I catalogue. You read.

i catalogue. you read.

20 April 2011

final jury.

the wrong way: wearing your new shirt while inking your entire final project. Ink wells tip and spill.
the Wright way: roll up your sleeves

Jury is at 2:30pm; all boards pinned up and ready-to-go by 2. It's been stressful and confusing, but we made it to today! And I literally just stumbled onto a firm's website that could've made an excellent precedent....

They're worth checking out. SAOTA is the acronym for the firm. They have a very flashy website with an abundance of projects, conceptual and built.

17 April 2011

palm sunday.


Palm Sunday at St. Peter's Basilica. Olive branches, palm leaves, and children running around hitting each other with blessed branches of various Roman flora surrounded Corin, Marisa, Steve, Billy and me for the three hour mass.
Three cantors sang the entire passion, one dropping out towards the end as his voice couldn't withstand. The entire mass was in Italian and Latin. English, Turkish, French, German, and a few other languages were thrown in there, too. After being into the mass for awhile, I looked back behind me. I didn't even realize how close to the altar we were; how many people had come out for this.

Because the mass was so long, my internal translator shut down halfway through the mass, and I focused on space I was in. My thoughts began transitioning to my current project, the facade transformation. Studio was something I had planned later for that day, but our consistency in design critique has made me fluent in the language, and I began translating the facade of St. Peter's into a "tartan grid" strategy that we've been using recently.

I have an appreciation for modern and fascist architecture, don't get me wrong, but I don't think there's very much I'd change about the Basilica. It's too classic; transforming it would be a shame. I'm glad I'm working with a virtually nameless building for my studio project.

13 April 2011

vino for alan.

the wrong way: forget your umbrella when the forecast says 'RAIN.'
the Wright way: bring your sunglasses just in case the unpredictable Roman weather takes a turn for the better! It's hard keeping prepared around here.


Tonight, the gang of us went down the street from our studio to educate ourselves on the topic of wine tasting. I'm sure the intricacies and formality involved left an impression on some of us [and I don't mean grape-juice stains].
We were all excited to read "Wine tasting: 17pm" on our schedules this week, especially in the midst of the facade transformation project we've been trying to tackle. It was a nice breath from studio, even though I'm sure I'm on the brink of a break-through.

Massimo was our guide to our grand sophistication outtake. Although slight in his English, he proved to be a wonderful guide to the unusual world of wines. He also didn't comment when some of us devoured the slices of bread, meant to be used to cleanse the pallet between tastings. So polite.

Wine color, alcoholic content, carbon dioxide, fermentation practices, regions and their effects on the wine, historical importance, and regional preferences were all explained. My favorite part was the explanation of the four common colors of wine [from Ruby to Orange] which you could compare by observing its candlelit reflection on a wine napkin. Then, noting your finger through the wine, you could test its clarity.
In my opinion, the third glass we tried was wonderful. It was a bit heavy, but was fermented in oak so it bore woody tones. It was also tonic, but had good legs- not too watery, and not too alcoholic. Don't tell Alan, but I got him a nice bottle. He's got good legs, too ;D

I love how Italians hold tradition as such a priority. It seems that many Europeans act the same way, from Festivals to daily habits. They mind their wineries as seriously as New Yorkers coddle their stocks. Massimo doesn't keep his wine out on the floor. Instead he displays many empty bottles and has conversations about the wines his customers are interested in. All of his wines are kept bottled in a temperature-controlled cellar below ground, and are upside-down so the liquid touches the cork. Apparently this is important.

I know of some families in the States who keep traditions up, though. My family makes Irish Soda Bread every St. Patty's.
America needs more Irish Soda Bread.

11 April 2011

a land as i.

the wrong way: drink the water.
the Wright way: don't complain. You were stupid.


On Friday we returned from our trip to the Southern regions of Italy. Each place we visited had its own feeling and identity. Napoli was the first city we hit, and immediately I heard the difference between the dialect of the North and South.
I met a friend there named Antony who smoked three camel lights as I sketched sections of two palazzi. He would not stop talking-- with his hands and all [I managed to get all the ash off my pages]. I suppose I would pour my heart out too if someone didn't understand a word I was saying and sat as politely.

