One More Day


Watching the Race

Another prova this morning. Now only 1 day before the Palio, the Campo was much more crowded and excitement was escalated. There was more singing and cheering. . . and pushing. 


 . . . studio work. . . 


Tartuca Contrada Proceeding to Evening Prova

Tartuca Crowd

Though I didn’t get to see the evening prova, the action is impossible to miss. As I walked to dinner, I saw the contradas and their horses marching together into the Campo, Tartuca being among the most proud and enthusiastic. Getting around the city was nearly impossible, as crowds gathered to watch and film the processions of contradas. Sienese spirit is getting ever more intense. 


Palio Approaching


Cleaning the Track

This morning we made it to the prova that was rained out yesterday. It was quite a spectacle. Pride was evident and pervasive as herds of contrada members gathered in designated areas of the stands. Before the race the Campo was active and anxious. The melodic singing and chanting became the soundtrack of the morning’s event.
The Race

Enter horses. The race began. Some horses flew past us. Some trotted. One walked. My assessment of this event is that it is something of a test: of the horses, of the track, of the competition. Regardless, it was fascinating and fabulous. The same ground that I stroll along day after day, looking at people eating and laughing and playing was now the site of this race.  


Post-Race Procession

The time after the race was just as eventful as the race itself, as contrada members flooded the track, gathered around their jockey and marched behind their horse, singing, as always.  The parade continued out of the Campo and to the respective contradas. 

When the morning excitement dwindled, the task of reinterpreting and recreating Lorenzetti’s “The Allegory of the Good and Bad Government” was the priority. This fresco, located in the Palazzo Pubblico, on two walls parallel to one another (and one wall in between), describes the effects of tyranny and its effect on the city and the surrounding countryside. The “good” side shows a moral ruling council surrounded by angels, with happy people,a thriving economy, and a flourishing countryside helping to make the city survive. The “bad” side depicts evil, sin and death: the result of tyranny. 

Good and Bad Government

In my interpretation, the manner of creating the collages was just as important as the collages themselves in conveying the concept. The good government collage consists of neatly cut out representations of a healthy Sienese society, with a lush countryside feeding a city with happy people and well-kept spaces. The bad government collage was first burned, then filled with ripped images of evil scenes and unhappy people, all black and white. The death and heartache leaks over to the countryside, across a decrepid wall.

Collage Composition Sketch

Comradery, Tension, Enthusiasm

Pop-Up Piazza Review

Like the analytiques we reviewed a few days ago, the collection of pop-up piazzas was varied and wonderful. It was great to see the way different students interpreted the same spaces, and effectively conveyed these impressions into a 3-dimensional symbol. Similarly, the techniques used were clever and unique. In the piazza I studied, with the Logge del Papa and San Martino, two other students evidently experienced this space far different than I did. My model was represented in a compact, even claustrophobic manner, representing my confusion, even discomfort in the piazza. I didn’t know where to stand/sit/walk. My classmates had models that showed quite the opposite.



After studio, we went over to the Campo to see a prova (trial) for the Palio, but to our disappointment, it was postponed because the sand was wet from rain earlier in the day. What we did see was enthusiastic displays among various contradas, with groups of members chanting, singing and jumping all around the Campo. So, we stayed and watched. Perched atop benches in front of Palazzo Pubblico, we were given a show to watch which made up for the cancelled prova. I was enchanted; watching people behave in different circumstances and environments fascinates me. Comradery, tension, enthusiasm.

Sand, bleachers, song, parties, marches, flags, garb. . .more every day. The Palio excitement is building up.

Contrada Flags

Pop-Up Piazza – Logge del Papa and San Martino


The task: to study and reconstruct a piazza (Logge del Papa/San Martino Piazza) using a single sheet of A3 paper, with only cuts and folds (no tape and no removing paper).  It was a lot harder than I thought.        

On-Site Study:        

Loggia Corner

San Martino Corner. Sketches


 I suppose it is appropriate here to mention my system of measuring. Unlike in the Porta Pantaneto analytique assignment, where I carefully counted bricks and used my sketchbook, shoes and hands as tools, here I used the very basic geometry already presented to me on site. A fairly simple system of squares, rectangles and triangles allowed me to obtain an accurate proportional system of measure. I had one constant, x, which was the width of the church horizontally. From there, I assigned values relative to this “x” (2X, 1/2x, 1/4x, etc). 

