Northern Italy: Venezia & Milan

The students have all been waiting for the trip to northern Italia. The first leg of the journey had finally arrived. We all board the train to Venezia to start a tour architecture, ranging from very early buildings of renaissance and baroque to some new pieces that have just recently been completed. 

The first thing that happened was the Sandro moment at the exit of the train station. We were all in awe at the site before us; the streets that are so familiar to us are replaced with canals, and the cars are replaced with boats and gondolas. After the few minutes of taking everything in, we dropped that bags in the hotel and headed to dinner. The meal was delicious, and typical of Venezia. Afterwards, we headed to St. Mark’s square to witness the nightly phenomenon, the tide rising into the piazza. The venetians have a simple solution to the flooding; a bridge system that is put in place each night. We also go to see the Grand Canal at night, with all of the churches lit up.  The final part of the night was the water taxi ride along the canal back to the hotel. The buildings use the similar tactics to combat the rising tides; doors that lock in and block the lower portion of the doorways. These floors are not occupied. The important parts of the building are located on the Piano Nobile, where the paintings and ornamentation fill the walls. 

The next day was jam-packed with information due to the later train the previous day. The morning was filled with Carlo Scarpa sights such as the architecture school and the Quarini Stampale. Scarpa shows respect for the previously built environment by using gaps and seals before using a new material.  We also visited St. Mark’s again, but this time toured the inside of the byzantine styled church and went out onto the rooftop. Here we got a better look at the clock tower next to the church and the squares. 

The afternoon was packed with a sketching exercise at Il Redentore by Palladio and a visit to the housing complexes completed by Cino Zucchi. These were both great places to seek inspiration for the 2 unit housing project assigned in studio. The last stop of the day was the Dogana Museo designed by Tadao Ando. Ando uses pure materials such as concrete, wood, and metal to house modern art. These materials are all complemented by the sweeping views of the canals from the windows. All of the sights gave great insight as to who a city works when surrounded by water, and inspired the students to take elements and incorporate them into our studio projects.

The next morning was very early, since we were leaving Venezia to take a train to Milano. It was hard for many of us to say goodbye to this incredible city, but we were excited to see what else was to come. The train dropped us in Milano and we were instantly thrown into a different world. Leaving the city of canals and coming to Milano were polar opposites. Milano is preparing for the Expo 2015, so there is a lot of excitement and building occurring. Here, students looked at different types of architecture, much more modern and a different style. Looking at the housing complex, we saw use of color and material and how it created certain situations. The building is also transformed by the time of year, since the terraces are blooming only during certain times.

After the modern pieces of Milano, we visited the more traditional piece: the duomo.  This gothic church is massive in scale, and again was a great chance to study proportion in a fa├žade. Students sketched and afterwards went to the roof of the building. The views are incredible and the up close study of the gothic elements was breathe-taking. Milano was an excellent contrast to Venezia, and this again was contrasted with the next city on the trip: Como.

-Meg Ross & Nick Yager