Letters from Lockdown: Pippo Ciorra

During lockdown, our Architecture Consultant, Marina Engel, asked a series of architects, to consider, or dream about, the role of the architect and urban design post Covid-19. The following text is by Pippo Ciorra, Professor of Design and Theory at University of Camerino and Senior Curator of Architecture at the MAXXI in Rome.


My premise is that I hope that things will slowly go back to normal. It will take time and there will be social and economic casualties, but — needless to quote Hobsbawm — human progress is also based on the ability to forget and leave behind mistakes and wounds. The alternative would be paralysis and regression. However, this is a big trauma, just like a world war, and recovery from global trauma always implies that human kind learns something from the experience and turns it into some kind of positive innovation. If this interview aims at identifying in which areas such innovations (or relevant changes) should/would happen, I can here propose three fields of action, all related to the space of living/working.

The first and most obvious directly concerns the space of the house. There are already thousands of Covid and post-Covid projects posted, in these days on the web, showing how to expand your home into a mini-office, mini-gym, mini-restaurant, mini-garden etc. It is certainly interesting and useful, because it will probably give a new impulse to research on residential space. Still, we should acknowledge the incredible resilience of the typology of the house, which has been basically the same for four millenniums, and which has easily absorbed any similar changes in the past.

What will probably achieve more radical change in both the living and working space (and beyond) is instead the infrastructure. Going back to war-fueled innovations, they mostly happened in the field of infrastructure and tools. It seems clear that this will also happen this time. In the short run, cities will have to manage the conflict between the persistence of fear and the need to bring back the previous degree of activity in physical infrastructure. In the longer run, every home will need to be provided with a much broader band and instant connectivity. It is not simply us teaching students online or companies run from home. Why couldn’t the robot building a car be managed from the worker’s home instead of at Wolfsburg? We will also need to investigate how to combine these anti-virus tools together with climate consciousness, being aware it could be a very productive alliance.

Coming to the third point, I would like to speculate on the idea of dystopia and “smartness”. What we have learnt in these days is that the two concepts seem to love each other more that we had already expected. We’re seeing a new kind of dystopian space: not the late XX Century chaos, pictured by Blade Runner or JG Ballard, but images of clean, empty and unpolluted cities with everybody at home and nobody disturbing the beauty of monuments and landscapes. Control in this kind of dystopia is transferred to the invisible activity of a trillion networks and devices, monitoring and influencing our lives. We already knew that smart had a lot to do with control and we have already lost most of the battles in this war, but clearly the virus condition pushes this to the limit. This is where we will have to watch carefully and build some conceptual resistance. It will be important both to go back to the streets, the original space for democracy, and to build consciousness and counter-actions in the digital world.

Pippo Ciorra is Professor of Design and Theory at the SAAD School of Architecture and Design, University of Camerino. He is Senior Curator of Architecture at the MAXXI, Rome and Director of the International PhD Program Villard d’Honnecourt, IUAV Venezia.

The text is part of the project Letters From Lockdown by BSR Architecture Consultant Marina Engel. Read Marina’s introduction to the project here.

Letters from Lockdown: Stefano Boeri

During lockdown, our Architecture Consultant, Marina Engel, asked a series of architects, to consider, or dream about, the role of the architect and urban design post Covid-19. The following text is by architect and Professor of Urban Design at the Politecnico in Milan, Stefano Boeri, who also exhibited at the BSR in 2011.


Looking at our offices in Shanghai, in Milan and in Albania, we have noticed, how in these days, we have lived as if in three parallel universes. As if, on the planet, there were different geographical and temporal areas. This incredible contagion, in an age of great globalization, has accentuated the construction of a sort of planet with different times.

This third global transformation event — after the two World Wars — has created a sense of urgency that we did not feel before the Corona Virus. The urgent need to understand that there must be a transition, but not between socialism and capitalism, nor between sovereignty and populism. A transition that must bring into play a new way of thinking about the space in which we live, the place where we live. Therefore, we must put into action immediate and strong choices.

First of all, mobility. We have to establish that, within a maximum of 3 years, the era of cars running on fossil fuels will end and that private transport will have to rely only on renewable sources.

Secondly, we need forestry: deforestation, the destruction of natural environments, is one of the main causes associated with the proliferation of viruses, such as those we have seen, which tend to move from one species to another. The deprivation of forests and green surfaces brings an worrying imbalance to all species, including ours. That’s why we must give space to nature and we must include a greater presence of trees and plants in contemporary cities, as well as preserving wild natural habitats.

Then, the energetic transition. Every house, every building, every block, must become a hub for both production and conservation of clean renewable energy. And we should create the conditions to build a production system of companies that produce energy locally?

