Thursday, November 24, 2011

events | Shopping Is the Opium of the People


Karl Marx wrote in 1843 "Religion is the opium of the people" ("Die Religion ... ist das Opium des Volkes"). This statement became paraphrased in many forms including the popular “Sport is the opium of the people”. As the holidays approach, a paraphrase Karl would not object to, is  “shopping is the opium of the people". The beginning of the holiday season, is announced by the bombarding by countless ads in many form and format for black Friday and cyber Monday; it also marked by the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (started in 1924), which I cannot escape living a few blocks away from the balloon inflation and beginning of the parade. 
Cheering crowds start flowing in the neighborhood from the Wednesday afternoon; even this year, in spite of the economical crisis and Occupy Wall Street protest few miles away, the shopping and its celebration seems to be untouched in the hyperrealistic Macy’s parade, where inflated thirty-foot high balloons float (often face down) among the imponent Central Park West trees and buildings. The inflated balloons, are quite a metaphor for the current economy but hopefully will not burst in the crowds.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

camminando | Madrid Barajas Airport

On my way back to NYC I had a pleasant layover at the Madrid airport.  The Barajas Airport ranks as 11th busiest international airport in the world and 4th busiest in Europe and was recently (2006-2010) renovated. As a former airport terminal architectural designer for the  NY JFK American Airlines terminal, I appreciated by the simple structural design of tree shaped steel columns supporting waveform trusses —waveforms and trees columns has been the main formal vocabulary for airport terminals worldwide. My criticism: the structure is unnecessarily, creating waste in energy consumption for heating and cooling, not to count materials and labor. But perhaps terminals are our time cathedrals, architecture connecting earth with sky, so scale is important. The color scheme consistency between paint structure and signage represent a good design and helpful for the passenger.


Excerpts from the multimedia project
“Axes Mundi: Perceptions and Understanding of Places as Intersections of Space, Time and Culture"

Sunday, November 13, 2011

camminando and vernissages | Roma, November 12

My evening walkabouts are filled with memories from the city where I was born and grew up, in places where thousand years of history intersect over two decades of personal history...a time-space contraction while I walk and walk. I often see a poster with Wim Wender's movie "Pina" with the subtitle "dance dance otherwise we are lost". It feels like a reminder  to myself "walk, walk otherwise I am lost"

 Vicolo delle Palline a Borgo Pio

 Palazzo della Cancellera

 Marcello Maugeri "Circus" at Ugo Ferranti

Piero Dorazio e gli artisti di Forma1 at Spazio 88

Tevere seen from Ponte Sisto

Santa Maria in Trastevere

Arco di San Calisto

 Santo Spirito in Sassia

 San Pietro tells me "home sweet home"

My walk end at 10:30 pm, I am finally home, exhausted. My pedometer says that my daily walking amounted to 26 kilometers.

Excerpts from the multimedia project
“Axes Mundi: Perceptions and Understanding of Places as Intersections of Space, Time and Culture"

Saturday, November 12, 2011

camminando | Rome Contemporary Architecture: MAXXI

Roma’s urban texture is based on the intersection of axes, which are often centered in a piazza, as an expanding spider web connecting with other webs of axes. The complexity of places and visual beauty of the urban fabric is often related to the axes connections and intersection, which create frames of views where the architecture of the buildings, often connected by arches or porticos continues in streets and squares, in the making of places.
Rome does not have much to present forcontemporary architecture and unfortunately the very few examples, signed by archistar like Richard Meier and Zaha Hadid, do not relate to the urban fabric at all. The relationship with the site is always been the very first condition to be analyzed in any architectural design intervention, as learned from Architecture 101 —or at least when I studied architecture in the University of Rome.  And Rome is quite a site: thousand years of history can be still perceived in the many layers of art and architecture of hundreds of piazze, vicoli, archi, fontane, obelisks.
My visit to the contemporary art museum MAXXI foundation confirmed my considerations, initiated by the Ara Pacis museum designed by Richard Meier. The MAXXI, signed by Zaha Hadid is located in a perhaps less prominent historical area, quartiere Flaminio, yet close to the river Tevere and to a masterpiece of modern engineering, Palazzetto dello Sport by Luigi Nervi.
The MAXXI would be a per se interesting ”blob”, following a vocabulary of linear geometries, cantilevered volumes and forms defined by circulation patterns. But it lacks integration with urban context. Another major criticism is in its formal complexity which competes with the artwork exhibited. Usually contemporary art, especially three-dimensional installations are best presented and perceived in a “white box” container. And the building also presents the typical blob characteristic of structure unrelated to form, so different from almost any example of architectural vocabulary present in Rome, from classical to Renaissance and Baroque.

