First site visits in classes!

Trip Start Aug 28, 2007
Trip End Dec 16, 2007

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

So this entry is going to be dedicated to describing the three site visits I've been on this past week. All the locations are in Florence.

Yesterday I had three site visits.

The first two were for my Villas and Gardens class. Our school, Palazzo Rucellai has been the home of the wealthy and Nobel Rucellai family since the late1300's, I believe. In the mid 1446 they commissioned famous architect, Leon Battista Alberti, to redesign and create one of the most impressive and well known facades in Florence. At this time, "gardens" only consisted of courtyards within a home or palace that offered sunlight, fresh air, and a place to walk around in shelter (this was important since the Italian wife would really only be permitted to go out in public with her husband, so it gave her a way to get outside without being seen). Since the family still lives on the upper floor of the Palazzo and controls the ground floor, our school is located on only the second floor. Since the ground floor is still in the family, the courtyard is a prohibited area for the public, but our teacher has connections and we were granted access only to the courtyard. Across the street they had a large loggia (a roof on columns) they had built for a famous and large wedding of one of the Rucellai children, they would later donate this to the city for public use. Over recent years, the loggia has been converted into a store where they sell expensive stereo systems and modern furnishings (due to strict historic preservations codes they had to leave the columns and create the store inside the original structure, using glass as a facade makes this easier). We then went into another building down the street called Palazzo Strozzi, built 4 decades later than Palazzo Rucellai, this building had a more smooth and masculine look. The courtyard is breath taking. With porticoes on all four sides (like halls with columns on the inside of the courtyard). This building was designed like a fortress. With all the wealthy families, there were often riots when one family would gain too much power and wealth. This building had a grander, more unifies and sophisticated style in my opinion.  The legato, the top floor, looked like it had a timber shed roof where the portico would be on the bottom floor. The building is now being used as a library, the legato is used for various research centers.

For studio yesterday we went walking out the outskirts of the city. We walked through the city gate/walls to the country side. It was a hike, sooo many stairs! We walked all the way up to San Miniato (a beautiful church with a 2-toned facade), and took pictures of the city from there (it was well worth the hike!), this was ABOVE the Piazzle Michelangelo (where I took the first panoramas of the city). So, of course I took more of them when we were there. There was a storm rolling into the valley and the clouds looked AMAZING (I took pictures of that too). When we went into the church it was absolutely breath taking. At first we couldn't see much because our eyes needed to adjust to the light, so we went down into the crypt and observed a special mass being held (monks singing and everything). It was so neat. I took a panorama of the crypt (I attempted, sorry if it doesn't come out well, its hard in the dark). I also made a quick sketch of the crypt as well. Then after our eyes adjusted we were able to see the frescoes painted throughout the walls of the church. Some were even left unfinished so you could see how they did it. Erin's taking the fresco class so I'll get her to explain it to me, then I'll relay the info. We went into a room that was covered with mosaic tile and frescoes on the ceiling, with tons of beautiful wood embellishment, even the wood chairs and altars were so beautiful. I sketched one of the corners (ceiling/wall), once again, I tried my best. It was so amazing. I'll post pictures and sketches soon.

Then today for my Vasari's Lives of the Masters class we went into the Palazzo Vecchio (right near my apartment). Since the apartments previously located there were taken over by the city it has been used as the City Hall since the 13th century. Later, Duke Cosimo moved into the upper floors of the City Hall and commissioned Vasari to create beautiful architectural details and art inside the building. Later after the Dukes rule ended, the Medici family moved in. The Medicis were a wealthy family made of merchants and bankers. They were patrons to many buildings and provided much support during the Renaissance movement. Today it is still being used as the Mayo's office and a place for the City Counsel to meet. We actually saw one of these meetings in the Room of 500 (where the city of Florence met with Duke Cosimo 600 years ago). Room 500 was BEAUTIFUL. It was HUGE! It had HUGE frescoes and at least 8 large sculptures representing the strength of the Dukes. Most of the original sculptures housed at Palazzo Vecchio have been removed and placed in a more secure museum and replicas have been placed in the Palazzo Vecchio. Every room told a story of who they were honoring. Cosimo had rooms dedicated to him, the Medicis and their seal were everywhere, upstairs each room had a theme that the Duke chose: The Room of Elements, Room of Saturn, Room of Jupiter, etc. It was breath taking.

I'll post pictures later! I'm sorry it's been hectic! I hope I didn't bore you! I miss you all!

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