Summer Studio in Classical Architecture 2017 | Week Two

Follow the ICAA’s Summer Studio in Classical Architecture program, from June 19th through July 15th, as students from across the country spend four weeks in New York City and the surrounding region exploring the ideas, methods, and issues related to classical architectural design.

July 1, by Isabella DeBenedetti: Saturday’s class was led by Stephen Chrisman and Michael Mesko, who discussed how plans, sections, and elevations make up an architectural drawing. During our discussion, we looked at wonderful precedents from architects like Quinlan Terry, and George Saumarez Smith, and we noted that when we study precedents and complete measured drawing exercises, certain nuances within architecture are often revealed to us.

Summer Studio students sketch on location at the Manhattan Municipal Building

Summer Studio students sketch on location at the Manhattan Municipal Building

This discussion was followed by an exciting field study trip to Manhattan’s Municipal Building, by McKim, Mead & White, where we analyzed and compared the building’s triumphal arch and arcade to notable examples from antiquity. The practice of drawing in the field and analyzing drawings gave us a greater sense of how architects can use and manipulate certain elements in new and complex ways to masterfully solve problems of design.

View of the Manhattan Municipal Building

View of the Manhattan Municipal Building

June 30, by Holly Templeton: Friday’s classes were entirely dedicated to hand drafting. We explored the fundamental graphic conventions of orthographic drawings, which we used to continue work on our final project, a theoretical pavilion in Prospect Park.

Work by Summer Studio student Holly Templeton

Work by Summer Studio student Holly Templeton

We became familiar with the appropriate tools of hand drafting, including rotary lead pointers, set squares, and french curves, and were able to continue our practice using vellum. We paid special attention to the construction lines of the building, building contours, string courses, ground planes, and cut lines. The focus of the day was to understand how to create varying line weights in our drawings and how to identify their function in existing plans.

We also had some time to explore the literature of draftsmanship, and looked at several unique draftsmen, such as Joseph Hornecker.

June 29, by Daniel Glasgow: Thursday was another exciting and informative day for the ICAA Summer Studio. The day began with another lesson on the elements of classical design, with the focus being the Corinthian Order, followed by rigorous drawing exercises.

Students tour the offices of Robert A.M. Stern Architects

Students tour the offices of Robert A.M. Stern Architects

In the afternoon we had the privilege of visiting the offices of Robert A.M. Stern Architects, where we were hospitably greeted with a presentation about the firm and their work. The large firm is highly accomplished with international and local projects of all scales, so it was a treat to be able to see some of their up and coming projects.

The Summer Studio group stands in front of the statue of Diana at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Summer Studio group stands in front of the statue of Diana at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

After a delightful lunch in Central Park, we walked over to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we were able to see and see and sketch excellent works by McKim, Mead and White.

Students study how to depict light and shadows on objects

Students study how to depict light and shadows on objects

June 28, by Christian Johnson: We began the day with learning about the basics of how light and shadow appear on and around objects. We started with a basic sphere before progressing to more complicated forms like a cast, and egg and dart motifs.

Later, we continued developing our final projects, a theoretical pavilion in Prospect Park, before heading out to visit the offices of Peter Pennoyer Architects. We were taken on a tour of their beautiful office and studio spaces, and shown some of their in-progress and finished projects. Among the projects was a virtual reality headset that enabled us to fully visualize a space, as though we were standing in it.

Students tour the offices of Peter Pennoyer Architects

Students tour the offices of Peter Pennoyer Architects

To finish the day we attended the ICAA Plinth Summer party in Brooklyn, an event that attracts lots of young professionals and and ICAA members. It was a great way to make connections and see what young architects are doing in the city.

