Eternal City. Roma nella collezione fotografica del Royal Institute of British Architects

La mostra Eternal City. Roma nella collezione fotografica del Royal Institute of British Architects – curata dal faculty member della BSR Marco Iuliano con Valeria Carullo e Gabriella Musto – chiude al Vittoriano questo fine settimana. Abbiamo parlato con Marco per conoscere maggiori dettagli e il background di ricerca alla base di un progetto che, in meno di quattro mesi, ha attratto più di 100.000 visitatori.

Da dove arriva l’idea di questa mostra? 

La mostra è la sintesi di suggestioni diverse, di interessi e passioni che arrivano da lontano. Ma è, al tempo stesso (o, forse, soprattutto) il prodotto di incontri. Ho avuto la fortuna, negli anni della mia formazione universitaria, di avvicinarmi a uno degli archivi fotografici più importanti della mia città. È all’Archivio Parisio, sotto il porticato di San Francesco di Paola, a pochi passi dal Palazzo Reale di Napoli, che ho imparato a maneggiare con cura i negativi su vetro e ad amare questa disciplina, grazie alla generosità dei suoi curatori, Stefano Fittipaldi e Giuliana Leucci.

Roma, laboratorio dell’immagine dagli albori del medium, ha da sempre stimolato la mia immaginazione. D’altro canto, già dalla metà dell’Ottocento, i fotografi di ogni nazionalità – all’epoca sarebbe più corretto parlare di pittori/fotografi – si davano appuntamento al Caffè Greco in via dei Condotti e sperimentavano le nuove tecniche, dai dagherrotipi ai negativi su carta. E, tra i pionieri britannici, alcuni, da James Anderson a Robert McPherson, si erano addirittura trasferiti in pianta stabile a Roma.

Naturalmente, nel corso delle ricerche che stavo svolgendo presso gli archivi del Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), la curiosità mi aveva spinto a cercare immagini della Capitale. Non quelle iconograficamente più note, ma soprattutto, differenti momenti storici – autori e sguardi diversi. Si trattava prevalentemente di Inglesi: accanto alle immagini del citato Anderson – capostipite di una dinastia di fotografi – si ritrovano professionisti noti come Edwin Smith, Richard Bryant, Ivy de Wolfe, Richard Pare e ‘scoperte’ come Marion Johnson (meglio nota con lo pseudonimo di Georgina Masson), Tim Benton e Monica Pidgeon. Da subito, quindi, il secondo Novecento è sembrato un periodo pieno di potenzialità e relativamente ‘nuovo’, poco indagato, a differenza della fotografia delle origini a Roma, su cui molto è stato scritto, specie in Italia.

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John Donat, Pantheon, 1960 (RIBA Collections)

L’opportunità è poi arrivata un paio di anni fa. Con la creazione dei poli museali in Italia, nel 2015, è cominciata una nuova e dinamica stagione di mostre e di valorizzazione di beni culturali. Con Gabriella Musto, che dirige con impegno e competenza il Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II, condivido sin dai tempi dell’università la passione per la fotografia, in particolare di architettura. Passione che ci accomuna anche a Valeria Carullo, curator di fotografia al RIBA; abbiamo quindi integrato le nostre competenze per la mostra, grazie al supporto al progetto che da subito ci ha mostrato la direttrice del Polo Museale del Lazio, Edith Gabrielli, storica dell’arte che ha lavorato, tra le altre cose, sui temi della fotografia. Un’interlocutrice attenta che ha supportato la nostra sfida da subito.

Un aspetto importante di questo progetto è che in Italia iniziative di qualità possono essere realizzate, se ci sono le persone e la volontà giuste. Il Vittoriano, una vera e propria ‘macchina’ per apprezzare il paesaggio urbano romano, è stata la cornice ideale per l’esposizione – quale migliore sede per mostrare a Italiani e stranieri Roma come (probabilmente) non l’avevano mai vista?

Potresti dirci qualcosa in più sulle decisioni curatoriali, ad esempio l’uso di un approccio tematico per la presentazione delle immagini? 

