A UTSA College of Architecture Study Abroad Program

Baroque wall

Carlo Rainaldi

S. Maria in Campitelli – the exterior is a bold relief of nested aediculae

S. Maria in Campitelli

S. Maria in Campitelli – The unorthodox plan lends itself very well to the intriguing development of Baroque space.  You proceed through a sequence of aediculae animated by the use of free-standing columns.

S. Maria in Campitelli

S. Maria in Campitelli

S. Maria in Campitelli

S. Maria in Campitelli

The Piazza del Popolo and Rainaldi’s “twin” churches, S. Maria di Montesanto (left) and S. Maria dei Mirocoli



da Cortona: the envelope of the sculpted wall

S. Maria in Via Lata (behind the church was our studio!)

Where the church meets the city, the wall becomes a vestibule, a porch that gathers and reconciles differences.

SS Luca e Martina

SS Luca e Martina – da Cortona’s deep sculpted wall on the interior

SS Luca e Martina

interior, SS Luca e Martina

S Maria della Pace – the extension of Baroque space out into the city

interior, S. Maria della Pace

interior, S. Maria della Pace – the church in miniature

One of our favorite restaurants – enveloped by Baroque space!

Borromini: the plasticity of form

Oratorio S. Filippo Neri and Chiesa Nuova in dialogue

Oratorio S. Filippo Neri

Oratorio S. Filippo Neri

Oratorio S. Filippo Neri

Oratorio S. Filippo Neri

Oratorio S. Filippo Neri

A hierarchy of materials and forms allows us to “read” the wall

Oratorio S. Filippo Neri – the cornerless corner

Oratorio S. Filippo Neri

S. Agnese in Agone – Borromini, Rainaldi, and others

S. Agnese in Agone

S. Carlo alle Quatra Fontane

S. Carlo alle Quatra Fontane

S. Carlo alle Quatra Fontane

S. Carlo alle Quatra Fontane – the cloister

S. Carlo alle Quatra Fontane – the cloister

S. Carlo alle Quatra Fontane – reconciliation at the doorway

S. Ivo (after a cappuccino at S. Eustacio)

S. Ivo – plastic form

Bernini: Before and After the Proscenium… the space of theater

Capella Raimondi in S. Pietro in Montorio

Capella Cornaro in S. Maria della Vittorio

Ecstasy of St. Theresa

S. Andrea al Quirinale (with Nancy sketching)

The proscenium in the theatrical space of Bernini – the place where the audience sits before the scene – is not quite so easy to define.  Somehow, perhaps because the dictionary offers a definition that seems so obvious, or maybe because we have all watched staged productions and thereby feel as if we know the difference between what happens on the stage and what happens off of the stage.  It is clear until we are drawn closer.

Within Bernini’s architectural work, the proscenium (and perhaps any proscenium for that matter) has layers.  Upon entering the Capella Raimondi or S. Andrea al Quirinale, we perceive the stage set before us: a re-inactment of some divine event, the presence of which seems about to unfold.  The proscenium, that surrounds and frames the scene, joins and separates two realms: the sacred and timeless and that of a temporal existence to which we cleave.  The event, however, is not confined to the aedicule (temple frame), it surrounds us. Bernini sculpts onlookers (detail above, Capella Cornaro) who seem, in their theater boxes, to be discussing the same scene that is before us.  Their questions, their dynamic presence, moves us.  The event that we are drawn into is both mythical and immediate.  It includes our presence.  The dome above encircles and its narrative of divine wisdom holds us in this moment.  The entire interior is the stage upon which we also strut and fret.  The timelessness of the unfolding scene, and the contrary, our human existence,  seem to join, infuse each other.  At this moment, a bridge is formed.  Even prior to entering the church (or the chapel), we were enveloped.  The proscenium’s layers organize a temporal sequence that brought us to the moment of unfolding, moved us from the tattered fabric of the city to the pure garments of St. Theresa…

somewhere between Michaelangelo and Maderno

In S. Pietro, there is a moment where we find the meeting between Michelangelo and Carlo Maderno… a place where the two seem to effortlessly speak to each other.  Far from two opposed and opposing voices, they seem to effortlessly merge their distinctly different architectural languages.  In the church as a whole, the two seem to speak with a single voice even though they stand at such a great distance apart in time and thinking.  Michelangelo, afterall, is situated in the time of architectural Mannerism at the tail end of what we call the Renaissance (mid 1500s), and Maderno, practiced in that period following the Council of Trent when the Baroque was being fashioned (~1600).

What I find so compelling here is how the younger architect clearly acknowledges his master (S. Pietro was the “school” for most of the leading architects of the Baroque)… and yet, there is a shift.  The world was indeed different… it had changed.  Science seemed to emerge from behind its veil of belief; Catholicism sought its own reformation and reaffirmation; economics and politics followed an elliptical course; discoveries in the new world challenged the current model of thought… And there, at the meeting place between the central, stable, Renaissance order, and the dynamic tensions that characterized the Baroque – between the abstract and the conceptual; between the rational and the emotive – the two found one voice.

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)