Sketch Iteration (1):      

Sketch Iteration (1)

Iteration 2:      

Iteration 2 (Measured on Regular Paper)

Iteration 3:      

Iteration 3 (and Realized Mistakes)

Final Blueprint:      

Final Blueprint



Watercolor Test Sheet

Finishing Up:     

Pre-Final Folds

Looking Towards San Martino

Looking Towards Via di Pantaneto

Logge del Papa and San Martino

Folded Under to Accomodate Topography

The end result is a compact representation of the way I felt inside the piazza. As mentioned in my first post about this piazza, I felt that I was pulled in from the street, then quickly through to the other (parallel) street, when entering from either side. There is a funnel effect that makes this place more one of circulation than one of gathering, which is unfortunate.   





And. . .unfolded, both sides:

The Model Unfolded (Both Sides)

Exploration and Discovery around Porta Giustizia

Old Wall

Tasting Fruit

Blackberry Art

After studio today, we headed back out to our territory around (the alleged) Porta Giustizia, where a lot of our previous assumptions were clarified further or disproved. We ventured first into some of the gardens directly beyond the old city wall, which we thought to be public or city-owned. After being told by the owners that they were privately owned by two residences we were stunned. This means that nearly half of our territory is privately owned, cahllenging our assumption that this valley served local markets and the city with its produce. The father of the owner shared some fruit with us, and sent us on our way. . .off their property. 

Water Collection Pool

Water Flow

The next major discovery that we discovered while trespassing was the exact location of water,which we had previously only assumed based on the location of the most lush plant life. We found what appears to be a collection pool directly adjacent to/below the old city wall, at the northeast end of our territory. We also found two major ditches, which streamed water down the valley, through the private gardens, eventually coming together at the new/farthest wall, where the greenery is plentiful and dense. This water serves both public and private domains, and is evidently crucial for keeping this community space alive, and allowing the cherished agricultural components to thrive. 

Medieval Garden (and wall) from Foot Path

  One of our goals for today was to figure out which map notations were accurate and which were not. We ultimately found that some paths which appear on the maps were nonexistent and some existing paths were not drawn on the maps. The location of some buildings were inaccurate, and in some cases blatantly wrong. The presence of these inaccuracies were of particular interest to us because our territory is unique in its distinction from the rest of the city as a valley; it is not a path often traveled. The people who occupy the space are locals who seem to have formed a very tight-knit community, one in which an accurate map would be of very little importance. The location of specific buildings does not matter nearly as much as it does in the rest of the city, mostly because this is not an area that tourists frequent. 


 So, today we made some discoveries, the most important relating to human behavior and the importance of community. In this walk, we finally were able to understand just how significant this valley is for the locals who spend time there with their friends and families. Though inaccurate on maps, the exact location of paths and buildings is not important because these people already know how they want to use the space as they have evidently been doing it for a long time. Before going on this walk today, we considered creating some sort of an information center near the entrance to the valley, educating tourists on this area and creating maps that could guide them through as clearly as they do for the dense areas of Siena. How ignorant of us. This space is not meant for crowds of tourists. It is meant for the community, as they have been the ones to take advantage of it. It is a tranquil place, a place of meeting and relaxing.

In reflection, we rethought. Wouldn’t it be great if we could put together all our discoveries and analysis into something for this community. We have tread on their domain, and we have learned. We are grateful. There is a local restaurant along the main path, and that might be just the place to offer this gift: an art piece, so to speak, but one that has layers of information and discovery within.


Santa Maria Novella:  

Santa Maria Novella

Santa Maria Novella


Santa Maria Novella Sketches


With a hybrid facade designed by two different architects about a century apart, I found the transition to be elegant. Alberti contributed his Renaissance style with grace and ease, complementing Talenti’s existing facade. The s-scroll curved that bring the smaller rectangular geometry in friendly contact with the bottom one give the composition and softness and completion. The decorative circles further help to tie this masterpiece together, while allowing both designs to stand alone as distinct.  


Biblioteca Laurenziana:  

Biblioteca Laurenziana Sketches

Though unable to get inside San Lorenzo, we were able to go to Michaelangelo’s adjacent Laurentian Library. Though the famous stairs in the anteroom were sort of the focus, I couldn’t stop looking at the corners of the room. There were no clean edges; all of the corners transitioned into the adjacent plane of the wall, and they did it in a natural and seamless manner. This rigid change in depth continues sequentially along the walls, creating a perfect home for the columns and wall panels. The relationship of this room to the library itself affected me. After being delightfully compressed, the stairs bring you to a room both massive and intimate, both processional and personal. The materiality negated any feeling of intimidation. I wished I could sit in the benches and stay longer.  