L’aspetto curatoriale è stato sin dall’inizio in evoluzione. Personalmente credo che i progetti, siano essi di ricerca o espositivi, debbano avere una idea guida forte, basata su di una struttura chiara, cui facciano seguito scelte rigorose. Bisogna però avere la capacità e l’apertura al dialogo, al confronto; l’umiltà di saper cambiare le proprie idee, specie in iniziative complesse e aperte a tante opzioni.

La scelta di focalizzare la mostra su una collezione unica è stato un aspetto sul quale ho creduto sin dall’inizio. Conoscevo abbastanza bene l’archivio del RIBA, ma come curatori abbiamo speso tante ore a identificare, scegliere e confrontarci. In quest’ottica, ognuno ha dato il suo contributo e mi fa piacere ricordare tutti quelli che hanno arricchito il progetto: Antonello Alici, Wouter Bracke, Roberto Faraone, Alessandra Giovenco, Owen Hopkins, Martha Magrini Sissa, Paolo Mascilli Migliorini, Stephen Milner, Carla Molinari, Nick Ray, Richard Pare, François Penz e Tom True. Molti di loro hanno anche contribuito al catalogo, pubblicato da Skira.

Le 200 immagini in mostra sono una minima parte di quelle disponibili in archivio. La scelta non è stata semplice: come raccontare Roma, una città così complessa e stratificata, non solo nelle sue architetture ma anche nell’immaginario collettivo e nella produzione iconografica?

L’approccio tematico alle fotografie è stato quindi necessario e in mostra sono quattro le sezioni – Antichità, Modernità, Paesaggi Urbani e Atmosfere. Non solo: con la sospensione del tempo, che a nostro avviso ben si addice all’idea della ‘Città Eterna’, il materiale è presentato come se il tempo non fosse una variabile, dalle origini della fotografia fino alla contemporaneità, alla simultaneità. In mostra si può trovare un’immagine di metà Ottocento, accanto a una scattata qualche anno fa: analogie e contrasti visivi sono stati offerti al pubblico per le loro suggestioni e valutazioni.

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Tim Benton, Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, EUR, 1976 (RIBA Collections)

La risposta del pubblico è stata straordinaria. In meno di quattro mesi, più di 110.000 visitatori hanno varcato la soglia della mostra. Ma le soddisfazioni non si limitano ai numeri, hanno a che vedere con l’impatto delle immagini nella vita delle persone. Come nel caso di uno degli efficientissimi operai che, la notte prima dell’apertura, in pieno fermento tra un pennello, un chiodo e una cornice ha trovato il tempo di spedire un selfie con la sua immagine preferita, il Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana fotografato da Tim Benton. O la gioia di Luigi Fedullo, professionista del settore che ha stampato in maniera impeccabile gli scatti in mostra, quando ha sussurrato: ‘di fotografie per le mostre d’autore ne ho viste tante; ma in questa occasione non sono stato capace di trovare un’immagine che non sia bella.’

Alcuni commenti lasciati nel libro d’oro, poi, sono straordinari nella loro spontanea interpretazione delle tematiche. E, ovviamente, qualche (fortunamente isolato!) commento meno lusinghiero nel segnalare qualche errore, qualche omissione o più semplicemente nel suggerire degli accorgimenti. Suggerimenti che ci permetteranno di migliorare la prossima volta.

Potresti dirci qualcosa in più sulla collezione fotografica del RIBA dalla quale provengono queste fotografie?

È una domanda complessa che impone una risposta articolata. La collezione fotografica del RIBA ha da sempre esercitato su di me un grande fascino; ho avuto anche il piacere di conoscere il suo primo curatore, Robert Elwall, deus ex machina della collezione. Si tratta di un vastissimo repertorio che raccoglie più di un milione e mezzo di immagini e, infatti, Valeria Carullo ha dedicato a questo argomento un lungo saggio in catalogo.

