Cornell in Rome Marks its 30th Anniversary
The College of Architecture, Art, and Planning marked Cornell in Rome's 30th anniversary this spring with a three-day celebration in the Eternal City. Nearly 300 guests attended a broad range of carefully coordinated tours, talks, and social events at venues such as Palazzo Massimo, Palazzo Santacroce, Campidoglio, and Villa Aurelia at the American Academy in Rome in what was a fitting tribute to the longest-running international study program at Cornell — one that has seen more than 2,500 students pass through its doors.
Cornell in Rome began in 1985 with an exhibition of student work from Colin Rowe's urban design studio at Peruzzi's lauded Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne, an event that began a new dialogue on the city and helped to establish the venue as a first home for the program. Rowe's time on the faculty at Cornell coincided with that of AAP Dean William McMinn who worked with faculty members John Shaw, architecture; and Jack Squier, art; and the program's first director Roberto Einaudi (B.Arch. '61), to fully realize Cornell in Rome by fall 1986.
"We were in unknown waters because there was no structure in place for international study at Cornell, but we knew that the mechanisms would follow, so we focused on the spirit of what the program should be," said McMinn, reminiscing. "It would have been easy to plan for a program that disappears, but we wanted to establish a new academic center for learning that would last."
In the fall of 1988, the program became college-wide when Porus Olpadwala taught the ﬁrst planning courses. From Cornell in Rome's earliest years, the strong and lasting connection between the Ithaca and Roman campuses has made the program unique among similar international programs.
The continuity between Ithaca and Rome was also in evidence at the celebration. Several Ithaca-based AAP faculty members who have taught in Rome both in the past and presently, as well as long-time Rome-based faculty, led talks, tours, and workshops during the three days, including Jeffrey Blanchard and Jan Gadeyne — who have been guiding students through Rome and several different regions of Italy each semester for more than 20 years. Tours included destinations such as Palazzo Colonna, Trastevere and Janiculum Hill, and the Crypta Balbi Museum. Cornell in Rome Administrative Director Anna Rita Flati hosted two pasta making workshops that recalled the many times during her 30 years with the program that she has taught students the art of traditional Italian cuisine.
Guests at the celebration included Cornell administrative leadership, friends of the college, and program alumni. AAP Advisory Council member and art alumna Joy Marovitz (B.F.A. '97) noted that the tour of Palazzo Colonna, led by Blanchard, was a highlight of the anniversary celebration for her. "For the entirety of our tour of the Palazzo, we had nearly unfettered access to large swaths of the palace and its stunning frescoes. We also saw a number of fascinating commissioned curio cabinets, and every room had at least one Murano glass chandelier," recalls Marovitz.
Marovitz initially participated in Cornell in Rome as an art student in 1993 and was as taken by the significant historical sites and Roman daily life then as she was this spring. "I was bemused to find myself reverting to my old eager student self — thirsty for facts and hanging on for an intriguing lecturer's next turn of phrase," she added.
Madeleine Metawati Eggers (B.Arch. '19), a current student at Cornell in Rome, was also at the celebration. She found the consistently high level of engagement across three days contributed to the success of the event. "Everyone seemed to be breathlessly taking in their surroundings, as awestruck by the city on day three as we were on day one," noted Eggers. "During tours and events, I'd have these fascinating conversations with the people around me only to find out later that they were, say, Chad Coates, advising dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, or a long-time member of the AAP advisory council. You could talk to anyone, and anyone could talk to you."
The weekend's events also included a hosted lunch at the current home of the program, Palazzo Santacroce, where alumni could compare the current atmosphere with their own experiences. Since its 1987 opening at Palazzo Massimo, Cornell in Rome has changed locations twice due to growth, most recently from Palazzo Lazzaroni, which housed the program from 1997 to 2016. Over three decades, Cornell in Rome has approximately doubled in size, increasing capacity for student enrollment that extends not only beyond AAP, but beyond Cornell University as well.
"The college is as deeply dedicated to the life and growth of the Rome program as it was 30 years ago," says Kent Kleinman, Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of AAP. "The creation of a site for teaching and learning in one of the world's most interesting urban centers has become an extension of the college's commitment to expanding curricular offerings that have from the beginning been remarkably signiﬁcant to the lives of our Ithaca-based students and faculty."
By Edith Fikes