picturesque, with houses of various sizes and colors planted on mountains overlooking the lake. The landscape reminded me a lot of Queenstown in New Zealand, one of the most popular tourist destinations back home. Considering this was the smallest town we visited, it had some of the most impressive contemporary buildings I’ve seen. The architectural legacy left by Giuseppe Terragni had influenced several of the architects we discuss today in class such as Eisenman. Planned within a perfect square, the half cube of the Casa del Fascio looked like a giant Rubik’s Cube, playing around with the idea of strict rational geometry. Likewise, the Sant’Elia Nursery School had a similar effect.
Milan is probably the city I could see myself most likely living in. The combination of skyscrapers and churches provides a perfect balance between modernity and history. Not only do the contemporary buildings express creativity in design, they also represent a cohesive master plan that allows the public to access the buildings via public transit or on foot. Thus the areas surrounding these skyscrapers are abundant with green spaces, paths and fountains. The historical aspect of the trip in Milan included a climb to the top of the Milano Cathedral where we got to bathe in the sun and appreciate the grandness of it all
Venice has always been on the top of my list of places I want to travel to. The city felt like a dream because just the idea of building a city on a lagoon seems out of this world. Even though streets were no wider than the width of my shoulders, and we were always, always hitting a dead end with water constantly below our feet, there was no other place like Venice. The city was blooming with antiques and handmade artifacts such as carnival masks and Murano glass, filling each corner with color and fantasy. It was unfortunate that we missed out on the Carnival, which had occurred the week before, but I’m still glad I was able to witness the historical craftsmanship that was unique to Venice.
(All photos credit to Maddy Eggers)