Costituisce una delle più grandi raccolte del genere al mondo – con i fondi della Prints and Photographs Collection della Library of Congress di Washington e della Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library della Columbia University New York – e fra le più interessanti per la fotografia di architettura; in questo senso va anche ricordato il più piccolo fondo del Canadian Centre for Architecture. Il RIBA ha una magnifica sede Art Decò a Portland Place, a metà strada tra Regent Street e Regent’s Park. Gran parte del basement ospita negativi e stampe dell’archivio fotografico. Con la collezione di disegni e la biblioteca, rappresenta, per me, il nucleo culturale della professione, forse talvolta trascurato nel difficile rapporto con la professione stessa. Oltre a Valeria mi fa piacere ricordare, tra gli altri, Jonathan Makepeace e Justine Sambrook. La collezione spazia dalle origini della fotografia – é presente anche un’immagine di Henry Fox Talbot – alla contemporaneità, dal momento che continua ad acquisire, in maniera molto selettiva, immagini dei fotografi contemporanei, come Hélène Binet, Richard Bryant e Paolo Rosselli.

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Domenico Anderson, Sant’Agnese in Agone, Piazza Navona, early twentieth century (RIBA Collections)

Come si inseriscono la mostra e la ricerca sulla fotografia d’architettura nel tuo percorso professionale? 

Quando dieci anni fa ho lasciato l’Italia per l’Inghilterra non pensavo che sarei potuto ritornare a lavorarci. Poi Stephen Milner, attuale direttore della BSR, mi ha invitato a far parte della Faculty of Humanities e ne sono stato onorato; ho conosciuto in questo primo anno persone straordinarie e mi piace qui ricordare Maryanne Stevens e Vivien Lovell, con cui stiamo organizzando con la BSR a Londra un convegno interdisciplinare sul Concrete, dal Pantheon alla contemporaneità. La BSR è la più importante istituzione di ricerca Britannica all’estero, dinamica, attiva e mi appassionava l’idea di poter condividere la mia esperienza, in architettura e nelle arti visive maturata in Italia e poi a Londra, Cambridge e Liverpool – e, allo stesso tempo, legare la BSR con le eccellenze italiane. Del resto le accademie straniere in Italia rappresentano un veicolo fondamentale per la diffusione e lo scambio culturale.

Ai tempi dell’università in Italia ho sperimentato un sostanziale disinteresse sui temi connessi alla fotografia di architettura. La logica universitaria italiana, nella maggior parte dei casi, è ancora legata a pratiche poco confacenti un paese moderno: c’è bisogno di una rivoluzione culturale, perché, in realtà, non c’è molta differenza tra le logiche clientelari che attanagliano il Paese e quelle di cui soffre l’accademia. C’è ancora tanto da fare in questo senso anche se, ovviamente, eccezioni ed eccellenze esistono e brillano ancora più evidenti in questo panorama. Spero, in futuro, di poter a dare un contributo al nostro meraviglioso, ma bistrattato Paese. In Italia c’è bisogno di competenza, ma anche di coraggiosi strumenti legislativi che favoriscano il merito e l’indipendenza intellettuale. Un’equazione semplice, se, nelle sedi giuste, ci sarà la volontà di mettere in discussione il sistema per migliorarlo.

Tornando alla ricerca, ho comunque perseverato, certo che si trattasse di temi importanti; e ho trovato colleghi, come François Penz (attuale Head del Department of Architecture, Cambridge University) con il quale abbiamo  poi concepito tanti progetti, ad esempio la mostra su Cambridge in Concrete, articoli scientifici e condiviso un corso, The Culture of the Image, che analizza l’architettura attraverso il cinema e la fotografia.