Students work on their drawings during class

Students work on their drawings during class

June 27, by Chas Winebrenner: Tuesday began with a continuation of our lessons on the elements of classical design, with today’s focus being the Ionic Order. In the afternoon, we enjoyed a second lesson from geometer Rachel Fletcher, who led the class in hand drafting the Golden Ratio, square root of 2 squares, and square root of 3 rectangles. She also shared her knowledge of how these proportionate systems are adapted in classical architecture, such as Rome’s Pantheon and Jefferson’s Rotunda at the University of Virginia.

Students work on hand drafting the Golden Ratio

Students work on hand drafting the Golden Ratio

We ended the day with a lecture by Jim Taylor, from Peter Pennoyer Architects, who shared with us some of the residential projects he has worked on, as well as how his firm operates on a daily basis. He also discussed the process of taking projects from design to construction, and how his firm oversees this development, while also adapting to new technologies.

Students work on their drawings during their morning class

Students work on their drawings during their morning class

June 26, by Anthony Vercio: After our first weekend in New York City, we returned to class recharged and refreshed. Our morning lesson was on proportions, taught by geometer Rachel Fletcher, who showed us how different ratios can create amazing geometric shapes and patterns, and help us frame space more beautifully. Alongside the many diagrams she had us draw, she also taught us about the symbolism that these shapes and numbers convey.

Geometer Rachel Fletcher gives students a lesson on the principles of proportion

Geometer Rachel Fletcher gives students a lesson on the principles of proportion

In the afternoon, we switched our focus to composition. Michael Mesko, Stephen Chrisman, and three teacher’s assistants proctored our esquisse, the first sketch of what will become our final presentation and the culmination of this studio.

It was a little daunting at first, but after two hours, we had all pinned our sketches to the board. As we presented our ideas to the class, most of us were astonished by the impressive array of designs that we would not have been able to do even a week ago. Seeing this much progress in just one week, we look forward to the next three weeks of the studio.

Students visiting the offices of Roman and Williams

Students visiting the offices of Roman and Williams

The final stop for the day was a tour of the offices of Roman and Williams, where we got a glimpse of the practical applications of what we are learning.

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Summer Studio in Classical Architecture 2017 | Week One

Follow the ICAA’s Summer Studio in Classical Architecture program, from June 19th through July 15th, as students from across the country spend four weeks in New York City and the surrounding region exploring the ideas, methods, and issues related to classical architectural design.

June 19, by Analis Ramos: The rainy weather could not stop us from having a marvelous first day at the ICAA’s Summer Studio. We kicked off the morning with a warm welcome from the faculty followed by student introductions, where we learned more about our respective backgrounds and styles.

After lunch we dove right into the program, kicking off our studio with a lesson on the columnar orders, followed by our first exercise of measuring ratios and the parts of columns.

Students work on their drawings during the afternoon class

Students work on their drawings during the afternoon class

We finished the evening with a thrilling lecture by Russell Windham, a founding partner of Curtis & Windham Architects and ICAA Board Chairman, on the book: A Vision of Place: The Work of Curtis & Windham Architects. We could not have asked for a better start to what will undoubtedly be an incredible summer!

ICAA Board Chairman Russell Windham lecturing on A Vision of Place: The Work of Curtis & Windham Architects

ICAA Board Chairman Russell Windham lecturing on A Vision of Place: The Work of Curtis & Windham Architects

June 20, by Analis Ramos: Tuesday we hit the ground running with a lesson on the elements of the Tuscan order, the entablature, pediment, and temple front. We then had hands-on experience practicing how to proportionally draw these elements.

Students learn how to make measured drawings of balusters

Students learn how to make measured drawings of balusters

Later in the day, we took a trip to the ICAA’s Cast Hall where we split into small groups to practice our analytical and measured drawing skills, using balustrades as our focus.

Students measure balusters in the ICAA’s Cast Hall

Students measure balusters in the ICAA’s Cast Hall

We capped the day off with an informative lecture from Richard Economakis, the Director of Architecture and Urbanism for the University of Notre Dame’s Graduate program. He spoke to us about different architects’ approaches to the proportions of the orders and introduced us to the esquisse, a design problem that we would have to solve in class the next day.

