Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Photo of the Day: St. Peter's Basilica

This past May I taught a course on the architecture of Florence, Rome and Tuscany, spending 10 days in Italy with 18 COD students.  I plan to begin posting a “photo of the day”, most days, from this recent trip.  This is partially as an attempt to revitalize this blog, and partially to record my thoughts and memories before they slip away into the summer.  I will keep this going until I lose interest, or until I run out of material…… whichever comes first - enjoy!

Photo of the Day: St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome (Bernini’s baldacchino below Michelangelo’s dome)

Why we Travel?
For me, architecture is primarily an experiential art. We understand spaces and places through our bodily experiences of them.  We measure, record, and interpret the spaces we encounter by our movement through space and with our senses.   The art of architecture is experienced through our bodies, and seared in our memories by firsthand experiences of spaces and places.   

Contemporary culture is extremely imaged based, and while I too enjoy the proliferation of the “image” of architecture spread worldwide by blogs like this and other media platforms, nothing can replace the firsthand primary experience of place.   It thrilled me that several students on our visit to St. Peter’s commented on how they really did not fully understand the spatial characteristics of the basilica until they experienced it firsthand.  They commented that learning about the building through slide lectures in their intro architecture course at COD did not sufficiently prepare them for the grandeur and scale of the space.  And really how could it?  How could we possibly expect that a student truly understand the spatial qualities of St. Peters from a book, or a slide in a lecture course.  The truth is that nothing can really prepare you for the spatial awesomeness of the central nave at St. Peter’s.  The only way to really understand it to experience it, move through it, and “measure” the space, volume, scale and quality of light through sensory perception.
So as a student of architecture (and I still consider myself to be one), we travel to learn.  We travel to understand significant places and spaces through firsthand sensory experience.  We travel to understand spaces as we move through them, and to imprint this understanding of space in our memories.  These memories become a part of us as designers, and ultimately influence the way we understand the world and respond to it creatively. 

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