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Monica Pidgeon, Termini Station, 1961 (RIBA Collections)

La fotografia è una soglia che permette di attivare il ricordo e l’immaginazione. Solo pensare che, come architetti, la nostra conoscenza degli edifici avviene, in gran parte, attraverso un’immagine, e quanto questo aspetto influisca sul modo in cui percepiamo e progettiamo l’architettura, credo rappresenti una motivazione sufficiente per studiare la fotografia con attenzione. Internet ha modificato esponenzialmente il numero di fruitori, e ha anche drammaticamente abbassato la qualità delle immagini che inondano l’etere. Imparare a discernere è diventata una priorità del nostro tempo e, infatti, in uno dei miei corsi cerco di far riflettere gli studenti proprio su come ‘leggere’ le immagini. Già negli anni trenta, Moholy-Nagy sosteneva che gli analfabeti del futuro sarebbero stati non quelli incapaci di leggere l’alfabeto, ma la fotografia.

Ho tanti interessi di ricerca interdisciplinari tra architettura e fotografia: accanto ai già citati fondi dell’Archivio Parisio e del RIBA, mi fa piacere ricordare l’archivio, conservato a Parigi, di Lucien Hervé, fotografo prediletto di Le Corbusier; mentre sto imparando a conoscere i fondi iconografici della BSR, grazie alla guida attenta di Valerie Scott e Alessandra Giovenco. Comunque, non trascuro mai incursioni nell’architettura contemporanea. Proprio in questi mesi, infatti, sto curando una mostra su Stirling+Wilford+Associates e dirigendo la competizione per la nuova scuola di Architettura a Liverpool: un progetto molto complesso per il quale, con il supporto dell’Università, stiamo immaginando una sfida per l’architettura che verrà. Magari ne parleremo in un’altra occasione…

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Marco in visita alla mostra


The BSR collaborated on this exhibition with RIBA, Polo Museale del Lazio, and the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II. Published by Skira, the catalogue contains, among others, contributions by Marco Iuliano (FAHL member), Stephen Milner (Director), Tom True (Assistant Director), and Alessandra Giovenco (Archivist).

 

 

 

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Ashby Adventures 2018

Last week we hosted our Ashby Patrons visit to Rome. This is always a very special weekend in the BSR’s calendar when we welcome our Ashby Patrons to the BSR for an action-packed few days of adventures both inside and outside the city. This year was no exception with a full and expertly tailored programme of excursions!

Always an important part of the weekend, is the opportunity for the Patrons to speak with resident award-holders and to visit the studios of artists resident at the BSR. This year was no different. On arrival the group were treated to a visual feast (indeed, a sneak preview of what is to come in next month’s June Mostra) by three of our artists in residence – Murat Urlali (National Art School, Sydney, Resident), John Robertson (Abbey Scholar in Painting) and Oona Grimes (The Bridget Riley Fellow). After visiting the studios the group joined BSR residents and staff for dinner.

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Murat Urlali (National Art School, Sydney, Resident) in his studio

The first full day began with a visit to the Venerable English College, the Catholic seminary in Rome which trains priests from England and Wales.

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After a hearty welcome from Ryan Service, a Seminarian from the Archdiocese of Birmingham, the group had the privilege of being led around the college, current exhibition and the archives, by Archive Coordinator and BSR Research Fellow Professor Maurice Whitehead. This visit was also an opportunity to explain to the group the British School at Rome’s ambition to work in collaboration with Venerable English College to open access to their archives, facilitating the opportunity to bring UK scholars to Rome to study them.

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Sustained by a fine lunch, the group progressed to the second visit of the day, a guided tour of Palazzo Pamphilj (situated within Piazza Navona and now home to the Brazilian Embassy in Italy) led by Assistant Director Tom True.

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Within the Ashby group we were lucky to have BSR Former Chair of council Timothy Llewellyn, expert on the frescoed ceiling of Pietro da Cortona, who explained the story of Aeneas depicted on the ceiling above. We were then treated to a spectacular view from the balcony to the piazza below.

After a day of visual and gastronomic treats, those who had the strength, stomach and courage, rounded off the day with a gelato at Giolitti!

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Relaxed and refreshed, the second day saw the Ashby group venture out from Rome to Lake Bracciano, to enjoy a guided tour of Castello Odescalchi bathed in sunshine.