Excerpts from the multimedia project
“Axes Mundi: Perceptions and Understanding of Places as Intersections of Space, Time and Culture"

camminando | Rome Contemporary Architecture: Ponte della Musica

My morning walkabout theme is contemporary architecture in Rome North. Ponte Della Musica is my last encounter on my way back home.

The pedestrian bridge signed by Buro Happold just opened in spring 2011 and connects Piazzale Gentile da Fabriano (quartiere Flaminio) with Lungotevere Marasciallo Cadorna (quartiere della Vittoria) . The steel and reinforced concrete structure spans over 190 meters and include two tilted arches ,diverging from the base. Clean and elegant design, although not breathtaking. I liked better than the MAXXI ( my critique is coming soon), at least some reference to the site. I read about it and sounds like the bridge is quite underused, with an hourly traffic only 40 pedestrians.

Excerpts from the multimedia project
“Axes Mundi: Perceptions and Understanding of Places as Intersections of Space, Time and Culture"

camminando | Rome Modern Architecture: Palazzetto dello Sport

 The 1958 Palazzetto dello Sport (Pier Luigi Nervi and Annibale Vitellozzi) is the modern architecture jewel of quartiere Flaminio. The sixty-meter diameter reinforced concrete dome is made of intersecting radial ribs, which resemble the spiral configuration of sunflowers. A great example of form follows structure follows function!

The wood polyhedric sculpture in front of the Palazzetto dello Sport

Excerpts from the multimedia project
“Axes Mundi: Perceptions and Understanding of Places as Intersections of Space, Time and Culture"

Friday, November 11, 2011

Vernissages | Rome, November 10

 "Guide alle aree abbandonate del fiume Tevere", Fondazione Pastificio Cerere

Pasquale Polidori "doppio registro / double speech" a cura di Silvia Bordini

Rome and Contemporary Art | Luigi Di Sarro

Yesterday I became familiar with the work of Luigi Di Sarro, an important artist tragically deceased in 1979. Di Sarro’s oeuvre was at the intersection between art and science. The artist was also a practicing medical doctor and surgeon and one of his latest investigations was anatomy as interpreted in art. The work goes across many disciplines, methodologies and media, often transforming two-dimensional materials such as metallic mesh into sculptural morphologies. I was very intrigued by his early geometric explorations, where formal geometries transcend into organic forms often resembling biological processes. His work also embraced many different media: photography, drawings, sculpture, site specific installations and performance. I was extremely impressed about his innovative approach, although developed several decades ago, still contemporary and fresh.
Very inspiring work: to learn more visit Centro Luigi Di Sarro

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

camminando | Roman Walkabouts

Rain finally stopped after sunset and I started my walks in the darkness celebrated by the Roman theatrical street lighting.

Baroque is the theme du jour and obelisks are a recurrent encounter, while the country is anxiously waiting for Berlusconi's resignation. I walk by Palazzo Montecitorio,

My itinerary is marked by my visual memories as recorded by my smart phone —the only camera of my walkabout, as usual.

Piazza del Popolo: Chiese Gemelle

Piazza del Popolo: Obelisco Flaminio

A courtyard in Via Margutta

 Borromini: Palazzo di Propaganda Fide

Colonna Traiana in Piazza della Colonna, in front of Palazzo Chigi

 Palazzo Montecitorio,where the Italian Parliament meet


Piazza Navona: Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi facing Borromini's Sant'Agnese

Excerpts from the conceptual multimedia project
“Axes Mundi: Perceptions and Understanding of Places as Intersections of Space, Time and Culture"