Cornell in Rome: Foundations in Architecture Studio, Fall 2017

  • Instructor

    Visiting Critic Isabel Oyuela-Bonzani

Foundations in Architecture is an intensive program that introduces students to the rich intersections of architectural, artistic, urban, and cultural practices of both historical and contemporary Rome. At the core of the program is a design studio — a class that introduces the ideas, principles, and methods of exploring architectural problems in a historically rich and culturally unique environment. A portfolio development class and electives that focus on architecture or architectural theory, visual arts, or urban studies complement the design studio.

This page represents work by four students:

  • Lily Hayes, Tufts University
  • Isabella Teran, Brown University
  • Zilan Wang, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University
  • Ziting Wang, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University

Class Description

Rome, a continually shifting urban entity, has existed along the Tiber River for 2770 years. Centuries of layering, rebuilding, destroying, and expanding by its inhabitants have constructed the city's DNA, a complex code of changing societies and histories. It is the Eternal City — a quilt of architectural pieces in which the occupants have continually carried out their lives. However, for each character — be it the tourist, the immigrant, the historian, or the grandmother carrying her market goods — the space and memories created in this gallery of time are inherently unique.

A central theme of the class was to emphasize how architecture affects and is affected by the development of place; specifically, the way it negotiates varying, and at times contradictory, notions of past, present, and future. Rome was therefore approached as a vibrant milieu; a palimpsest of memories, complex and richly layered. The city was the laboratory for discovering the reality of architecture; the experiential, social qualities beyond that of walls, planes, and structure. From the fragments, traces, and stories of the city, a new architecture that has yet to be imagined might evolve.

The approach of the studio was both to hybridize and peel apart the layers of Rome in order to discover its multiple definitions of place and time. The semester began with the analysis of objects which measure and record time. The embedded fragments and traces of stories were a window into new ways of living while furthering one's understanding of space. As the semester proceeded, Roman architectural precedents were studied for additional cues into the bond between architecture and its multiple scales of context and experience. Building upon the discoveries the studio made thus far, students then approached specific sites through a series of mapping, drawing, and exploratory exercises. Students presented a tangible conclusion at the culmination of the semester, addressing the question of how one might create an architecture of past, present, and/or future memories.

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