Students in the ICAA’s Cast Hall look over each other’s work at the end of the lesson

Students in the ICAA’s Cast Hall look over each other’s work at the end of the lesson

June 21, by Andrew Anderson: On Wednesday, we were given the opportunity to apply our drawings of the Tuscan order to our first design project of the Summer Studio.

Professor Richard Economakis shows students how to develop their own designs

Professor Richard Economakis shows students how to develop their own designs

Guided by visiting professor Richard Economakis, each of us had the morning to develop a basic scheme for an aedicule addition to a theoretical monument in Prospect Park. We then spent the afternoon developing our design in plan, section, and elevation, following the traditional Beaux Arts design process consisting of a rough esquisse followed by a more complete analytique.

Students work on developing their designs for a theoretical monument in Prospect Park, NY

Students work on developing their designs for a theoretical monument in Prospect Park, NY

In the evening, James McCrery, director of The Catholic University of America’s Classical Concentration, presented Roman Catholic Church architecture projects designed by McCrery Architects. Students then had a chance to meet with their mentor architects, as part of the ICAA’s new mentorship initiative.

Mentor Rodrigo Bollat Montenegro with Fionna Banchs Rios

Mentor Rodrigo Bollat Montenegro with student Fionna Banchs Rios

June 22, by Andrew Anderson: On Thursday, we spent the morning learning about the second of the five major classical orders, by drawing the parts of the Doric order according to the proportions determined by Vignola.

Students measure balustrades in Bryant Park, NY

Students measure balustrades in Bryant Park, NY

In the afternoon, we built on our practice of measured drawings from Tuesday afternoon by taking a trip to Bryant Park, where we drew balustrades in the field, as well as a detail from the east facade of the New York Public Library.

Students sketch building details at the New York Public Library

Students sketch building details at the New York Public Library

The evening concluded with a presentation by Mike Watkins on urban design in preparation for Saturday’s trip to Forest Hills Gardens in Queens.

Led by architect Kellen Krause, students compare their sketches outside the New York Public Library

Led by Kellen Krause, students compare their sketches outside the New York Public Library

June 23, by Andrew Jackson: On Friday we took a site visit to Prospect Park and did measured drawings with architects Michael Mesko and Stephen Chrisman. The beautiful site had an array of classical elements for us to study.

Students study a pavilion featuring ionic columns

Students study a pavilion featuring ionic columns

Entrance to the Prospect Park Boathouse where students completed their final drawings of the day

Entrance to the Prospect Park Boathouse

Our first task of the day was a measured drawing of a dodecagonal pavilion near the war monument. We then transitioned through the park taking note of the differences in the primary, secondary, and tertiary entrances. Chrisman also showed the class how to estimate size by pacing at a small memorial.

Next we visited the project site for our studio, which is located at 15th Street and Prospect Park West, where we learned the two existing columns are proportionately consistent with the golden section.

We continued to make our way through the park and noticed an interesting structure composed of ionic columns in conjunction with a wood member. We had a brief lesson in tectonics and concluded the day with two more measured drawings: one at another pavilion, and a second at the Prospect Park Boathouse.

Students explored various architectural elements throughout Prospect Park

Students explored various architectural elements throughout Prospect Park

June 24, by Fionna Banchs Rios: On Saturday we were accompanied by practitioners Mike Watkins, Michael Mesko, and Rodrigo Bollat Montenegro on a field trip to Forest Hills Gardens in Queens. The purpose of the trip was to study the urbanism of the site.

Students learn how to use measuring wheels in the field

Students learn how to use measuring wheels in the field

We learned how everything is arranged in a city to make it work and how every little detail has its purpose; factors crucial for creating communities that are easy to live in. For example, we learned about different types of trees that can be found in a city and why they are planted in particular places. We also learned about the importance of the size of streets, and their different functions according to the size. Throughout the first week, this has been my favorite field study.