We need a transition towards a new world. Only if we undergo a deep conversion in our way of thinking, together with our way of acting, will we be able to face this challenge. Together and starting right now.

Let’s start thinking about it!

Architect and urban planner, Stefano Boeri is Professor of Urban Design at the Politecnico in Milan and, since 2018, President of the Triennale in Milan. Stefano Boeri Architetti is based in Milan, Tirana and Shanghai .

The text is part of the project Letters From Lockdown by BSR Architecture Consultant Marina Engel. Read Marina’s introduction to the project here.

Letters from Lockdown: Carolyn Steel

During lockdown, our Architecture Consultant, Marina Engel, asked a series of architects, to consider, or dream about, the role of the architect and urban design post Covid-19. The following text is by architect, author and former Rome Scholar in the Fine Arts (1995–6) Carolyn Steel.


Food after Covid-19

Whatever our world looks like post-COVID-19, one thing is for sure: it won’t be a return to business as usual. Although a global catastrophe, the pandemic represents a timely opportunity to reconsider how we live; a task that threats such as climate change and mass extinction made urgent even before the virus struck. As I argue in my recent book Sitopia (food-place), there is no better way to do this than through the lens of food. The greatest force shaping our lives, food binds us to one another and to the natural world. The fact that the current pandemic started in a Chinese wildlife wet market tells its own story: our relationship with nature is dangerously out of kilter. Monocultural industrial food production has dangerously weakened biodiversity, while our encroachment on wilderness exposes us to new disease. In the West, we have also seen how fragile our food systems really are, with empty supermarket shelves and warnings from farmers that, without migrant labour, crops will rot in the ground.

Yet positive stories have come out of the crisis too, in the shape of people sharing food with neighbours, celebrity chefs cooking for schools and producers collaborating to create new supply networks virtually overnight. Such rapid responses aren’t new: they also happened after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, where food-based social networks sprang up that still exist today. I call this ‘disaster democracy’: the discovery, in adversity, of what really matters in life: health, safety, love, neighbourliness — and food.

The virus that is killing us has also done us a favour, by reminding us of what a good life really means. If we are to thrive in the future, we shall need more resilient, localised, seasonal food systems; more flexible local supply networks and stronger links between city and country.

Social resurgence almost always revolves around food: the shared problem of how to eat, after all, was how we evolved as a species. It is only in times of scarcity that we remember what food really is. Food is life: if we treat it as cheap, we cheapen life itself.

Carolyn Steel is a leading thinker on food and cities. Based in London, she is the author of Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives (2008) and Sitopia: How Food Can Save the World (2020).

The text is part of the project Letters From Lockdown by BSR Architecture Consultant Marina Engel. Read Marina’s introduction here

Summer and art at the BSR

Our July artists in residence from Newcastle University and those on the Meade Rome Residency from the University of the Arts London (Chelsea and London College of Communication) arrived just as the BSR façade was being completed. Together with Sainsbury Scholar Anna Brass and the three architects in residence on the Boas Award (Marco Fiorino, Fiona Cuypers-Stanienda and Aoi Phillips Yamashita), they curated a pop-up exhibition on the portico and steps on the evening of 25 July.

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Elin Karlsson, untitled, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Elin Karlsson (LCC, UAL) unfurled three large sails which she lit against the night sky with a floodlight hidden in a tiny cluster-cave of salt dough, broken glass and candles. Karl Foster (Chelsea, UAL) filled three abandoned niches beneath Piazzale Winston Churchill with a triptych of small dead trees that he found at the bottom of the road, with their roots exposed. Karl covered some of the tips of the branches with bits of plastic and clothing as a way to heal their wounds, ineffectually.

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Karl Foster, i vostri figli i ragazzi pairoli crea spazzatura, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Marco Fiorino (Cambridge) exhibited architectural mappings of in-between spaces connecting gardens and public urban spaces, having spent his time to explore historical gardens in and around Rome.

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Marco Fiorino, Gardens for Third Nature, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Abigail Hampsey’s (Newcastle University) paintings contrasted the classical limestone framework with entwined fluorescent narratives and Remi Rana Allen (Chelsea, UAL) presented The Memoirs of Lady Vagina Dentata and Killer Queen, a Medusa’s head made of Indian hair extensions from Delhi placing ‘black hair and dark skin’ as protagonists within traditional Western myths.

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Abi Hampsey, don’t miss, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Remi Rana Allen photo Portico_Elin_Karlsson2019_17

Remi Rana Allen, Killer Queen, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Fiona Cuypers-Stanienda’s (Architectural Association) four photographs of people and objects occupied an off-centre area near the doorway, reflecting her self-imposed challenge to understand and represent the use of public space in Rome.

