It’s a little loud here

I’ve been to many cities around the world, Chicago, Charleston, New York, Paris, London. I’ve found that every city has surprises in store: London felt disorderly, the buildings haphazardly placed, and Paris was indeed beautiful, so long as you refrained from looking at the roads and sidewalks covered in trash. Genoa has probably surprised me the most. I’m not sure exactly what I expected to find here, but whatever the case, Genoa seems an enigma in my mind compared to other Italian cities. I’ve visited Rome, Florence, and San Gimignano, and perhaps that is exactly my problem: those cities are full of tourists. I’m sure I’ll be able to make a better assessment soon with our first extended field study trip coming up next week, but there are a few things about this city which stand out already. This city has the strangest relationship with its waterfront I have ever seen. Between Genoa and its shore is an elevated highway, literally dividing the city from its more industrial port. Linking the city and port is an essential part of our studio project.


One of the things I noticed after a few days was how loud the city was. Louder than most. Most of the noise seems to be from mopeds which are about sixty percent of the traffic here. This city has a somewhat claustrophobic feel to it, the buildings in the historic district more so than the rest. It’s not just the width of the streets, but also the height of the buildings, most are around seven stories tall. For our first field studies trip, instead of sketching the buildings we were looking at (like I probably should have), I sketched out one of these alleys, the one right in front of the Church of San Matteo. Hopefully I’ll get better as the semester progresses…



Shoes with tread


Life doesn’t seem real. I’m not quite sure it will ever hit me that we are living in a villa in the hills of Italy. We will never get this kind of experience again, so I am trying my hardest to accept the things I cannot change (like unreliable Wi-Fi, no air conditioning, and never ending staircases) and to embrace the culture and my surroundings for these next four months. Whether I’m trying to avoid the slippery plants on the way down the salita, or whether I’m hiking back up, I’m trying to be thankful and present for every moment because I know I will miss it once I’m home. Genoa was not quite what I expected when I got my first glances during that life threatening taxi ride from the airport. I pictured a small, quiet little town next to the sea, but what I got was a bustling industrial city with treacherous stairs and narrow alleyways. But I also got a city where I can explore until my heart is content, and where the man at the gelato counter applauds every time my Italian is correct. It may not have been what I expected, but I’m falling in love with my new temporary home.



Point of View


Marseille- 1  Genova- 0

This past weekend we traveled to Marseille, France to view a port city that has been mostly successful in its vitalization of the port area. Marseille is also very successful in connecting the city to the water, something that Genova is lacking majorly. The picture emphasizes this point. Even from the elevation that the picture was taken the water is still visible. The buildings are arranged in a way that shows the water is still important to the city. This leads us to one of the major issues we have with our port site in Genova. Somehow we need to connect the citizens of Genova with the water once more. We need to make it more inviting to bring people of all kinds together and to celebrate Genova past, present, and future.

Visiting Marseille was a development in our studio project because we have a first hand experience to compare it to. I think Marseille has opened our eyes to what is possible for a port city and what we can improve upon even more from what Marseille has accomplished. Marseille has some of the same disconnections that Genova has in the part of the port that’s dedicated to the port industry. This precedent should help us in the future when we begin to design for the improvement of the Genova port.


The Idea of Sublime


Okay, this is going to be talking rubbish, for I will use less few hundreds words to discuss a concept that you could write books on.

This is so far my favorite shot since I got here. Okay, we will get back to this since we need to connect to the title.

What is sublime? By definition, in aesthetics, ” the sublime is the quality of greatness, whether physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual, or artistic. The term especially refers to a greatness beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement, or imitation.” Ok, this is pretty confusing, but essentially it is saying that sublimes means something great, but different or better than the normal “good”.

There are huge discussions in history on the topic of “beauty”, and definition of it. The word sublime was first brought up by English philosopher to describe “irregular” beauty that are different from conventional aesthetics. In their case, the sublime is the irregular beauty of nature, so came the British Romanticism. In last century, the sublime is modernism.

In simpler explanation, sublime is the beauty that found on things that are strange or unfamiliar to the eyes.

Back to the picture, the sky is the beauty, the cloud is the beauty, the Romanesque building is the beauty, the cruise boat in its bright white color, is the sublime.

M.L. at Genova

Merci Beaucoup, Marseille!

IMG_3038 copy
j4 rooftop cafe, marseille fr

Yesterday we got back from our first group trip outside of Genova. It was a long, hot train ride from Marseille, and not the best way to cap off an otherwise lovely weekend. I probably miss air conditioning more than anything else. I don’t think I’ve stopped sweating since we left the US two weeks ago.

Back to the trip though. I loved Marseille. The streets were wide, flat, and welcoming, there was a steady breeze coming off the water, and the whole port area was one scenic view after another. I especially loved seeing how the newly constructed architecture integrated itself into the old parts of the city. No giant white spaceships dominated the cityscape. Instead the new buildings actually were placed to be “discovered” behind the central historic core. Rudy Ricciotti’s J4 was especially intriguing to me. It’s one of relatively few buildings that I really think does an excellent job of referencing elements from the historic surroundings and being a thoughtful, modern piece of architecture. I could have happily stayed on the rooftop terrace the whole day.

I can’t talk about the Marseille trip without mentioning being able to see some of Zaha Hadid’s work. I’m a self-identified fangirl, and even though the CMA CGM tower is one of her tamer designs, it was really special to be able to visit one of her projects. She does a lot of work with my favorite visualization studio, Mir. The work they produce when they combine forces is mindblowing. Dream job.

