A UTSA College of Architecture Study Abroad Program

in search of the baroque wall

the journey has begun…

This ten week long summer program provides senior level and graduate students with a design studio focused on understanding the plastic nature of the Baroque wall.  The course is divided into two five-week sessions, the first of which is spent in San Antonio beginning the design project, and more importantly, preparation for the study abroad experience.  The studio then convenes in Rome. The second five week session is devoted to field analysis of Roman Baroque walls, precedent studies, and the larger urban context – especially as it informs the Baroque.  In addition, work continues on the design project.  Students draw from their growing understanding and knowledge of Baroque space.

The central importance of Rome to the development of the Baroque is well documented. An architectural analysis of the Baroque wall, however, has not. It is our intent to examine the spatial, tectonic and plastic qualities of the wall in order to expand our working architectural vocabulary.  All too often, the wall is reduced by designers to two lines: one indicating the exterior, and the other, the interior.  That original and most important architectural element, the wall, has been denied its potential to resolve the relationship between humans and the environment – to place us in the world.

The students are housed in an old convent in Trastevere on the left bank of the Tiber river.  Our studio is housed in the Piazza di Colligio Romano, near the Pantheon.  Already over one week into the Rome field studies, we have immersed ourselves in the patterns, rhythms and time of the urban fabric.  Rome surrounds us.  We walk everywhere.  Rome is accessible.  Our feet measure the distance between buildings and the market or the studio.  We have extended our territory with trams, busses, and the metro.

We began our study by looking at the direct precedents of the Barque – building on an earlier lecture by Dr. John Alexander.  Walking along Corso Vittorio Emanuele II we moved from 1568 (il Gésu), to 1575 (Santa Maria in Vallicella), to 1591 (San Andrea della Valle), to 1583 (San Giovanni dei Fiorentini).  During the first morning walk, we saw the seed of the Baroque wall.  Columns began to emerge from dense surfaces.  The elements of the Baroque architectural language seemed present though embryonic.

We stepped backwards in our study – reminding ourselves of the origins of the wall. From Trastevere, we walked along the edge of the exposed Roman Forum to Trajan’s Market.  Now beautifully converted into a didactic museum of Trajan’s Forum, the adjoining conglomerate of Market buildings remains inhabitable.  Here, we explored the space and character of the Roman wall. Its mass, material, and the volume of space that it defined seemed clear and alive.

Taking the H bus from Trastevere to the Termini (the central train station) and then the number 90 bus along Via Nomentana, we arrived at Santa Constanza and Santa Agnese fuori le Mura.  These two early Christian churches (4c and 7c respectively) offered us a very different conception of wall.  The Medieval wall shimmered and lost its material presence as the facets of a myriad mosaic tiles diffracted the light.

Monday will bring us to the 12c as we visit Santa Maria in Trastevere.  From there, we will proceed through the rational order of the Renaissance wall and into the Baroque.  Beyond the 1700s (Rococo) architecture continued to be influenced by the developments made during the Baroque period.  We will culminate our studies by visiting Luigi Moretti, Paolo Portoghesi, and even Zaha Hadid!

Fontana, S. Marcello

Raguzzini, Piazza S. Ignazio

Raguzzini, Piazza S. Ignazio

da Cortona, S. Maria della Pace

Borromini, S. Ivo

Borromini, Oratorio S. Filippo Neri adjacent to S. Maria in Vallicella (Chiesa Nuova)


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