L A S T O R I A
The Influence of Sacred Space on Urban Development of Italian Renaissance & Baroque Cities of Milan, Venice, Florence, & Rome
If every story has its beginning, then I suppose it appropriate that my journey begin on the same day as the arrival of the fleet to NYC. As my mother, Beauty (my dog), and I stood watching the ships roll in, I found myself wondering if I could identify the Charley Noble from this distance! Ugh, too much studio still on the brain; yet, as torturous as this past semester has been, the work of it spawned the idea that is the backbone of this trip.
As this year is the 50th anniversary of both the NYC Department of Landmarks and the World Monuments Fund, I started to wonder what it is that attracts me to old buildings and why I value them in the 21st Century. While I do believe in progress and using technological advances to enhance the built environment, with the super dense, super tall, super big, and super connected cities of the twenty-first century, a challenge to the individual is where does one find identity and community in such a diverse robust urban environment? Is it possible to maintain a sense of tradition architecturally at varying socioeconomic scales?
Historically, a community’s urban cultural identity arose from the union created by sacred spaces. But, what defines sacred space in the twenty-first century? A contemporary view describes sacred space as places of reverence dedicated to whatever one chooses formed by a community of like-minded individuals. As a collective, the community utilizes a typology of parameters—including site, geometry, philosophy, and iconography—to architecturally design spaces for contemplation, mediation, and pedagogy.
While there are many reasons—location, risks, and similar interests—as to why groups of individuals gather based on shared values, this is most historically evident in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. During these times, the Roman Catholic Church served as the unifying body among the Italian principalities and beyond. For cities such as, Milan, Florence, and Venice, which specialized in areas that supported the wealth of the Church—Milan for industry and commerce, Florence for trade and finance, and Venice for trade and art—one can assume that the activities of these cities also influenced the typology of what was sacred to its populous nearly as much as religion. Additionally, these cities and eras where selected as sources of data because, as one can argue, many of the key components known as the beginning of the Modern Era originated from here. Yet, while these particular cities progress and face the challenges of the twenty-first century, the sense of sacredness established 500 years ago thrives in the urban fabric via adaptive reuse programs.
I have always believed that every moment in time is a moment in a larger history sculpted with the tools of interconnected individuals and events. While paintings and photographs capture these moments, through architecture one can decipher the intention of the designer, the influencing cultural zeitgeist during construction, and the intangible phenomena—such as natural elements, memory, and impression—that can be imposed on one by experiencing space. By combining research with my experiential observations (in the form of drawings, photography, and writing), I aim to construct a body of work that will serve as the beginning of an analysis of the global development of urban cities, how and why they differ based on a society’s idea of what is ‘sacred,’ and how incorporation of adaptive reuse programs can be applied at varying socioeconomic strata. With this serving as an idea of western urban development, I hope to later expand this topic to include an eastern perspective by applying the same methodology to cities in Japan.
My Travel Itinerary
As I had already intended on traveling to Europe this summer to visit a dear friend in Den Haag, I was fortunate enough to be a recipient of the Parsons Graduate Dean’s Travel Grant so that I could extend my trip to visit the cities I needed for data collection. And thanks to donations raised, I am able to extend my trip to include Rome.
20 May 2015: Departure from Newark to Paris
21-24 May: My Seventh Exploration of Paris
24-29 May: Wherever my Eurail Pass takes me!
29 May-1 June: Bon jour La Haye (Den Haag or The Hague)!
1-4 June: Wherever my Eurail Pass takes me!
4-12 June: Ciao Milano!
12-15 June: Traveling somewhere!
15-21 June: Ciao Venezia!
21-28 June: Ciao Firenze!
28 June-1 July: Ciao Roma!
1 July: Hello, New York!
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 Charley Noble is a nautical term for the ventilation pipe that vertically traversed from the galley to the deck.