Students walk through Forest Hill Gardens in Queens, NY

Students walk through Forest Hills Gardens in Queens, NY

Students sketch on location at Forest Hill Gardens in Queens, NY

Students sketch on location at Forest Hills Gardens in Queens, NY

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The Timeless Inspiration of Two Water Gardens: Studley Royal and Villa d’Este

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Fountain of Neptune, Villa d’Este

Summer has arrived, and millions around the world are retreating to cooler, calmer, and more bucolic destinations. Now, more than any other time of the year, we’re reminded that architecture and design have an inextricable connection to the surrounding natural environment; the most beautiful buildings are often complemented by carefully considered landscapes that, together, create a cohesive and coherent sense of place. With this in mind, I was especially inspired by garden and landscape designer Matthew Wilson’s recent piece The Visionaries behind UK’s Studley Royal and Italy’s Villa d’Este in the Financial Times Weekend House & Home section (my weekly bible!).

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Studley Royal park (Image Source: Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal / National Trust)

Wilson’s article explores the remarkable parallel histories of Studley Royal park and Villa d’Este, two water gardens that were built over 150 apart amidst financial calamity. The patrons of each garden – John Aislabie and Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, respectively – were enormously powerful and considerably tragic figures of their time. Yet each made an indelible contribution to landscape design that continues to inspire today. Indeed, both Studley Royal park and Villa d’Este are now UNESCO World Heritage sites, an indication of their vast impact worldwide.

Video featuring Studley Royal park by the National Trust in the North of England

John Aislabie inherited Studley Royal park in Yorkshire at the age of 23. After being elected as a member of parliament in 1695, he was eventually named Chancellor of the Exchequer – a post he left in disgrace in 1721 after contributing to a financial crisis known as the South Sea Bubble. Aislabie was banished to his country estate where, according to Wilson, he “invested his energies into overseeing what is still one of the most unexpectedly arresting celebrations of water in the landscape.” A Moon Pond (which interprets the lunar phases), a Temple of Piety, and numerous “crisply defined geometric bodies of water” stretch from the site of the demolished Studley Hall all the way to the unforgettable ruins of Fountains Abbey.

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Aerial view of Studley Royal park’s geometric water features (Image Source: Pinterest)

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Water gardens at Studley Royal (Image Source: Gardenvisit.com)

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The ruins of Fountains Abbey, a former Cistercian monastery originally founded in the 12th Century (Image Source: Wikipedia / Mike Peel)

Over 200 years before Aislabie began building his magnificent water gardens, Ippolito II d’Este was born in Ferrara, Italy in 1509 as the second son of the Duke of Ferrara and Lucrezia Borgia. D’Este, who emerged as one of the wealthiest cardinals of the Renaissance, hired classical scholar and artist Pirro Ligorio to envisage a villa in Tivoli to rival “anything built by the Romans.” Work began on the villa in 1560, and although d’Este burned through his fortune by 1572 before it could be completed, it is impossible to not be impressed by his “lavish vision.” Today, Villa d’Este features 364 water jets, 398 waterspouts, 64 waterfalls, and 220 basins.

hundred-fountains

The Hundred Fountains, Villa d’Este

One of the most remarkable characteristics about these two gardens – one British and the other Italian – is that they were both created before the advent of the pumping mechanism, and therefore depend entirely on gravity and the engineering of existing bodies of water to create the final designs. It is also remarkable that they are both so well preserved, despite the financial constraints and turbulent transfers of ownership that plagued both locations following the deaths of Aislabie and d’Este.

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Construction of Villa d’Este was never completed

Villa d’Este continues to serve as a vital source of inspiration for students, practitioners, and enthusiasts of classicism. Earlier this month participants on the ICAA’s annual Christopher H. Browne Rome Drawing Tour visited the garden, where they created sketches and watercolor drawings inspired by the site’s exceptional beauty. The tour, which is named in honor of the ICAA’s late Trustee, Mr. Christopher H. Browne, also visited nearby Villa Hadriana, which served as an inspiration for d’Este (as well as a source for statues and marble).