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After the tour the group enjoyed a delicious feast comprised of locally sourced ingredients at an agriturismo in Trevignano. Yet, this was not the end of the days programme, upon arrival back to the BSR, Marco Iuliano (member of the BSR Faculty of Archaeology, History and Letters) gave a presentation entitled ‘Notes on the Cartography of Rome’, with particular reference to special holdings from our Library, including a map by Giovani Battista Cingolani della Pergola (1704), which depicts Lake Bracciano.

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The advent of the final day revealed that some of the best treasures had been saved until last. Valerie Scott (Librarian and Deputy Director) presented the Library’s latest addition, a gift of rare books presented to the BSR earlier this year by Chair of Council Mark Getty.

To round off the trip, Director Stephen Milner brought the Ashby’s up-to-date with his vision of the future for the BSR, prompting a lively discussion. As per tradition, the weekend concluded with brunch at Caffè delle Arti with reflections on the activities and success of the weekend.

It was a delight to host the Ashby Patrons, and was a chance to say thank you for their continued support and guidance, which is wholeheartedly appreciated and valued by the whole BSR community.

Roll on next year…!

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Blog and photographs by Alice Marsh (Events and Communications Assistant) 

 

A look back at the March Mostra 2018

In March we saw the second mostra of our 2017–18 programme, in which our seven Fine Arts award-holders and resident architect put together an exhibition of works produced during the course of their residencies. Here we bring you a selection of photographs of works from the exhibition. You can read more about the practice of each artist by clicking on their name.

Josephine Baker-Heaslip (Sainsbury Scholar in Painting & Sculpture)

 

Marie-Claire Blais (Québec Resident)

 

Oona Grimes (The Bridget Riley Fellow)

 

Gabriel Hartley (Abbey Fellow in Painting)

 

John Rainey (Arts Council of Northern Ireland Fellow)

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Joseph Redpath (Scholars’ Prize in Architecture Winner)

 

John Robertson (Abbey Scholar in Painting)

 

Deborah Rundle (BSR Wallace New Zealand Residence Awardee)

 

Photos by Roberto Apa

March Mostra 2018 / Meet the artists…Joseph Redpath

As we approach the March Mostra, our second exhibition of this academic year, we will be publishing a series of blogs taking a closer look at the individual practices of our seven resident artists and resident architecture fellow. Our last interview is with Joseph Redpath, our Scholars’ Prize in Architecture Winner.

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Photo: Antonio Palmieri

At the start of your residency you showed us some images of the maps of Gianbattista Nolli and Giovanni Battista Piranesi. How has your research developed?

The Nolli map has been a constant reference point during my time in Rome I began by looking into how Rome has been represented cartographically alongside studying recollections of Rome and walking through the city myself. The way in which the city is drawn often reflects attitudes to politics and the city, art and science, however written sources can offer a further insight into the life of the city.

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In Piranesi’s work, I was particularly interested in the manner in which he drew the mass of the city as tabula rasa which was then punctured by monuments, which was a theme that I discovered ran through historic representations of Rome — the focus of the city, as today, is very much on its mirabilia or marvels.

From here I started to think about the content of the tabula rasa. Particularly, I looked at the area of the Campus Martius – chaotic and typical of Rome at this time, it contains a disorder that contradicts Roman urban planning. One particular experience which continually surprises me is the moment in which one arrives feeling disorientated and lost into the Piazza della Rotonda and we’re greeted by the Pantheon. An incredible temple with such clarity and presence, almost lost and inappropriate among its context. I love that sense of surprise and discovery that can be discovered in Rome.

The idea of these ‘un-designed spaces’ which have developed as an urban palimpsest is something that as an architect I find incredibly interesting. My work entails six sculptures of some of the negative spaces of the city, in an attempt to transform them into precious objects with renewed meanings and contexts.

 

During this residency, which offers you time to approach your line of research in a more speculative way, are you thinking of working with new and less familiar material?

Rome its self is an unfamiliar place but obviously through the spread of the roman empire there is strong sense of familiarity. Working with the city I’ve discovered such a depth in history, which is difficult but exciting to deal as an architect. I have never spent so much time looking into a single city. It’s a huge luxury to have the time and the space to contemplate and to consider the city in new ways. I wanted to use processes with which I’m familiar in order to produce my final pieces, however I’m using plaster for the first time and adding pigment to give the works colour.

