Reflections on the experience of a lifetime


I stumbled upon this blog in my bookmarks – I’ll have you know I scrolled back all the way through it to January. Being back in America, falling back into my usual routine of working/eating/sleeping – this has provided me with time to reflect on the first four months of 2015, which I spent living with 19 other wonderful people in a beautiful Italian Villa on the hills of the Ligurian coast.

Life in the villa was so fast paced, there was so much going on between travelling, deadlines, exams, and sports in the garden – I hardly had time to think about how awesome the experience was. It was only on those early-morning train rides to Milano Centrale where I could sit and think about how truly amazing of a time I was having with everyone.

To any future Villa residents – enjoy these four months while you can. It flies by faster than any four months in your life. I guarantee. Also, however different you may be, learn to love your housemates. They are all you have for sixteen weeks. Being able to enjoy those around you will make the experience in Europe ten times better. Don’t worry too much about studio work and the history classes – you do not want to find yourself pulling an all-nighter before you travel to Milan or Torino. Trust me, I can tell you from experience that it is not worth it. I pulled several all nighters – all of them not worth it in the long run.

Be appreciative of the staff at the Villa. Silvia is very willing to help you arrange anything from a haircut to Swiss train tickets. She has connections everywhere and with everyone. Don’t be afraid to ask. She will make your life easier – she is a great resource. Oh yeah, and her husband happens to work at Renzo Piano Building Workshop. But you will not see much of him. Despite the fact he lives three doors down, and that his nephew was in our group, he was only at the Villa once or twice.

Despite the language barrier, do your best to communicate your appreciation for all Lucia and Cristina do. Remember, for every unidentifiable quiche, there is a delicious pesto lasagna.

Your teachers are your best resource while you are at the Villa. Saverio, Luca, and Nicola are all brilliant minds in architecture, and they are all hilarious people in their own ways. You will learn to enjoy their company. Giuditta, your field studies teacher, is one of the most likeable people you will meet in your life. It is crucial that she is likeable, because she will have you standing in cold, wet alleyways talking about architecture for over an hour at a time. Field studies with her can be rough at times – but she has good intentions and is a wonderful person.

You will learn that your live-in professor becomes lot more than a professor. It is different every semester. In the spring of 2015, our teacher became a friend, mentor, teammate, housemate, and an impromptu poetry deliverer. I am sure the 16 other students and I will have a void in our life this fall that only a certain power could fill.

I am jealous of every student going to the Villa in the fall. Although I was happy to get back to America in early May, it only took a few weeks for me to start missing it. When I start picturing myself in class next semester, I picture myself back at the Villa. If only that could be reality. For now, I can only hope that I will find myself scaling the steps up from San Nicola at some point in the future.

It’s happening


Just back from our second ten day trip to Venice, Vicenza, and Verona and we are now faced with the sad close of this trip. But before the semester can officially end we have a few days to finish up all our projects, papers, and presentations. After our last studio review I have a solid idea of what I need to present at the final presentation, now its just managing to get everything done to the level I want it in a short period of time. I hope to have a better storyline this time around with visuals to go along with it to describe my project.
I may have been on a actual roller coaster this weekend, but this whole semester has been its own crazy but wonderful ride. I’m excited to finish up everything we have been working on, but it is truly saddening to know we have to leave this place behind so soon. It has been such a wonderful experience and I have learned so much, especially from the people I have met and shared so many memories with. I guess we just prepare for the free fall now. Ready, set, no hands!


The End Is Near

park entrance section

After returning from out last extended trip it is now time to crank out some work for our presentations on Thursday. I feel like I have said this nearly every time for the studio blog post, but I feel as if I am so far behind. So far I have figured out the size and shape of my park entrance, but I still need to try and detail it out as much as I can. Today I have complete most of a much need section for the park entrance and I have futilely been trying to finish the model for the entrance as well. The shape I have decided on for the park entrance is not very easy to make a model for, especially with the small amount model making equipment and materials we have at the villa. I am just going to keep plugging along tonight and see if I can finish this model so I can move forward with some perspectives of the entrance.

Looking ahead, I need to try and complete the production park entrance renderings, so that I can hopefully move on to the trail hub I was going to purpose. At this point though, I do not know if I will get to design the trail hub because of the lack of time. Hopefully this week turns out well, but I am not so sure at this point.