We also visited Casa Malaparte, up in the cliffs of Capri. It was about a 40-minute hike across non-regulation stairways and winding cliff paths to reach the area from the main town. The house's keeper, Malaparte's nephew, travels that path just about every day to get to town. For us, it was a bit of a struggle, but we were driven. We spent about three hours sketching, talking about the house, and exploring.
Malaparte was not an architect, in fact he was a writer, but he had a lot of concepts he wanted to incorporate into his design. His concepts had to do with things that he possessed, that he did, or that played an important role in his life. A slave to cell 461, he carried his memory of imprisonment with him as he built his house on those jagged cliffs. His realization of the inability to attain freedom after being released was a crucial epiphany which helped spark the drive to build. He yearned for isolation, yet at the same time felt free, as a performer on a stage. These battling qualities of character were realized, as the architectural self-portrait of Malaparte was constructed on those cliffs.
One of the greatest aspects of the house is how the views are framed. From the outside, the fenestration may seem a tad random or strange, but keep in mind that this house was built from the inside-out. All considerations began from the prisoner's point of view. Each window view on the interior frames a beautiful scene.
The scenes are not just of beauty, but of types of beauty. Making your way down through, you notice that the rooms on the left are built of wood, with views emphasizing the flora of the cliffs and the trees spilling over the sides of the house, lightly protecting it from the elements.
The spaces on the right highlight the element of rock and stone, and the views follow in the same manner.
There is a white fin

that curves on the roof of the house, something CUA has used as a make-shift projection screen for summer lectures. As you walk towards the fin, it grows bigger and cuts off everything from view but the sky and the tops of the cliffs. Standing in a certain location on the roof, you feel like a prisoner to the natural world.

Temple of Apollo ruins

Pompeii/bath complex

03 April 2011

roman invasion.

the wrong way: don't wear sunscreen.
the Wright solution: prevent blistering, downsize the peeling and heat, and help your sun poisoning heal faster by soaking yourself in cold tea.

Well I haven't seen any Visigoths around, but there is in invasion that seems to continue in Rome even now; not by a German barbarian, but by a Frenchie perfectionist.

A street artist known as "Invader" has struck again, this time in Campo Di'Fiori. Invader conquers the urban landscape with his trademark tiles. He has "invaded" many European cities, France being the first to lose its pixel-virginity. This nonsense all began in 1990.

I first noticed his mosaics the first day we got here, and assumed that they were colorful markers of certain streets. After passing a few more, it became apparent that they didn't include street names; they were some kind of local artist's work. Ironically, as time has passed, I've started using them as landmarks.
All compositions are meticulously aligned and positioned in such a way as to be out of reach to those who have intentions of damaging the art, yet within easy view. These little touches are what made them stand out to me [and the colors, and the invader game, and the contrast, and the nostalgia...]. The city seems to positively respond to these invaders. They're very different than superficial vandalism, they have become a small, quirky element of the city's fabric.

The artist has a specific criteria for the placement of the images around cities, too. They're never randomly placed, but have "rules" set up for each individual city. Invader also keeps track of every single work and maps them out. I've heard he's published a book, too.
For example, Montpellier has been decoded: all the mosaics were installed so that, if placed on a map, the locations together form a giant invader character. Talk about keeping the larger context in mind during the design process.

The colorful mosaics Invader installs are made up of tiny squares forming a pixelated image of a little "invader" as influenced by the Space Invaders game. If you don't know what that is, it's a rad game from the 70's [there's a free Blackberry app available].
Since the game has such low graphics, the technique of using mosaic tiles to represent the pixels was clever.

Unlike a lot of urban artists, Invader has a face. He's had solo art exhibitions in many large cities, and shares my love of grids, pixels, squares, and colorful perfect forms; apparent in his studies of the Rubix Cube. I'd love to see one of his exhibitions one day. Steph Cervantes shares my fascination with this street artist.


A few CUArch went to the beach yesterday, and one of them forgot his sunscreen. It was so bad that we were able to find Justin's skin tone on Sally Hansen's interactive nailpolish color selector. his shade was "Cheerful Crimson."

Since I'm so susceptible to burning, I have a few strategies for dealing with sunburn as bad as this. It sounds strange, but if you soak your skin in cold tea, the tea will absorb the heat from your skin and help it to repair itself faster.

Brew a bowl of Earl Grey or Breakfast Tea, [Lipton is fine, just TEA.] let it cool down in the fridge or on a table, and start soaking paper towels in it. Then lay the cool wet towels on the burnt areas of your body, changing them when they heat up or go dry.

I've had to do this a few times, once I even finished Gone With the Wind in the process. You'll have to soak yourself for awhile, but if it prevents the puffiness and blisters from forming, then 'Frankly, woman, I don't give a damn.'

31 March 2011

brace yourself.

the wrong way: Go hiking in Germany with a partially-torn lateral ligament.
the Wright way: If you think you got an injury in a foreign country, even if it means missing a series of site visits in Rome and a day of sketching, get it checked out.


Yesterday, our group went on a bus tour around Roma. Because I wasn't there, I'm not sure which sites they hit. If you're curious, check out our main blog, cuaarchrome2011.blogspot.com.

So what did I do with my day? Let me begin with my Sunday.
Sunday morning, instead of church, I found myself in a taxi on the way to Fatebenefratelli, the main hospital on Tiber Island. There exists an interesting history about the island and its medicinal practices. A legend about the old Roman god of health being brought to the island influenced its use as a place of healing and rest.