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But I am just touching on this topic – what I am really doing, and what I shall present for the Mostra, are personal observations of Rome. I feel like this experience stretches far beyond the Mostra and can be something which I will be able to draw greatly from later.

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Joseph’s work will be exhibited alongside the seven other resident artists in the March Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 16 March 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 24 March 2018, closed Sundays.

Interview by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events). Photos by Joseph Redpath.

December Mostra 2017 / Meet the artists… Patrick O’Keeffe

As we approach the December Mostra, our first exhibition of this academic year, we will be publishing a series of blogs taking a closer look at the individual practices of our seven resident artists and resident architectural fellow. The first to be interviewed is Patrick O’Keeffe (Kent), our 2017-18 Giles Worsley Rome Fellow.

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Photo: Antonio Palmieri

Patrick’s BSR project ‘Hearing spaces’ — is focused on an exploration of the use of harmony and dissonance within classical architecture in Rome, expressed and interpreted through music.

What are your plans for your residency at the BSR?

While resident here at the BSR I have been working on two projects. Although these projects are different in approach, they both look at finding alternative ways of understanding well-known architectural phenomena.

My first proposal looks at the original Renaissance proportional systems from Pythagorean/Platonic musical harmony – the project looks to create hybrid architectural/musical models, aiming to provide the opportunity for people to physically hear the proportional relationships within Renaissance architecture; in this case the Tempietto del Bramante.

The second proposal has developed during my fellowship and seeks to use eye-tracking software as a way of investigating and displaying the ways people perceive and interact with a space; it will track and compare the eye movements of individuals from different disciplines and within different Baroque spaces, focusing on Borromini’s San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane.

What are you looking at in Rome in particular?

Each proposal will investigate a number of spaces but centre around a well-known architectural archetype from their respective period. I hope that by looking at them in a new way I will be able to provide a multi-sensory analysis of these iconic monuments.

At the Tempietto at San Pietro in Montorio, I aim to produce a cast model of the building with musical strings running along the prominent dimensions. When plucked, these will produce sounds directly correlating to the spatial ‘harmony’ within the building. Musical harmony is something I think most people can intuitively perceive, so translating a building composed on the same principles into this medium will hopefully offer an alternative interpretation.

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Tempietto di San Pietro in Montorio (Photo: Patrick O’Keeffe)

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3D printing in action (Photo: Patrick O’Keeffe)

At San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane – I have made a pair of eye-tracking goggles which allow me to track the specific route a person’s eyes follow within the space. By comparing results from people of different disciplines and within different buildings, I aim to start a dialogue about the ways in which we understand space; the results will be displayed with both images and physical models.

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Testing the eye-tracking goggles (Photo: Patrick O’Keeffe)

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Following the route of a person’s eyes within the space (Photo: Patrick O’Keeffe)

How have you found working alongside artists and scholars?

The environment at the BSR is unique. The nightly dinners have given me an amazing opportunity to discuss, share and develop my ideas in the ‘melting pot’ of ideas that is the BSR community. Without this, I am sure my second project would not have developed in the way that it has.

 


Patrick’s work will be exhibited alongside the seven other resident artists in the December Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 December 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 December 2017, closed Sundays.

Interview conducted by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events)

 

 

 

 

 

March Mostra 2017 / Meet the Artists… Morgan Gostwyck-Lewis

Over the next few days we will be introducing you in turn to our six resident artists and architects who will be exhibiting in the March Mostra, opening Friday 17 March. The first awardee in focus is Morgan Gostwyck-Lewis, this year’s Scholars’ Prize in Architecture Winner, who here discusses the project he is working on for the Mostra.

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Photo by Antonio Palmieri

Morgan Gostwyck-Lewis investigates the relationship between architectural ornamentation and figurative representation in Etruscan art. His research focuses on the elements that connect them, through the use of photography, writing and paint. Lewis is an architect whose projects have primarily been for the arts and education sector, and whose research has focused on the representation of landscape.

