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Lessons from Rome Exhibition shows city’s influence on four American architects by Taeg Nishimoto

“Lessons from Rome” explores the enduring impact of the ancient metropolis on Robert Venturi, Tod Williams, Thomas Phifer, and Paul Lewis. The four architects are Fellows of the American Academy in Rome (AAR) whose experiences there continue to inform their design work. Curated and produced by Smilja MilovanovicBertram, an assistant professor at the UT Austin School of Architecture, the exhibition juxtaposes photographs of Rome with images of the architects’ subsequent work. The exhibition, funded through grants from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Visual Studies and UT Austin, opens on Oct. 20 at Texas A&M University’s College of Architecture.

<<< Tod Williams

In the Pantheon I am particularly drawn to the minute changes made by the movement of the sun as it spreads across the coffers… the jiggling, the shaking of the edge of the light… I look away for a moment and its place has changed. I realize that we have only begun to touch our ability for directing the sun to enter a building and to move the way it does in the Pantheon.

Cranbrook School Natatorium photo by Michael

Pantheon photo by Smilja Milovanovic-Bertram;

While in Rome, Tod Williams observed permanence and materiality. He explored Rome’s density and construction—“things that are heavy.” It was important for Williams to assimilate the connection between a building and its site. He made a drawing per day, exploring both the density of the paper and the density of Rome, typically on 3” x 5” note cards.

I wanted to make buildings that lived and existed longer than my own life… Being in Rome awakened ambition, I wanted my buildings to outlast my existence. From my stay in Rome, until our recent work in India we’ve done no commercial work… I wanted the buildings to be personal commitments. I wanted them to have groundling; to be serious and well-built.

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