Brandon Davis Rome

September 2018

 

Hello! My name is Brandon Davis and I am a junior Sorin Scholar. I’m an Architecture major and Poverty Studies minor, currently abroad until May 2019 in Rome, Italy in the architecture program’s Rome Studies Year. I wouldn’t necessarily equate the architects’ abroad experience to many other programs, given the intensity and the depth of rich architecture we have to study here in Rome. While I may not be taking as many weekend trips as some of my peers, I can say wholeheartedly that the rigor of this program is making me a much better designer, thinker, and Italian speaker!

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Notre Dame’s program is rooted in the study of classicism. Italy, and more specifically Rome, is widely agreed to be the birthplace of classical motifs and orderings, giving life to many columnar orders, pediments, ornamentation, residential plans, and civic traditions that we still see reverberating in Western architecture today. The Eternal City was the playground for many architects of the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, the Baroque movement, and the Classical Urbanism of today. Being able to live a true ten-minute walk from some of the most acclaimed works of art and sculpture such as the Colosseum, the Vatican, San Carlino alle Quattre Fontane, the Pantheon, and countless other breathtaking structures has widened my perspective and appreciation for antiquity. I always felt a resistance to Notre Dame’s program and its reluctance to teach any kind of modern or contemporary theory, seeing as how that is the landscape of the job market they’ll later release us into. However, this first month has provided me plenty of “lightbulb moments,” realizing that becoming a truly great designer would be impossible if one did not study the works of the greats. In fact, it’s quite arrogant to dismiss the innovations of Ancient and Renaissance architects. Just because a building was erected over five-hundred years ago does not automatically designate it as less-efficient than the industrialized architecture we mostly inhabit today. Learning of the natural, passive cooling and heating techniques of masonry construction, or the maximization of space in such tight urban layouts by means of a palazzo style plan has fully engrossed me in the study of antiquity and bringing me to realize the gaps that exist in contemporary


Additionally, I have continued my study of the Italian language. I am in the conversational class offered in the Rome

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Global Gateway, which I would highly recommend! The content is extremely relevant, mostly covering the key phrases that we need to function normally in Rome and preparing us for conversation with actual Italians. While my conversations with locals have not been graceful or above the comprehension of a 3-year old Italian boy, it has beenconstruction. Keep in mind I’m saying this just a mere month into the program!

 

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As for continuing research, I have begun extracurricular study under Prof. Ettore Mazzola on the history and current climate of social housing in Rome. It has been fascinating to contrast my summer internship experience (affordable housing development in New York City) with what I am learning here. Interestingly, social housing that was constructed during Rome’s population boom in the mid-seventeenth century was actually constructed to such a high degree of quality that they now have a market value just as high, if not higher in some neighborhoods, as typical private residential apartments here in Rome. The durability of the materials used in the initial construction made it so maintenance and upkeep is almost nonexistent for these buildings. By doing it right the first time, the architect ensured that the transfer of ownership of these apartments would never compromise the comfort and livability for the disadvantaged occupying them. No property manager could pocket the difference by not regularly servicing the building.the most surreal experience to struggle through it and ultimately be understood. In fact, Italy is a great place to immerse yourself in the language, no matter how proficient you are, as the Italian culture praises the efforts of non-native speakers (in contrast to other countries, such as France where you’re laughed at for insufficient French). I am looking forward to the end of the semester, as my final for my Italian class will be presenting and defending my semester-long design project, a mixed-income palazzo-style apartment building in the heart of Rome.


Again, being only one month in seems unbelievable. I have eight more months of intensive work here in Rome, and I am nothing but invigorated to keep growing and learning in this città bella.