Plan copy

You know sometimes it’s very unfortunate how many lessons we learn after the fact. Although we still have 3 days before our final presentations, I already feel that I know so many things I could have done better and differently if I had it all over again. It’s always that way. As we move closer to the final day, stress builds, and we all tend to see our own mistakes or areas where we could improve. I think it’s just part of the design field that we are never fully satisfied with our own work….or probably more accurately we are rarely even mostly satisfied with our own work. However, although I know there are many ways I can do better (and many lessons about how to make that happen moving forward), I have really been enjoying the work. Designing truly is a privilege – I have to say I feel pretty lucky that the work I get to do involves drawing, and modeling, and thinking spatially, as opposed to memorizing equations. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy math; math can be awesome, but it’s very nice to be able to incorporate math among other things.

Despite the fact that we are all stressed in preparing for these final exams, I think it’s important to remember how lucky we are to be here in Italy, with such a great opportunity to travel and see the world, but also to live and learn from each other. That has been one of my absolute favorite things about this semester. I feel I have learned more lessons from my villa-mates than any one professor could ever teach (but Matt is doing a great job as well). The drawing you see above is a finish-line of sorts. It is actually the end point of the pathway and bridge that I am designing, and it ends with a lookout over the city of Genova. I included this drawing because I think it’s about where we are as a class right now. We about to cross the finish line, and look out over Genoa one last time before heading home. It truly is bittersweet. I know when I will miss this semester, and I can already tell I’ve learned many lessons having nothing to do with architecture. It seems that hindsight is 20/20 in all areas. All good things must come to an end. But I suppose that’s the only way to make way for other good things. All we can do is do our best to take the lessons from each chapter with us. Until next time,

Zach (aka Zucchero, aka Zuch Zaff, aka K-Fed)

Rethinking before final presentations

Right before our trip to Venice, Vicenza, and Verona, we had a “pre” final review. WE had to present the plans, sections, elevations, diagrams, and concepts, etc. we had already made progress on and then tell our teachers what we planned to present four our final presentations. After my “pre” final review my teachers told me to rethink my tower design and to make it more “tower-like.” I decided not to work on my studio project during our trip. Today I started to rethink how my tower was going to function. I thought about the lookout tower I had seen in Siena. I plan on taking inspiration from the tower’s circulation route and layout when making modifications to my own tower design.

In addition to fixing my tower design, before our midterm review I plan on modifying my presentation slides and making them more concise. I will put final touches on my plans, sections, and elevations. I will improve the quality of my renderings. Hopefully I will have time to make a detail or section model showing the changes I have made to my lookout tower design.



Parking Garage Plan

Parking Garage 3D

Well. Looks like we’ve reached the final week of individual studio work for this semester…We have a lot of work ahead of us to finish out the semester and it’ll be a busy few days. Thankfully, the past week for us has been wonderful. Traveling to Venezia, Vicenza, and Verona was both exciting and relaxing and I think it helped us mentally prepare for the load of work waiting for us back at studio. For me, today has been a big production day, as I completed the general design and drawings for the parking garage underneath my plaza. I represented my proposal in plan, elevation, and 3D rendered views. I have also been working on adding context to my hand drawings via bing maps.

The next steps for my will involve a few sections of my site- before and after my proposed project. I will need to define the exact plans for my plaza store layouts and hand render my perspective views, which will most likely take awhile. I have a ton of items left on my to-do list, but I am checking them off slowly, but surely. I think I am in relatively good shape to keep working and finish up before our presentation on Thursday, but it will require a lot of focus and espresso.

Can’t believe we’re so close to leaving! The time has really flown by.


