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Update from Rome

May 8, 2010

Springtime in Rome always brings excitement and hope for the city, optimism can’t help but prevail amidst the flowering trees, jubilant tourists and warmer weather.  Except when the flowering trees have been cut down and not replaced, the tourists are irate about waiting a half-hour for a bus only to find it too crowded to enter, and it’s been cold and rainy almost every day since November!  In the midst of the wonderful chaos of a Roman spring, rather than write a single blog entry, here is a list of tweeter like comments on the goings on around town.

  1. Follow up on Progetto Millennium. On Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 9:00am at the Salone della Cultura del Palazzo dei Congressi will be held the “Stati Generali” meeting, presenting over a hundred projects for the city of Rome.  http://www.statigeneraliroma.it is the site for more information, though only in Italian.  The link to submit your own proposals for Rome, very enticing, is currently not working.
  2. Status check on the excavation for the Multi-level parking Structure at Piazza della Moretta, Via Giulia (see 15 March blog).  Photo above is of the excavation in progress, being carried out with no “safety coordinator”, no safety plan for the adjacent high school, no no hard-hats or other required safety measures, and above all no public debate about the idiocy of dedicating valuable, sensitive land along the Tiber river in the historical center of Rome to the storage of automobiles.  At least they are uncovering some interesting pre-Mussolini foundations and appear to have an archeologist present to keep an eye on things.
  3. Art Shows. On a brighter note I’ve seen a number of interesting shows recently, contemporary art at the Gagosian gallery (Richard Serra paintings) and the French Academy (I Mutanti, a show of five artists very creatively installed in the Villa Medici halls, stairs and gardens), and a fascinating exhibit of photographs byStephen Shores at the little museum on Piazza Sant’Egidio in Trastevere.  Shores’ photographs of everyday American scenes from the 70s are haunting and beautiful but impressed me most because of the sporadic presence of automobiles (the models I remember from childhood).  The are big and colorful but not so numerous, reminiscent of a time when cars in cities still seemed like an exciting novelty and not a destructive infestation. In the same building, appropriately, are displayed the watercolors of Roesler Franz showing typical street scenes of 19th century Rome, still pretty recognizable today.  Two of my life’s backdrops in one show!
  4. Bike Day.  Tomorrow is National Day of the Bicycle in Italy, sponsored by the Ministry of the Environment. I’m sorry to be so cynical, but dedicating a Sunday in May to bicycles is a way of saying “bikes are for recreation, for children, to pay lip service to environmental concerns and pretend to care”. Bikes are a viable form of urban transportation and along with transit and walking they should be stimulated through incentives, not symbolic gestures. Bike paths, bike parking, tax breaks for bikers, prosecution of auto drivers who exceed speed limits and put bikers at risk—these would be more tangible solutions.
  5. Architecture Exhibit.  Coming up in early June (1-7) at the Temple of Hadrian in Piazza della Pietra will be an exhibit of Foreign Architects in Rome, featuring work from the academies and university programs belonging to AACUPI.  I will be exhibiting work of the Fall 2009 Cal Poly Rome Program I coordinated, specifically their projects for a center for the green economy sited at the Papal Arsenal near Porta Portese.  The challenge was to create a vibrant urban place in which urban synergies and efficiencies are maximized by design to reduce “waste” to less than zero, turning it into “resource”. Call it an urban resource center or a center for material reuse–anything but a “junkyard”.
  6. Food.  My newest neighbor in Via di San Teodoro where I have my studio: the weekly “Coldiretti” farmer’s market.  Good food, directly from the producers, for reasonable prices. From raw milk to walnut bread, fresh ricotta to seasonal greens.  Best of all, you get to taste everything. I haven’t had to enter a supermarket in weeks.
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