Piazza della Repubblica:  

Piazza della Repubblica Sketch








Palazzo degli Ufizzi:  

Palazzo degli Uffizi

Palazzo degli Uffizi Sketches

While the majesty of this building cannot be denied, it was inherently overwhelming, but also overwhelming because of the swarms of tourists pushing and yelling as I stood before it. Serving to house Medici administrative offices, its function was certainly evident. Organized, methodical, disciplined. . .grand.  


Piazza de’ Saltarelli: 

Piazza de' Saltarelli

We escaped the animals (tourists) and gathered in Piazza de’ Saltarelli, where we were surrounded by examples of post-WWII construction. After the neighborhoods on either side of Ponte Vecchio were destroyed, the method of rebuilding the city continued to be in the Medieval style, due to the merchants who relied on density to make money. I find this fascinating, since the new and innovative has seemed to be the favored style of building over time. The social and political role of the shopkeepers in Florence astonishes me. The economic stronghold of the city becomes increasingly more evident, and as I strolled along Ponte Vecchio later in the day, I was grateful. Should I be looking at the bridge or the jewelry. . .quite a dilemma. 

Santa Croce:

Santa Croce Sketches

Santa Croce

Santa Croce, a church, museum, gallery, graveyard and resting place, it was a delight. I was immediately drawn to the perimeter, as I  went tomb-hopping among the greatest artists and thinkers of all time. This elevated my excitement level, as I picked my “favorites”, something I have tended to do since the ripe age of about 4. The tomb of Galileo Galilei interested me because of the controversy of giving him a Christian burial because he contended that the earth is not the center of the universe. . .how dare he?! It is also interesting to realize that the emblems and decoration of his tomb were done over 100 years after his death, making them removed from the way he was perceived when he died.



Dante Monument

 My other favorite is the monument to Dante. The marble on the figures engaged me both in its shadow and its texture. The figures seemed to be draped in the softest and most flowing garment, and not marble. After finally withdrawing attention from the texture of the drapery and the curves of the figures, I was struck emotionally by their facial expressions: drained, sad and hopeless.



 My absolute favorite place in the church/complex was Brunelleschi’s Pazzi Chapel. Cool, calm and relaxing, it seemed to beg that sit down. So I did. I sat on the bench that runs along the perimeter, took a deep breath and relaxed, after a long and active day. Simple in geometry, color and layout, it is a relief from the ornate interior of the church.



Santo Spirito:

Santo Spirito

Santo Spirito

Santo Spirito Sketches

  Ahh, Santo Spirito, my favorite stop of the day. Brunelleschi has come through again. The regularity of the column grid and side and rear bays allowed me to stroll through the church oriented and free from distraction. The rustic tile under my feet comforted me, made my experience casual and friendly. As I walked behind the alter, which stood centrally among three smaller bays, I looked up and was rewarded with one of the most spectacular layering of planes and angles. I found my favorite spot in my favorite church in Florence. I sat behind the altar alone for quite some time, and I felt privileged to be sitting here. The back of this altar seemed more sacred than the front of any altar in any religious place. (Keep in mind, this is coming from someone with a cynical view of the word “sacred”.) My day was complete.

Review/Study of Siena’s Urban Conditions

Porta Pantaneto Analytique

Watercolor Test Sheets


Analytique Review

The first major task of the day was reviewing the analytiques of the various gates around and within Siena. It was great to see the different watercolor techniques, as well as analytical representational techniques used by my classmates. Because two students were assigned to a gate, it was evident just how different interpretations of spaces are among people. Subjectivity reigned powerful in this assignment, even in its analytical nature.
 In the afternoon I headed over to the Logge del Papa and San Martino, which I will soon recreate in the form of a “pop-up piazza” with a single sheet of A3 sized paper, using only cuts and folds.


San Martino Corner

Logge del Papa Corner

Piazza Sketches

 In my first visit to the piazza, I tried to organize the space in plan and understand relative heights of some of the more monumental buildings creating the edges of this space. It is certainly an atypical Italian piazza, with its lack of a real “center” and sloping topography; it became difficult to determine my place in this space. Where would I be comfortable sitting/walking/talking? There is a collection of small spaces in between its built edges, but it seemed most natural to funnel to one of the parallel streets creating boundaries on two sides, where there was more activity: food, shopping, people. The Palazzo Piccolomini, which curves around on the northwest side serves as a wall or barrier, and I felt that I was continually guided out of this space, to either of the streets. I had a hard time sketching because of this very reason. I kept moving outward to the edges and away from the center, wherever it is.