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Watercolor sketches of Villa d’Este by Christopher H. Browne
Rome Drawing Tour student Elena Belova

There is a clear and essential link between the landscape and its complex relationship to the buildings and spaces we inhabit; this indispensible connection between architecture, landscape design, and the many other disciplines that contribute to our built environment represents a key component of the ICAA’s mission. Successful design recognizes the interplay of each of these unique elements, allowing them to work together in synthesis.

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Sanguine drawing of Villa d’Este by Christopher H. Browne Rome Drawing Tour student Martin Burns

As a part of its ongoing commitment to celebrating the importance of garden and landscape design in classical architecture, the ICAA has a number of upcoming programs featuring celebrated speakers who will share their knowledge on this very topic.

On September 19, world-renowned garden designer Arne Maynard will speak about the “Formality and Informality of Garden Design” in a special lecture co-hosted by Architectural Digest. And on January 20, 2018, David Gobel, Professor of Architectural History at Savannah College of Art and Design, will lead a continuing education class at the ICAA entitled “The Villa and Garden Design, the Paradox of Paradise,” exploring the villa and garden tradition from antiquity to the present.

I hope to see you at these upcoming programs. In the meantime, this summer, I encourage everyone with a passion for classicism to bring yourselves and others to places like Villa d’Este, Studley Royal, and the architecture and landscapes in your own communities that energize and inspire.

 

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ICAA Launches Mentorship Program in Association with Summer Studio

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Rodrigo Bollat Montenegro (right) with a past Summer Studio in Classical Architecture participant

The Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA) has launched a brand-new mentorship program in association with its Summer Studio in Classical Architecture. Spearheaded by the ICAA Young Members Task Force, the mentorship initiative will connect participants of the Summer Studio program with emerging professionals within the ICAA community, and aims to provide university students and recent graduates with a deeper understanding of the professional world of classical architecture and the related fields.

Participants of the Summer Studio in Classical Architecture – a four-week, immersive program introducing students to skills, knowledge and resources essential to the practice and appreciation of classical design – will have opportunities to engage with mentors through one-on-one meetings, networking events, and during visits to professional firms. More than 20 young professionals have volunteered their time as mentors from a total of nine different firms, including Robert A.M. Stern Architects, Ferguson and Shamamian Architects, Roman and Williams, and G.P. Schafer Architect among others.

ICAA President Peter Lyden said of the program, “This latest initiative allows the ICAA to further support and engage with the next generation of classical architects and designers. By connecting Summer Studio students with our passionate members, we’re showing them that a vibrant, successful, and inspiring career in classicism is viable and achievable.”

Rodrigo Bollat Montenegro, who serves as Chair of the ICAA Young Members Task Force – a volunteer group of young and emerging architects, designers, and enthusiasts from across the country – worked closely with the ICAA Education Department to design the program. Bollat Montenegro, who is also volunteering as a mentor, said, “This new mentorship program will help guide up-and-coming practitioners as they begin to transition from students to professionals. I look forward to working with the mentees this summer, and continuing to help the ICAA make deeper connections with young professionals.”

2017 Summer Studio participant, Tatiana Amundsen, said, “So far, the mentorship program has allowed me to consider classical architecture not only from an academic perspective, but also through the lens of a practicing professional.”

After the Summer Studio concludes in mid-July, the ICAA will encourage mentors to continue dialogue with their mentees – many of whom are in the early stages of considering a career in architecture and the related fields. The mentorship initiative also provides Summer Studio participants with an opportunity to discover how ICAA programming and its broader community of members can serve as a valuable resource into the future.

