Fall 2020

ARC 388R (01100) ARC 342R (00825) LAR 388 (01640)

 

MODALITY: ONLINE

 

Taught online during scheduled times, with established deadlines

Seminar meetings and lectures will be synchronous, with lectures in shorter segments than the usual format, leaving ample time for discussion. Students will be encouraged to draw and paint, and will conduct a variety of research and writing activities. 

 

COURSE DESCRIPTION:

This inter-disciplinary seminar on the City of Rome during the Baroque period (c. 1600-1700) focuses this year on the life and works of one architect as a means to explore the urban, landscape, and architectural dimensions of the city. The seminar takes Francesco Borromini, one of seventeenth-century Papal Rome's greatest architects and draughtsmen, as the departure point for exploring professional practices and disciplines at a paradigmatic moment in the history of design, when landscape architecture, urbanism, and architecture were the practices of a single designer, but the turn to specializations were already appearing. It thereby uses the study of history to investigate the tensions between disciplinary practices that we experience today in conceptualizing designs.
 
Set against the scenery of Rome, one of Europe's monumental Baroque cities, epitomized by the seventeenth-century Piazza Navona with its fountains and sculptures, the "spine" of the seminar follows the chronological study of Borromini's major works (1630s to 1660s)--among them, San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane and the Oratory of San Filippo Neri for religious communities, and Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza for the Roman University; chapels such as the Cappella dei Re' Magi; designs for the Barberini, Carpegna, and Pamphilj palaces.
 
These works are also considered synchronically within the broader contexts of Roman Baroque society and its papal monarchy in a period of triumphant Catholic Counter-Reformation, as well as diachronically with a view to ancient, medieval, and Renaissance precedents, from Hadrian's Villa to Gothic architecture to Palladio.  Borromini's complex works are at the same time profoundly emotional and rigorously intellectual and serious, and the specificity of their conceptualization is considered in illuminating contrast to the jubilant, dynamic, and dramatic creations of his so-called professional rival in Rome, the sculptor-architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
 
Students are immersed in the richness of design culture in Baroque Rome, a period of exceptional artistic innovation, connected on the one hand to modernity and the age of Galileo, to new scientific studies of perception, optics and light, machinery, and botany, and on the other hand to antiquity, to remarkable archaeological and antiquarian studies. Recent, exceptional  historical research on Roman society provides understanding of the social categories fundamental to Baroque Rome's urban, architectural, and landscape development--rural and urban, public and private, religious and secular spaces; men and women; vernacular and elite lives; patronage and social networks of the designers.
 
Seminar meetings, including sessions with rare books, prints, and maps in the Harry Ransom Center and one session in the Prints & Drawings Room of the Blanton Art Museum, focus on topics that contextualize Borromini, such as:
--education, training and social status of the designer;
--disciplinary boundaries between sculptors, architects, painters and theatrical set-designers--how did Borromini and Bernini each use architecture and sculpture in ornament and expression?;
--drawing techniques, types and new media, in relation to Borromini's innovative use of the graphite pencil;
--the study of the Antique, from Pirro Ligorio to Giovanni Battista Piranesi;
--urban design and development, the grand piazzas, and the "Masters of the Street," representatives of the Roman municipal government who negotiated Rome's urban development with the ever-encroaching interests of the papal monarchs who ruled Rome;
--the new sciences in Galileo Galilei's Rome--uses of the microscope and the telescope; building technologies in relation to vision and surveying instruments; collecting of floral, vegetal, and rare specimens, in relation to architectural and natural ornament;
--construction and ornamental materials, from marbles to stuccoes, travertines to bricks.
--hydrology, water-works, urban fountain and garden fountain design;
--building types--churches, palaces, villa buildings and villa gardens;
--cultural life and the libraries of architects, artists, and members of Roman society and of the papal bureaucracy;
--the publication of designers'--like Borromini--buildings, gardens, streets and piazzas in books and prints.
--the experience of architecture, and the perception, reception, and emotional responses of viewers to works by Borromini, Bernini, and their peers.
 
Goals of the course:
 
In this seminar, we use the study of history, with the case of a remarkably innovative architect, to raise conceptual, design, and philosophical issues that inform and structure the design process today. These include the important dimensions of experience, perception, and emotional response to architecture and the design arts.
 
Today, the three professional practices of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design/planning are separate ones; in Baroque Rome, they were one. Today, science has a logical and abstract structure; in seventeenth-century Rome, in the time of Galileo Galilei, science was severely subject to religous dogma and oscillated in a tension between studying beauty of external forms and surfaces in nature and the move to investigate and represent the internal structure of nature in logical and abstract thought. Today, many materials are synthetic or artificial; at that time, the range was great, from artificial ones like stucco and mortar to marbles and travertine. 
 
These issues, today as back then in history, stem from a configuration of concerns from concrete to spiritual, the map and the matrix in which the design profession carves its territory. The question of what is the configuration and how the territory is carved is one of general interest for designers, and a good way to take cognizance of its structural quality is to study how these issues operate in a different place or time, involving the student in the matter of translation from one situation to the other and, in the process of translation, in understanding the synthetic nature of the design process, in which many strands come together. In focusing on Baroque Rome, a period of exceptional artistic innovation in architecture in relation to new scientific developments, and on the figure of Francesco Borromini as a test case among his peers, this seminar plans to address such essential issues and tensions. 
 
Enrollment limited to 15.