Last Thursday, my studio went on a short day trip to Como San Giovanni, Italy. Como is only about twenty minutes down the road and crossing borders here is easy, so we were there before lunch! Our first stop was a housing complex from many years ago. Unfortunately it was closed so we couldn’t see much of it. Hans discussed how it was controversial at the time to make such a project where the designs of different floors or spaces were somewhat specified by social classes. For example, corner apartments more exclusive and interior apartments more uniform. Now, however, this is typically the case and it is not controversial whatsoever. We could see these decisions expressed on the facade, then kept walking through the city.
Just down the street is a World War I Monument. We talked about how the designer made it have a “borderless” perimeter and two large windows with many defined lines inside. It was very geometrical, and stood tall in the middle of a mostly empty area. It stood out in its placement for sure, sitting at the edge of Lake Como. Next to it was Tempio Voltiano, a small Pantheon-like structure. It is used as a museum and was closed at the time, so we did not go in. Hans told us that it is one of the most successful classical architectural pieces in the area because of its small size and simplicity.
In the park adjacent to that is a Monument to the European Resistance. This small monument is made of three sets of stairs that must be experienced to fully understand. They each have something odd about them such as downward-sloping steps that still work their way up, or gradually increasing rise or run as they go up. They also each provided a different perspective of the metal sheets that jutted out from the ground below. I found it oddly surprising to walk up and down them.
Next was Cattedrale di San Maria Assunta, the big cathedral of Como. It was bigger than I expected for such a little town and it had a lovely interior. The church was our first stop on a small walking tour of Como. Across the street we found Palazzo Terragni, where an old Le Corbusier building sits, that is now a bank. It was in great condition and it had a strictly gridded facade. We couldn’t go inside, but through the glass we could see the open lobby which was very straight-line and had nice lighting conditions. Down the street there was another small church that had wooden details made in stone which was a somewhat odd combination. We passed through a few side-street plazas with people eating lunch on our way to Porta Torre, a tower left from the old city fortress. It stood tall and had a strong presence in the area, as if it were a monument. It now acts as a pedestrian gateway to the city of Como, a heavy, tall, stone structure with arched openings inside. I really enjoyed this structure and the presence it had there.
Our last stop of the day in Como was Asilodinfanzia, a small kindergarten school. The school was more interesting than I expected, with some beautiful interiors. It was a perfect scale for small children, and I wondered if it made them feel special somehow, with such a personalized-feeling building. We got to see the classrooms, courtyard, roof, and cafeteria.
I enjoyed Como, and it was a beautiful day. I am surprised this is the first time I made it to this city that is so close to home for me. I would definitely enjoy coming back here sometime! It was a perfect size and had quite a few things to do.
On Saturday, my studio went to Milan, Italy for the 2016 Furniture Show. As the design capitol of the world, Milan was packed full with people of all kinds trying to enjoy this extravagant event. Many were designers, customers and salesman, but there were also many tourists and students there. It was in the same building as the 2015 World Expo for Milan last year, and the structure was an exhibit in itself. The triangular glass pieces twisted up and down in a wave-like shape. Over the walkways between the warehouses it was used as a covering. It matched the event, with its unique and flamboyant nature. The furniture show consisted of several enormous warehouses on the site full with “booths” of different designers. There were furniture, kitchen, bath, even “X LUXE” warehouses, each packed with their respective furnishings, etc. The whole event was somewhat over the top, and had me and my peers on sensory overload. There were bars inside, exclusive “clubs,” and we weren’t even allowed into some booths (there were bouncers and everything…). The booths felt like little individual buildings, with exteriors and interiors the same. They were filled with colors, lights, even plants and fountains. It was very interesting to see so many designers and custom pieces of work, and we stayed there for six hours, walking over seven miles just within the buildings. It was a crazy event, which I’m glad I got to experience, but I was mentally exhausted afterwards!
On our way home we stopped at a couple more housing projects in the suburbs of the city. The two buildings were constructed at the same time and shared some common spaces. They were interesting to look at and observe, especially in terms of public space. These spaces were pretty beautiful, but were completely deserted. It made me think about how an architect can make a good space, but it’s hard to predict how people will choose to use-or not use-it.