First of all, can you summarise your project?
I’ve been looking at architectural painting and ornamentation in a set of early Etruscan tombs (8-6th C BC). The Etruscans are an iron-age culture transforming into a quite sophisticated, quite internationally embedded urban culture, getting the hang of making cities, writing and new forms of art with a lot of important iconographic development. They retained a lot of iron age conceptions, and they’re making these rooms which are quite interesting because they conflate a number of different architectural features, and they are relatively early in the classical tradition, so that’s also interesting. I don’t think you could claim that they are the origin of specific architectural ideas, they certainly get things like decent columns and four cornered rooms from more-established cultures, but they are using them in a way that I think is quite telling of where and how those architectural motifs originally emerged and certainly how they can be deployed, and that’s quite useful for an architect to think about [as] these can be quite difficult things to articulate and subjects to get a handle on. So, in the set of tombs that I am looking at I have focused on a particular architectural motif which is a figurative horizon line that then becomes something that we may describe as something more ornamental. The project is really research about this process more than it is a project about making a piece.

Why the interest in Etruscans? Where did the inspiration for this project come from?
I’m not particularly interested in the Etruscans as a topic in themselves. I guess I found the rooms they were making just inherently appealing and I had a hunch they were doing quite strange things, and I still feel they’re doing quite a lot of strange things that I haven’t really got in to – this movement between what is figurative and what is repeated as a pattern and how that relates to the way it’s arranged spatially is quite complex. They’re very loose with their boundaries – for example a sea motif that very quickly becomes a setting for a real sea scene – and that is quite unusual, to jump back and forth so fluidly like that and to do it so seemingly effortlessly. And I presume that that’s because they were in a culture that was being forged incredibly quickly.

Is this the first time you’ve done a project like this? Are you used to producing work for mostre and is the process at the BSR very different?
I have made stuff for a mostra before as a student – this is quite a big part of architectural education. Usually you’re making miniaturised versions of a hypothetical building and therefore you are concerned about how it looks as a piece, but really it’s a model and you almost want to avoid thinking about it too much as a piece, because you can then fall in love with it to the detriment of what you’re modelling, which is perhaps a kind of endemic problem more widely found in society in fact, but here, if you know the end point is a mostra, you want whatever you make to read as a thing in itself. As a way of doing research, that might strike one as odd, because perhaps one might think the natural outcome of a research project like this would be a paper. But it’s nice because it means that I get a studio and the opportunity to address the material aspect of topics. and most of all because you are forced to do things in a different way.

Do you know which space you’re going to have in the gallery?
Yes, I really needed to think about the space and know what the dimensions would be before I could start making the installation – I couldn’t just make something and put it in there.

Has doing this project given rise to new ideas? Have you thought of new projects to pursue beyond the BSR?
Yes, in terms of my analysis of this topic I feel like I’m just starting. Even in looking at a specific topic, such as a particular motif in a limited number of Etruscan tombs, I feel, there is obviously a huge amount more that could be done. In terms of transforming it into something instrumental, I think it’s always interesting to think about the origins of the architectural motifs as a way of treating space and it will somehow feed in to later work. I think perhaps I had a broader interest in the interior use of colour before I arrived which has remained latent in looking a specific moments in the tomb during the time I have been here, but it would be great to revisit that in the context of what I have been looking at. The point is that colour is always spatial, so perhaps this research is one way into rethinking that topic. I think that’s something I would really like to do next.

Have you had the chance to speak to our resident Etruscan expert, [Director] Christopher Smith, about your topic?
Yes, we had a great meeting. He was very good to talk to about it. I think because he has a brilliant overview of the field and although he is not an artist himself, he has a good sense of what art is for and how art works, so I think he tried to understand where I was coming from and where an architect could play a role.

