Andy Fuller | April 15, 2019
On a brilliantly sunny autumn morning, Professor Richard Piccolo’s watercolor graphics class made the walk from the Rome Global Gateway to Campidoglio, an iconic hilltop square designed by Michelangelo that includes three Renaissance-era buildings that together make up the Capitoline Museums. From the steps of one of the buildings they had a unique perspective of two other landmarks: The Basilica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli, built in the 13th century, and the rear of the Altar of the Fatherland monument, completed in 1935. The students’ assignment this day: Draw the altar, basilica and facade of the adjacent museum building.
It was a daunting task that required careful attention to proximity and scale of the structures. The differing size of the structures made it difficult to determine relative depth and distance from one building to another. Piccolo walked among the students, looking over their shoulders and guiding their work. “You’re playing with fire,” he told one pupil.
The students worked while tourists occasionally took a glance at their sketchpads and pigeons fluttered here and there. The sketches and watercolor paintings they produce at sites like these are truly beautiful in and of themselves, but it’s not just aesthetic value that’s important in the exercise. Moments like these help to show the interplay of both form and function, how a city thrives with several centuries of history on top of each other in a way that is rare the world over, yet makes it easy for throngs of pedestrians to move from one spot to the next.
For the last 50 years, every third-year student in the School of Architecture has lived these experiences as part of the Rome Studies Program.
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