Our 2011 field study took us from Rome to Granada: from what might be called the capital of Christendom to cities in southern Spain known for a period in which there was a religious and political conviviality among Christians, Jews, and Muslims. I am especially grateful for Dr. Jhennifer Amundson’s leadership in taking us to these cities in Spain.
The architecture students investigated important examples of buildings, places, and cities: this field observation was facilitated by the use of pictorial and analytical drawing. These students looked carefully at building type, the composition of facades, and meaningful ornament. They considered the details that constitute a built environment that sustains the centuries old cultural environment of cities originating in the Roman Republic and thriving as modern cities in the present.
The fine art and graphic art students pursued their own work in media from drawing to watercolor to embroidery and subjects as a diverse as the figure (in galleries of sculpture to street performers) to landscape to patterns to typography. Students with strong drawing skills set a very high standard for the entire group.
The sketchbooks of two students were noted for excellence: Margaret Garrison, fine art, and Eleanor Walter, architecture. Our adjunct professor, Brian Mork, M.Arch.’11, set a challenging pace in the production of a prodigious, coherent, and excellent sketchbook of watercolors and drawings.
Observational drawing is easy enough to judge; more difficult, and perhaps more important, is the education gained from seeing the poverty in the rings round European cities to the unequaled quality of life observed in the public realm of the historic core of these same cities. In group meetings, we reflected on the proximity of habitation in European cities but also the low density compared to our most successful cities: we asked ourselves, again and again, what in these marvelous built and visual environments is indispensable to human thriving.
This group was wonderful traveling company. There are inevitably road bumps in a four-week long trip; there was flexibility and good-naturedness at these moments. The work of the trip, not that it wasn’t mixed with plenty of fun and leisure time, was undertaken with seriousness. We attended church services in Italian, English, and Spanish in liturgies familiar and not so. There were culinary discoveries as diverse as that fact that gelato can be purchased in tubs to the taste of animal parts that are best left unnamed. We mastered transportation systems ranging from national high speed rails, to local trains, to buses, to light rail, to the famous Venetian vaporetti. And we walked, mostly up, probably 200 miles.
-Dr. Christopher Miller
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