Drawing on History
As all students who have participated in the academic programs of the Architecture Department at the UW Rome Center know, drawing and history are two central sources of exploration and learning along with design studios. So it seems appropriate that the first academic symposium to be held at the Rome Center should be at an intersection of these topics. After the students packed up their belongings and cleared the studio this fall, Professors Ann Huppert and Thaisa Way stayed on for another few days of work. I had been working with them by email throughout the fall to plan a symposium entitled “Drawing and the Renaissance Architect.” With support from the Department, we were able to host a full day of rich exploration into the ways that architectural drawings were used by various 16th century architects to advance professionalization of the discipline.
We got underway on the evening of Wednesday, December 7 with a keynote lecture delivered by Professor Ian Campbell of the University of Edinburgh (currently a Visiting Professor at the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome.) He shared his recent research on a collection of drawings by architect Pirro Ligorio known as the Oxford Codex. Most of the audience of about 30-35 architects and historians returned for a full day of papers on Thursday. In all, six papers were delivered covering aspects of the work of the Sangallos, da Montelupo, Alessi, and Scamozzi. After each pair of papers, a respondent offered observations and comments on the ideas presented and engaged the audience in questions and discussion. Our final wrap-up included some observations from Professor Campbell and a general discussion of the topics moderated by Professor Huppert.
For me, flying to Rome for this symposium was a wonderful way to complete a particular research project that I started last summer. But it was also a meaningful opportunity for Ann, Thaisa, and me to expand on the Rome Center’s important academic tradition with a scholarly meeting: having a “home base” in Rome allowed us to gather with European scholars as well as Americans in the small-scale symposium format that permits the greatest exchange of ideas. Thus, among the participants, we had four Italian scholars and three British contributors in addition to one other American and ourselves.
So, while the students in the fall studio program were dispersing across the continent and across the globe for travel experiences or to head home for the winter break, the Rome Center continued to serve as a place for gathering, for learning, and for celebrating architecture, history, and drawing.
The continuous desire to draw accurate images of ancient Roman architecture was one of the sources of increased technical skill that distinguished architects from the painters and sculptors who also designed buildings in the sixteenth century. This is a representative sheet of studies by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger.
The symposium opened with a keynote lecture by Professor Ian Campbell.
There were numerous times in the program for comparing the ideas that were presented in the papers and for the audience to participate in a discussion.