One More Week

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 5.23.23 PM

Working hard this final week of the semester. Crazy to think that this is the end of our semester abroad. It seems like just yesterday we were doing our first blog post! They only got better from there…I have thoroughly enjoyed this semester, from all the traveling to the collaboration between landscape architecture and architecture students. I’ve learned a great deal about architecture, architecture history, and even some landscape architecture from Dr. Powers and my peers. As far as my project, so far it’s going good! Gotta grind out all the hard stuff that I’ve conveniently put off till now. Not to mention our paper for Saverio and the two presentations throughout the week. Let’s just say, I’ll be one happy camper come Friday at noon. But until then, gotta do work. The image above is of my section cut through Fort Puin showing the underground cistern I’m purposing. Using this space as an interactive workshop to educate the community about ecotourism and green infrastructure. What’s unique about this system is that I’ve design the cistern to be able to feed out into the community garden to make the whole process sustainable. I’m excited about my project and I hope it’s reflected through my work and my presentation. I would said I’ll let you know how it goes, but I guess this is the last one. Italy, it’s been real, it’s fun, and for sure it’s been real fun! Best semester of my liiiiiifffffe.


Corey Ferguson

Happy finals week! And may the odds be ever in your favor . . .


I’ve been writing lots of lists; lists, production schedules, and alarms. That’s when you know you have little sleep ahead of you and a mountain of work, when the lists get longer and the alarms come earlier. Before we left the villa for our second 10 day trip we had a mini check-in review to see how our progress was going. Every student dreads this sentence, “We just want to have an easy, casual review to see where you are.” Translation, ” We just want you to get up in front of everyone and myself to show us what you don’t have and what you seem to have been wasting your time on.” There was lots of binge working going on in the villa that week. All 17 of us poking our heads out of whatever computer hole we had dug ourselves into to see what everyone else was planning on presenting so as to make sure we weren’t going to be dreadfully shown up by someone else. With the review came lots of critiques, some a little too cryptic and some a little too straight forward. No architecture or landscape architecture student is friendly with check-in reviews. We all know what’s coming. The reminder that we have nothing, what we’ve presented needs more work, and while your at it I think you should scrap this idea and now go in this direction. Wether a good or bad crit you roll with the punches and scribble every word your professor says into your small notebook hoping you don’t miss the main idea.

This week when I sat down at my desk surrounded by lists and schedules I made sense of it all and did my best at diving in head first. I had sections to make, diagrams to perfect, and a master plan to unmuddle and make sense of. The sections I’m making are to show the size difference as well as the differing experiences on all of my trails. The diagrams that I had to fix dealt with my size comparison graphic and annual rain fall graphs. In my size comparison graphic I compare the size of Parco della Mura to other famous parks such as Parc Guell in Barcelona and Central Park in New York to show how much square acreage or hectares we are dealing with. The annual rainfall graphs now show more accurately show which season gets the most rain fall through a more info graphic approach instead of a bar graph. Tomorrow my biggest hurdle will be my master plan. I plan on adding more graphic information to the plan so there doesn’t need to be as much explanation. I have yet to figure out how I will do it, which is why it’s a hurdle.

– Hannah Job

Deep breaths, slow deep breaths


As our architecture final nears it is taking everything in my power not to have a breakdown. I’ve never felt this behind on a studio project before. Couple this with the fact that I have two presentations and a paper due and it all equals one disasterous end to the semester. I’m not sure how I could have avoided this happening due to the nature of the semester. I have my digital model completed but not much else done in terms of final deliverables. It will be interesting to see how this week plays out with everything going on. I plan to get up early in the morning and write my paper, which is due on Friday then focus on studio for the remainder of the day. There is not a moment to spare this week, but after Friday life will be much easier. It’s just a matter of getting there.

Tyler McKenzie

En Root to the finish line!


Back from the second 10 day trip and back to work in the studio.  As the deadline fast approaches, my to-do list shrinks steadily.  Not taking my computer with me on this last trip meant I have a lot of work to put in before I can put my pencil down, but it also allowed me to take a deep breathe and condense the ceaseless flow of concerns and concepts surrounding my project.  The result is a fresh, more streamlined approach to the upcoming review.  One of the effects of that new approach is a redrawing of certain graphics like the concept drawing I did at the beginning of the semester, but even redoing a few things doesn’t bother me if it means a clearer communication of the concept and design of my project.

Moving forward, I still have several graphics to complete, mostly renders, and a little ironing out of me oral presentation.  I feel confident about where I am and where I can get in the next 2.5 days and look forward to having a meaningful and purposeful project to show at the end of the semester that I can also continue past the final review and use in my portfolio.

This is my final broadcast, stay classy world!

I’m Jon Haile?