I definitely feel like I gained some insight I can apply to our site from the visit to Marseille. Especially when it comes to maintaining the delicate balance between old and new–one I think is rarely solved effectively. I’m looking forward to being able to get our urban-scale master plan figured out as a group, and start hashing out some ideas for my individual project. It will be refreshing to be able to work on my own design, after what seems like semesters upon semesters of group work.


Italian Squares : a designed social space?


Are the steps in the pictures designed by the architect to be sit on? Probably Not.

Should architect design social spaces?

Yes, they should. However, do they always succeed in doing so? Not always.

Look at Le Corbusier’s Unite’d Habitation, where he designed social space in an designated floor which making it more comparable to a fenced court for prisoners to take a walk.

Look at the early models of New York public spaces around skyscrapers from last century, where at first are usually private “public” spaces to fulfill zoning requirement to make up for its height. These spaces are usually isolated, dark and cold.

Why does Italian squares are always full of lively atmosphere? Couples hugging, young people talking, dogs barking, musician playing instruments, people eating, smoking or just people-watching.

Are the squares designed? Yes and no. Or, these squares are always designed to serve more than one function, different from the “social room” of Le Corbusier. Piazza in front of churches could be used for religious events or festivals, Piazza that are at intersections of roads could be places for a memorial, a sculpture, or a fountain. In addition, they are always placed at the key points of pedestrian circulations, so that it will attract more users to occupy the space. They are designed with just the right amount of social control.

All roads lead not only to Rome, but also Italian piazzas.

M.L.  at Genova

Stairs, Pizza, Gelato, Repeat

IMG_3037 copy
villa living room

Well it’s been two weeks and we’re all still alive. I can make it up the salita AND the stairs all in one go, I had my first Italian pizza last night (finally), and the gelato man in Castelletto seems to recognize me now. This must be what it’s like to be a true Italian.

It’s pretty funny to compare my expectations of Genova to the reality of the city. Firstly I really thought it would be maybe a fourth the size. I think I was envisioning the city where Alexis Bledel’s character lived in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Not quite. I also thought Clemson’s campus might have prepared me for all the hills and stairs I’d heard tales of. That isn’t working out so well either. However, I’m a huge fan of the multitude of coffee, bread, and cheese shops in this city. I haven’t taken full advantage of that yet, but don’t worry–I will.

Villa life so far has been great. There are only 12 of us this semester, so we can spread out when we need to, but going out as a whole group is still feasible. I’ve gotten a little homesick a couple times, but a short walk to San Nicola or Castelletto and I’m totally refreshed from the picturesque surroundings.

This experience is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and I know it’ll fly by, so I’m trying to be present in every moment and take in as much as I can.


We all just want selfies


The selfie stick is a cultural phenomenon. Are they locals? Or are they tourists? No matter where they’re from, selfie sticks unite people. We all know the struggle of fitting everyone into the frame. In a foreign country you can’t ask a random stranger to take your picture without some fear of your phone being stolen. Hence the selfie stick being the perfect response to that problem.

My time in Genoa has certainly opened my eyes to things that I will not take for granted once I return to ‘Merica.

Wifi- I will be so grateful to have reliable wifi in Clemson. And the fact that it’s everywhere. Rarely having wifi outside of the villa requires taking advantage of the time I have to communicate with others.

Public bathrooms- OH MY GOSH. Constant dehydration just so I won’t have to use a hole in ground or pay to use the bathroom.

Bathrooms that are my own- That’s just it.

American ketchup- Fancy. Heinz. Something that doesn’t taste as much like vinegar.

Flat(ter) ground- The foothills have nothing on Genoa elevation change.

My appreciation for these things are growing every day. I’m enjoying my time here in Genoa, but I’ll be ready for the simple when I get back to America.


Walking A Fine Line: Marseille as a Case Study for Genoa

sketch copy

The old and new city of Marseille (sketch and photograph from trip to Marseille)

During our recent trip to Marseille, I saw many parallels to Genoa. During the trip I had a realization that both cities are walking a fine line of maintaining the cities original nature or taking a new path to modernity. In my opinion it is not such a black and white proposition and I think this is evident in Marseille’s approach. I was really fascinated with the contrast of modern and historic architecture present in Marseille. With such a large amount of historic “nodes” the contemporary pieces seemed to create a network, linking the elements of the city without overwhelming them. I feel that this take away was the most valuable part of my trip. I think this notion of contemporary gestures linking historic elements is a potential approach I would like to take for my project. The one piece of criticism I have for Marseille is that all of the contemporary works appeal primarily to tourist. In Genoa however I think that the modern additions to the port must have components that appeal to tourist as well as inhabitants of the city.



Change of (s)Pace


Marseille was everything I didn’t expect and then some. I had become so used to the layout of Genova (who knew) that I didn’t realize different places are… different. I loved the wide boulevards leading to the port and wide expanses for stairs that seem wasteful compared to Genova. Marseille showcased the Mediterranean, whereas Genova is on the Mediterranean. The port was always bustling with activity and was ever-changing. The morning activity was different from the afternoon which was different from the night. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip; I sketched more than I ever have and sketched this on the train. This trip changed my expectations for my semester. Somehow I had gotten in my head that everywhere was a derivative of Genoa, but thankfully I was wrong.