Has your time at the BSR changed the way that you work or approach a project?
I think the BSR has great resources; the library is fantastic, and you can visit all the relevant sites. I think it would be impossible for me to do this kind of research in London. So in that sense, that is great. In terms of changing the way I work, it’s possibly too early to tell. Three months is a short time and it’s quite difficult to know if any momentum can be sustained from this project. Maybe it will. What’s really nice here is that you get the chance to talk to a lot of people who work in other fields and so that might feed in to future work.

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Morgan’s work will be exhibited alongside the five resident artists in the March Mostra; open 16.30-19.00, Saturday 18 March until Saturday 25 March 2017, closed Sundays.

Interview conducted by Ellie Johnson

Our second century

In 1916, Assistant Director Eugenie Strong and architect Ernest Cormier briefly took up residence in the current BSR. We know a little about these early days in the building, which was by no means as complete as it is now. The east wing was missing (and not completed until the 1930s).

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Plan of the BSR with missing east wing (Courtesy of the BSR Archives)

One of the studios was the common room, and housed Thomas Ashby’s [Director 1906-25] Piranesi prints in a special cabinet. Part of the Director’s flat was the temporary kitchen. Ashby himself was at the Italian front as a volunteer ambulance driver; most of the thirty-seven men associated with the BSR, including its Italian staff, were also caught up in the war.

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The former common room – today one of our artists’ studios (courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archive)

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Thomas Ashby’s Piranesi prints on display in the common room (courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archive)

But the building was ours, for all that it was incomplete, and its first two residents were remarkable figures. Strong — an ebullient socialite, an expert on Roman art, polymathic, and profoundly international with contacts across Europe — is relatively well known. Her immense collection of commercial photographs of art and sculpture from several periods remains an untapped part of the BSR archive; and work on her large collection of postcards merits external funding.

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Eugenie Strong (Courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archive)

Ernest Cormier stands for another aspect of the BSR. He was a Canadian architect, and designed not only the central buildings of McGill University but also Canada’s Supreme Court in Ottawa. Our Commonwealth roots and our commitment to architecture, and to excellence, come together in the figure of Cormier.

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Supreme Court of Ottawa, designed by Ernest Cormier – the first student to take up residence at the BSR in 1916 (Photo: Wikipedia)

It is fitting to remember Cormier as we also think this year of our departed and much-missed friend, Francesco Garofalo, who himself spent several years in Canada and who gave so much to the BSR. Francesco and his wife and fellow architect Sharon Miura worked on the extension of the BSR at the beginning of this century, including the Sainsbury Lecture Theatre, where his posthumous book of essays was presented earlier this month.

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Speakers at the launch of Whatever happened to Italian Architecture? (Photo: Antonio Palmieri)

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Architect Sharon Miura who managed the BSR’s Sustainable Building Project with her late husband Francesco Garofalo (Photo: Antonio Palmieri)

A century on from its beginnings, the BSR’s building has never been in better shape. Thanks to my predecessor’s extension, and the recent Sustainable Building Project refurbishment programme — which Sharon Miura project-managed, with architects Studio Amati, engineers ARUP, and building contractor LO.MA — our artists are now showing their work in a temperature- and humidity-controlled gallery, our Library periodicals are in a fully refurbished basement, and we are constantly driving down energy costs.

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Work on the east wing roof during the Sustainable Building Project (Photo: Natalie Arrowsmith)

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Christopher Smith inspects the building work (Photo: Antonio Palmieri)

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The refurbished artists’ studios (Photo: Antonio Palmieri)

To celebrate this, we were proud and honoured to receive a visit from our President, HRH Princess Alexandra, who launched the next phase of our Second Century Campaign. We are working to create a stable and sustainable basis for our future. We hope that as many of our members as possible will visit us next year and that all our existing friends, and many new ones, will help us continue the traditions of internationalism and excellence which have characterised the first century of the BSR and will serve us well in our second.

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HRH Princess Alexandra visiting the BSR to launch the Second Century Campaign (Photo: Thomas Toti)

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HRH Princess Alexandra with members of the Sustainable Building Project team and BSR staff and residents (Photo: Thomas Toti)

Christopher Smith (Director)