Fiona Cuypers-Stanienda photo Portico_Elin_Karlsson2019_1

Fiona Cuypers-Stanienda, untitled, 2019 (photo: Elin Karlsson)

These very different practices that somehow spoke to each other brought the façade, hidden for months behind scaffolding, to life within an expansive discourse. This was an internal event that took place in an external setting which meant that people walking by were intrigued and stopped to look at the works exhibited.

In the previous weeks Meaghan Stewart (Newcastle University) led a monoprint workshop with left-over paints from previous BSR residents, inviting anyone curious to drop into her studio, including scholars and architects. She encouraged the less expert through the steps, from how to ink the acetate or glass support, create designs for effect, and experiment with different techniques. Some of the monoprints were exhibited on a table under the portico, including work by Anna Brass, Aoi Phillips Yamashita (Architectural Association) and Meaghan. The table featured small sculptures too, creating a miniature landscape for the prints.

Anna Brass, Aoi Phillips Yamashita and Meaghan Stewart photo Portico_Elin_Karlsson2019_5

Anna Brass, Aoi Phillips Yamashita and Meaghan Stewart (photo: Elin Karlsson)

Meaghan Stewart monoprint (photo MC)

Meaghan Stewart, untitled (Fountain of Maremma), 2019 (photo: Martina Caruso)

Meaghan Stewart monoprint workshop (photo MC)

Monoprint workshop with Meaghan Stewart (photo: Martina Caruso)


Martina Caruso (Assistant Director for Art, Architecture and the Creative Industries)

All about Concrete: from the Pantheon to the Present

Last week we held the workshop All about Concrete: from the Pantheon to the Present, the second in the BSR’s series of interdisciplinary research study days in the UK on the historicity of materials and the work of the BSR. This event was generously sponsored by the Concrete Centre and hosted by the University of Liverpool in London. 


The day, organised by BSR faculty members Vivien Lovell, MaryAnne Stevens and Marco Iuliano, comprised a series of presentations on the use of concrete over two millennia. Speakers highlighted the extreme versatility, strength and plasticity of the material.

Alan Powers (London School of Architecture) opened the day with a keynote presentation exploring ‘Cult Contrete’, which provoked lively debate.

The first panel session, chaired by MaryAnne Stevens, explored the history of the use of concrete. Presentations encompassed over two thousand years of use from ancient Rome to Carlo Scarpa (1906–1978). Janet DeLaine introduced us to the seven virtues of concrete in ancient Rome, while Joseph Rykwert touched on the Renaissance ‘rediscovery’ of ancient concrete techniques. Richard Murphy closed the session, bringing us forward into the twentieth century, with his discussion of Scarpa’s use of water in his architectural projects – an analogy for concrete.

Related image

Giovanni Paolo Panini,
Interior of the Pantheon, Rome
c. 1734

After lunch participants were split into three groups and were treated to a study visit to to the Barbican Estate and Centre. These groups were led simultaneously by Catherine Croft (C20 Society), Dave King (Architect and Barbican Resident) and Vicky Richardson (Writer and Curator, of architecture and design). Even those who thought they knew the Estate well, were surprised to learn that there are over 100 different property types on the estate; that all of the concrete was hand chiselled (including the towers!); and that the water features were dyed to reflect depth.

We reconvened after the visits for the second panel session chaired by Vivien Lovell, which covered the contemporary use of concrete. Artist, Florian Roithmayr presented current work and described his process. Participants were able to see first hand concrete sculptures which Florian had on display throughout the day.


Concrete sculptures by Florian Roithmayr

Following this, organiser Marco Iuliano was in conversation with photographer Helene Binet, discussing themes in her architectural photographs of concrete structures. Finally Jo Melvin introduced us to the concept of concrete poetry and how it is produced in contemporary art practice.

The afternoon was concluded by two readings. Organiser Vivien Lovell read a poem entitled ‘Times New Roman’ by Pele Cox (written especially for the event) and Vicky Richardson read a passage from J G Ballard’s ‘Concrete Island’.

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Concluding remarks were given by architect Eric Parry who succinctly synthesised the presentations and the interdisciplinary conversations of the day.

Text and photographs by Natasha Burbridge and Alice Marsh, BSR London Office.

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 200.000 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.


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.


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

La risposta del pubblico è stata straordinaria. In meno di quattro mesi, più di 207.000 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.


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.


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…

Marco Iuliano

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).

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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.



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.


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…!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane

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)