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Watch Now: Breakfast & Books with Frank de Biasi

The Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, in collaboration with Rizzoli Bookstore, hosted renowned interior designer Frank de Biasi for the most recent installment of ‘Breakfast & Books’ on May 31st. You can watch the discussion here in full, in which de Biasi highlights the book The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah.

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Daily Inspiration from the Eternal City

Follow the ICAA daily from June 4th through June 10th as we study the architecture, urbanism and landscapes of Rome through observational drawing and watercolor on the Christopher H. Browne Rome Drawing Tour. The tour is led by Ben Bolgar, Senior Director at the Prince’s Foundation – London; Richard Piccolo, acclaimed painter and educator; and Thomas Rajkovich, preeminent classical architect and urbanist. Daily blog posts are provided courtesy of tour participants.


June 9th and 10th, by Sebastian von Marschall: Perhaps the hardest part of spending a week in Rome is knowing where to start. Thankfully, the ICAA’s curriculum for the 2017 Christopher H. Browne Rome Drawing Tour provided a framework that quickly immersed us in the unparalleled architectural fabric of the Eternal City.  

Under the supervision and guidance of the outstanding instructors Tom Rajkovich, Ben Bolgar, and Richard Piccolo, we were pushed to challenge ourselves and break from our predisposed approaches to drawing and analysis – all while in the shadows of some of the most spectacular architecture of antiquity, the Renaissance, and the Baroque.  

The Campidoglio in Rome

The Campidoglio in Rome

Tour participants sketch on location at the Church of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza

Tour participants sketch on location at the Church of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza

After a magnificent day in Tivoli on Thursday, the tour returned to Rome for some of the most noteworthy and challenging subjects of our schedule. Friday started at the Campidoglio, one of Rome’s famous seven hills. Tom briefly introduced the historic context as well as the forces that shaped Michaelangelo’s mid-16th century design for the Piazza and the Palazzo dei Conservatori, highlighting key architectural concepts that became critical underlying elements in our subsequent drawings of that site. The complexity of the architectural composition, as well as the dynamic nature of the light, made this site particularly challenging but also rewarding to draw.  

The Church of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza

The Church of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza

The afternoon session focused on the courtyard of the Church of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza, a few short blocks from the Piazza Navona. Francesco Borromini’s 1640s design was reminiscent of Donato Bramante’s courtyard at the church of Santa Maria della Pace (a site of study from the previous Sunday afternoon), with an added level of complexity. The undulating plane of the west-facing church facade, as well as the highly symbolic and unique spire were a reminder of Borromini’s inclination for complex geometries and mature Baroque detailing, leading to both whimsical interpretation and rigorous execution.

Tour participant Sebastian von Marschall's sketch of the Church of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza

Tour participant Sebastian von Marschall’s sketch of the Church of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza

The fruition of Bramante’s genius was exposed on Saturday morning at one of the most seminal works of the Renaissance, the Tempietto, located in the courtyard of the church of San Pietro in Montorio, on the Janiculum Hill. The temple, commissioned by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain (for context, the same monarchs who funded the voyage of Christopher Columbus), marks the location of St. Peter’s crucifixion.

Tthe Tempietto, located in the courtyard of the church of San Pietro in Montorio

The Tempietto, located in the courtyard of the church of San Pietro in Montorio

Architecturally rooted in the realms of both the spiritual and the temporal and influenced by Bramante’s focus on perfect geometries, the circular temple draws on historical precedent while asserting the power of Christian Rome as the successor to the great Empire of antiquity.

The interior of the Tempietto

The interior of the Tempietto

The Italians have an expression, “Roma, non basta una vita” (For Rome, a lifetime is not enough) in which case a week is perhaps no more than a scratch on the well-worn Travertine surface. Nevertheless, the wealth of classical architecture was brought to life by the passionate instructors and cheerful participants of the week-long tour, an experience worth celebrating at dinner on Saturday evening. The whole group had a chance to reminisce about the experience and plan future adventures below the baroque facade of Sant’Ignazio Church, bathed in the gold and purple glow of the setting Roman sun.  