Well I haven't been healing for the past two weeks, but I did do a lot of resting in the waiting room for seven [7] hours [yes. seven hours.]. I sat among the old Italian geezers using their urinal bags in their wheelchairs, nuns praying a decade in a corner, a teenager with the skin around her eye changing from red and swollen to black, blue, and convex, a woman letting out hushed weeps as some liquid from her abdomen turned the pale blue of her shirt a dark dotty red, and bodies on stretchers racing by. Several Italian soap operas and fitness commercials blared in the top left of my peripheral.

At 4:45pm, I got to see the doctor. Claudia came with me to translate, and through her, I learned I needed to see a specialist. The hospital gave me a prescription for pain-killers [which as of late I've realized kick up the acidity of my poor stomach], wrapped up my knee in temporary supports, made me a different appointment, and kissed me good-bye.

Monday and Tuesday were a blur-- a mixture of frustration from limitations, knee/stomach pain, guilt from being snappy at people, and drowsiness from medication. Wednesday's knee appointment was interesting, as a French Italian-speaking doctor used Google.translate and the anatomical sketches I drew on his post-its to figure out what happened to cause the injury. [Long-story-short, I twisted my knee in Germany two weeks ago and continued to walk on it, not wanting to complain. It got really bad on Friday morning after I went running, inspired by the recent 26-mi. Rome Marathon and the marathon that passed through D.C. last week].
Then Dr. Jean and I played charades and "if i hit this, does it hurt?" to diagnose my problem. I also taught him how to say "simple" in English.
He wrote down a knee brace and topical cream to get at the pharmacia, which I picked up this morning. I feel so much better with the brace it's remarkable. I want to go running again, but I think the most I'll be doing is sunning myself on Tiber Island and sketching from a seated position.
Neither is bad, in fact. I could use a few freckles, and my sketchbook does need a touch-up. . .

We leave for Southern Italy on Monday. We're hitting Naples, Pompeii, and Capri for sure. Apparently, it's a lot of walking. On the bright side, Dave will be there! That should encourage everyone, no matter what they're dealing with at the moment. Everyone could use a little bit of home.


Last week, Stanley Hallet, a retired CUA professor, visited and helped us out with a photography/film project, assigning us a site and a final due date. We had about two days to work on it. The purpose was to give the viewer an essence of the location with a MacBook based slide presentation, so we had to have a team member with an Apple computer. Andrew was our man for that part of the project. Andrew and I shot the photos, Rebecca did a lot of the editing, and we collectively chose the song for the background music. Here's a link to our final product:
Palazzo Spada

Hallet visits during our field study to give us some pointers

SPOTTED! Andrew helping with the shopping for the final presentation snack table.

Why we sometimes refer to Marina as "mom."

What do you think?

25 March 2011

modern transcendence.

the wrong way: don't drink water or coffee all day, even though in the back of your mind you know you're probably going to walk about 3 miles again.
the Wright way: get over your focus on health for just this one day-- share a gelato with good company, and pop a few Tylenol. The migraine isn't worth it. Then remember that keeping yourself hydrated is in fact a really important issue during hot days in Roma.


The act of getting to the MAXXI in itself was an art form, or maybe more of an acrobatic feat. Never try to fit 30+ people into a mini-bus unless you're trying to win something. It gets a bit claustrophobic. I would say that we all got a bit CLOSER as a group.

If you've ever been to the MAXXI museum in Roma, the first thing that should strike you is the architecture around the exhibition spaces. The circulation is simple and somewhat muted in order to highlight the purpose of the building, the art itself. But like successful works by Carlo Scarpa, the building maintains a modern aire as it adds subtle charm to the spaces with its materials, texture, and lighting outside of the exhibition spaces.

There are multiple ramps suspended over the main lobby space which carry the flow of people to different spaces in separate quadrants of the building. There are metal grates you can look down through which constantly remind you of suspension, as the landings give you a break from the translucency of material and replace it with lighting, casting interesting shadows and emphasizing the pattern of the metal grates. These ramps are mixed in with some steps [which 9 out of 10 people in our group were spotted tripping over] and are completely separated from the art exhibition spaces, which are absolutely focused on the artists. I felt that the museum was excellent in this regard, and my taste for modern art just made the museum come alive. It was enchanting.

I decided to go into today with more positivity than I've been feeling recently. It helped me to focus more on the experience, and on the art itself. I keep forgetting how I almost became an art major. I constantly get dragged away from compositions in museums. I tend to linger too long for many peoples' tastes. If you ever go to a museum with me, be prepared to be there for a few hours, minimum.

Here are some of the more memorable pieces I took pictures of from today. I didn't get many shots because of the 'no pictures' rule.