‘Paradiso, Morcote’ the signs read as we drove up into the Alps from the Milan airport. I understood that Paradiso is just another town en route along the highway, but in my mind it was describing the location I was to soon find myself in; for I cannot say I have experienced much else closer to paradise than my time spent thus far in Vico Morcote.
Today marks the halfway point in the journey. So far we have ventured through four countries, over a dozen cities, and countless great works of architecture both old and new. Last evening rain settled in over the lake and this morning is providing the perfect atmosphere to reflect upon the past ten days.
Of the numerous places we have been, Vico holds the dearest place in my heart as it has become our little home away from home. Looking out at the sheets of rain falling over Lake Lugano, I am happy to be here where the setting has become a familiar and welcoming site after long days of travel. Inside the villa it is cozy and (mostly) dry, and everyone is catching up on life at their own pace, emailing, reading sketching and painting.
Hopefully the rain does not effect further travel plans throughout the week, but for today it is perfect.
The summer study abroad program is organized so that the class spends most of its time in Vico Morcote at the International Institute of Architecture. However, this weekend we took a two-night trip to Padua, Italy to visit Verona, Venice, and Vicenza. We arrived in Verona at the Castelvecchio, which was originally constructed from 1355-1375 and restored by Carlos Scarpa from 1958-1964. Scarpa’s intervention is bold, yet subtle and beautiful at the same time. All together, there were 636 architectural drawings for the renovation of the castle, which demonstrates Scarpa’s acute attention to detail. Every mullion, door, joint, and smallest detail was meticulously thought out by the architect. The new and old materials tactfully interact with one another, which simultaneously allow one to experience the rich history of Verona and beauty in contemporary design.
Finally, we stayed outside of Venice in Padua for the night, and enjoyed the local cuisine at a small, family-run restaurant where the dishes ranged from horse, beef, fish, pastas, and salads.
So this is the second time I have found myself on this trip, and I have to admit the second time has proven better and different already.
The language has begun to come back to me slowly and the group this time around has proven to be an energetic, eager to learn, exciting group of my peers. I have surprised myself with all I remember from almost two years ago, and although there is the added pressure of helping people get around I am happy to try.
Vico, Bellinzona, Venice, and Lugano all impressed just as much as they did in summer of 09. I find myself even more excited than other people just because I know what’s coming. Venice yet again blew my mind. Still probably my favorite place on earth with its mix of modern so well integrated into the old. Palladio down one street and Scarpa, Ando, and Callatrava down another. The art scene is magnificent also which I think is another reason I feel so drawn to this city on the water.
Basel this weekend…my second favorite place. Am most interested to see what has changed since my last visit.
The morning began with an observational exercise between a couple nearby parking garages. As a group, we noted distinct elements such as materials, structure, lighting, program, landscape, etc. and evaluated their respective success within the context. We also noticed the different architectural approaches in designing a parking garage in a culturally and historically rich context. The parking garage on the lower hillside reincorporated the traditional terraced landscape as a green-roof feature, which allowed the garage to fade into the background, while the parking garage on the upper hillside incorporated new programs such as a playground and community space into a modern design.
After lunch we headed to Mendrisio to visit a local architecture school, Academia di Architettura. There are currently two utilized architecture buildings, one occupying an old hospital facility built in 1850, with an added library by Galfetti. The other was designed by two students from the school through a winning competition entry. It was exciting to see the studio culture environment as students prepared for their final reviews.
Afterwards we headed back to the lake for another swim with the local leather ladies to work on our own tans.
Our day began with a typical breakfast of breads, coffee, fruit, and cereal before setting out for the day’s journey to Bellinzona, located 40 kilometres north of Vico Morcote. Here we visited the three castles of Bellinzona, Castelgrande, Castello di Monebello, and Castello di Sasso Corbaro, all of which had been restored by various architects, including Aurelio Galfetti. The day continued with a short drive from the castles to Galfetti’s Bagno Pubblico (1970), a pathway for the city that connects public pools, parks, and other recreational facilities. From Bellinzona, we drove to Pellegio where we visited the Gotthard Rail Tunnel Infocentre (2003), a contemporary building designed by Bauzeit Architekten BmbH, Bienne, constructed from the left-over excavated rock from the tunnel. From here, our caravan travelled to Giornico, where we stopped at a local pub for the key to a hidden gallery, only accessible on foot. The gallery was designed by Perter Märkli (1992) to exhibit the works sculptor Hans Josephsohn. The day ended with a swim in Lake Lugano and traditional Italian barbeque feast of ribs, chicken, and kielbasa.
Some discussion topics for the group:
- What did you think was most successful, or unsuccessful, about the restoration of each castle?
- How did the architecture seen in Bellinzona change your perceptions of Swiss history?
- Why do you think Galfetti’s Bagno Pubblico is an effective public space?
Today is our first morning in Vico. After breakfast, we nearly passed out because of carb overload. Today’s agenda: sketching 101. The town of Vico is unique in its organizational structure of small piazzas surrounded by tightly spaced residences, all built upon a steep hillside that plummetts into Lake Lugano. Our first sketching exercise of the day was to draw a section of a nearby piazza, taking note of what makes it a successful public space when combined with the design challenge of an extremely steep hillside and limited space. The exercise emphasised the section as a design tool used to understand how materials meet and how the different elements such as floors, roofs, walls, windows, and doors are assembled. What we learned today? We have a lot of sketching practice ahead…