The tour group at the ruins of Tibur

The tour group at Tivoli

June 8th, by Carolyne Yeow: Today the group ventured out of Rome on a road trip to Tivoli, where we visited the Villa Adriana and the Villa d’Este. The incredible villas are huge in scale while also emphasising the nature, water and land surrounding them.

Tour participants sketch on location at the Villa Adriana

Tour participants sketch on location at the Villa Adriana

The Villa Adriana was our first stop, where our instructors insightfully explained the complex geometry of the buildings. Hadrian was known as a humanist, master of rhetoric, and lover of art and architecture. The Villa Adriana helped set a standard for Roman architecture and was created to represent places around the world that had been conquered by Hadrian.

The Villa Adriana

The Villa Adriana

After a morning spent working on sketches and watercolors, the group stopped for a traditional Italian lunch at La Sybilla, located at the foot of the ruins of Tibur, and the cliff overlooking the River Aniene.

View of the gardens at the Villa d'Este

View of the gardens at the Villa d’Este

We then spent the afternoon at the gardens of Villa d’Este. It is understood that the architect Ligorio spent 15 years or so designing the symmetry of the garden to create synergy between nature and art. The gardens were something to behold – every view was breath taking!

Tour participants sketch on location at the Villa Adriana

Tour participants sketch on location in Tivoli

Today we were really challenged in terms of the enormity of detail, complex geometry, and scale that we had to capture in our sketches. The focus on perspective is becoming increasingly critical in our work. As we learn and continue to develop our skills, we also realise that with intricate subjects, improvements in learning are not linear. The beauty of today’s complex and detailed villas highlights the importance of practice, practice, practice, and to have fun on the journey.

Tour participants sketch on location int he Roman Forum

Tour participants sketch on location at Circus Maximus, overlooking Palatine Hill

June 7th, by Sasha Pokrovskaya: To understand something, one has to draw it. To see its depth – watercolor. That was how we discovered the Roman Forum.

The constant stream of tourists enlivened the forum views, seeming appropriate for what was once the center of commercial activity in Rome.

Tour participants sketch on location int he Roman Forum

Tour participants sketch on location in the Roman Forum

Although the magnitude and complexity of the site seemed overwhelming at first, all elements felt comfortable as they related to the human scale. It was inspiring to see ancient capital fragments lying in the former cow pasture, compare the size of a dentil to one’s hand, and experience the pink morning light and copper oxidation on ancient Corinthian capitals.

Tour participants get a close look at dentils in the Roman Forum

Tour participants get a close look at dentils in the Roman Forum

Several participants also remarked how studying the forum felt like a continuation of the legacy of centuries of students learning from the ancient masters.

Tour participant Sasha Pokrovskaya's watercolor sketch of the Palatine Palace

Tour participant Sasha Pokrovskaya’s watercolor sketch of the Palatine Palace

The afternoon’s activity involved a long study of the Palatine Palace. Formidable in its grandeur, the palace presented a perfect opportunity to play with depth of shadows. As the hot sun set, the terracotta bricks were washed in a golden hue and we departed, ready to spend tomorrow in Hadrian’s Villa.

Tour participants sketch on location int he Roman Forum

Tour participants sketch on location at Circus Maximus

Tour participants sketch on location at Trajan's Market

Tour participants sketch on location at Trajan’s Market

June 6th, by Christine Gros: The morning began with an impromptu stop at the Trevi Fountain, where our instructor Ben Bolgar pointed out the Mannerist, distorted perspective that was designed into the rustication around the ground floor windows of surrounding buildings.

View from Trajan's Market

View from Trajan’s Market

We spent the morning in Trajan’s Market and Museum on the perimeter of the forum, where we developed our sketches and watercolors.

