Diary of the FabricArchitect: Learning from Bologna

RPI_EMPACScreenplay Draft.

The scene (A packed auditorium. I like the EMPAC Center at Rensselaer)

Spotlight on podium.

“Ladies and Gentlemen…The FabricArchitect” (Thunderous applause).

I arrive at the podium. The Applause dies down and there is now silence…

“I always loved to travel and see buildings. My father was a doctor and he loved to take me, my mom and my two sisters to some far away places every summer. Panama one year. Ecuador the next. One year a newly constructed building, the next year an ancient ruin, but always Architecture. I think his true love was Architecture.

Bologna-Typical-streetFor me, it all started in Bologna.

Bologna is a city in Northern Italy between Milan and Florence and west of Venice. The city is famous for its elegant and extensive arcades and porticos. In total, there are some 38 kilometers of arcades in the city’s historical center, which make it possible to walk for long distances sheltered from the rain, the snow, the hot summer sun.
It didn’t matter much to me back in Architecture School. I was in a “Rome Studies” class drinking wine and sipping tortellini en brodo with my buddies (a couple of laughs from the audience). But what I remember the most was sketching the unfinished façade of the Basilica of San Petronio”

Fade to Black….

The scene (Bologna, Italy)
San PetronioThe Basilica of San Petronio is the main church of Bologna. It dominates the Piazza Maggiore. It is the fifth largest church in the world, stretching for 132 meters in length and 60 in width, while the vault reaches 45 meters inside and 51 meters in the facade. It can contain about 28,000 people.

The facing of the main facade remains unfinished: many architects (notably Baldassarre Peruzzi, Vignola, Andrea Palladio and Alberto Alberti) were commissioned to propose solutions for it, but a definitive one was never found.

While I was there, I fell in love with the Architecture while visiting the buildings I had read about in my History books. I thought my professors had the coolest job taking students to visit famous buildings and hanging out smoking cigarettes and drinking cappuccino. The experience inspired me to want to become an Architecture Professor.

I continued my trip thru Italy and other parts of Europe with stops to visit the great work of LeCorbusier and the hot architects of that time. I went to Greece, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain and England, more places than I can remember but I was filling my hard drive with images of great places and great spaces.

Architecture Frei Otto Olympic Stadium Park Germany steel brace braced pulley arena infield seating spectator spectators stands grandstand detail structure mesh stretch stretched  webbing webbed woven tension tense tensed structure structures buildings roOne of my stops was to see the Olympic Stadium in Munich, Germany by Architect and Engineer Frei Otto. The stadium is more famous for the 1972 terrorist attacks and bloodshed then for the games themselves.

This incredible structure was made of steel, cables, fabric and clear acrylic panels. A couple of buddies of mine got onto the roof one night and climbed to the top of a mast.

For one night, I felt like I was walking on water.

For more to the story: www.fabricarchitect.com


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