Tour participants sketch on location at Trajan's Market

Tour participants sketch on location at Trajan’s Market

After the midday heat of the market, a lunch in a charming nearby café was very welcome. The place was very busy, but still gave us an opportunity to try out our Italian with the friendly wait staff.

Tour participants sketch on location at the Arch of Constantine

Tour participants sketch on location at the Arch of Constantine

After lunch we went to the Arch of Constantine next to the Colosseum, where we made our first foray into watercolor after a brief demonstration by instructor Richard Piccolo. We spent some time working on our wash technique before moving onto several studies of the Arch. All in all, it was an ambitious afternoon.

Tour participants sketch at Piazza Sant'Ignazio in Rome

Tour participants sketch at Piazza Sant’Ignazio in Rome

June 5th, by Martin Burns: On yet another gorgeous Roman summer morning, the tour group departed for Piazza Sant’Ignazio. Pausing at the alleyway entrance, our instructor Thomas Rajkovich highlighted the key features of the square. Playful perspectival forms and deliberate urbanism united the curving configurations of Filippo Raguzzini’s Rococo buildings and the similarly curving apsidal side altars of the Church of Sant’Ignazio. The architecture and place felt appropriately eclectic for its cosmopolitan and complex Jesuit history.  

Piazza Sant'Ignazio in Rome

Piazza Sant’Ignazio in Rome

We soon set up shop on our respective stools, using various media to sketch different views of the Church facade and whimsical Raguzzini buildings.

Tour participant Martin Burns' sketch from Piazza Sant'Ignazio

Tour participant Martin Burns’ sketch from Piazza Sant’Ignazio

Sketches completed, we wound our way up to the charmingly composed and institutionally inspiring American Academy in Rome. We were fortunate to receive a guided tour of the building, grounds, and rare book room inside the elegant Academy library. Our group shared lunch alongside fellows and residents of the Academy in the gently shaded and aromatic courtyard arcade.

American Academy in Rome

American Academy in Rome

Stomachs and spirits full, we sketched and watercolored the grounds for the afternoon, our instructors insightfully improving the process.

We caught a panoramic glimpse of the Eternal City from Fontana dell’Acqua Paola and concluded the day with a quick stop at the Palazzo Mattei di Giove.

American Academy in RomeAmerican Academy in Rome

American Academy in RomeAmerican Academy in Rome

The day was full of architectural variety, inspiration, and fellowship, and served as an excellent opportunity to cultivate our skills for the rich days ahead.

Tour participant Martin Burns' pantheon sketch

Tour participant Martin Burns’ pantheon sketch

Christopher H. Browne Rome Drawing Tour participants sketching at Piazza Navona

Christopher H. Browne Rome Drawing Tour participants sketching at Piazza Navona

June 4th, by Elena Belova: The first day of the Christopher H. Browne Rome Drawing Tour was an incredible experience. We spent the morning at Piazza Navona, attempting to capture one of Bernini’s sculptures. The focus of the morning was figure drawing, which was challenging, but definitely inspiring.

Endless groups of tourists kept peeking at our sketches, but despite this distraction, being immersed in the space was a great tool for analysis. The instructors were encouraging and devoted a lot of attention to every participant on the tour.

Elena Bulova's watercolor sketch from Piazza Navona

Elena Belova’s watercolor sketch from Piazza Navona

In the afternoon we visited the courtyard at the church of the Santa Maria della Pace, designed by Bramante. The perfect geometries filling the space created a sense of tranquility and serenity. Here we were encouraged to practice one-point perspective drawing to describe the proportions of the courtyard.

The church of Santa Maria della Pace

The church of Santa Maria della Pace

Afterwards, we shared our thoughts about the day, set up goals for the week, and received some feedback from the instructors.

Elena Bulova's watercolor sketch from the church of Santa Maria della Pace

Elena Belova’s watercolor sketch from the church of Santa Maria della Pace

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