So I know it’s been over a month since I’ve posted – but now that i’m feeling more settled I can give a much better report on life at the Architecture School in Ferrara. I’m taking classes in first and second year, but have friends in 3rd and 4th so I’m starting to get the full picture and understand exactly what the typical Italian Architecture program is like.
My first year class is a drawing/design studio – called “corso integrato di disegno” which is very very basic, but provides some interesting starting points for students who haven’t taken that many arch classes before. It’s broken up into 3 components, history, geometry and lab – some of which are significantly more enjoyable than others. History is on average a 2 hour segment once a week that goes over drawing basics, the history of the art form and famous architects who’ve contributed something significant to the movement. Geometry is less interesting and seems to be the least favorite part for all of the 130 students. It started out with sacred geometry problems, like proportions of cloisters and the significance of the golden ratio – but has since moved to mathematical projections of objects in various ways. It’s interesting, but not terribly easy to understand in italian. Also on average a 2 hour segment once a week. The third piece at 4 hours once a week is lab. So far we have been drawing outside in the piazza and working to redraw the plans for Mies Van der Rohe’s famous Farnsworth house. Lab should be the most time consuming, but also teach the most valuable lessons about drawing plans, sections, elevations and perspective renderings. Its all done by hand – and some without a ruler – but it’s good eye training and the class, like I said, teaches some really valuable lessons for those people who’ve never done this. In all honesty I wish I’d taken a more advanced class (having done most of these exercises in the past) but acknowledge that it is good practice at least. It’s also good to be in class with freshman, who are eager to make friends and meet everyone. Much friendlier at the beginning than other older students who’ve made close friends in past years.
My second year class is “urbanistica” which basically goes over the history of the evolution of cities. It’s absolutely wonderful – and by far my favorite class here. It’s a long loooong time to sit still (as it’s two 4 hour lectures per week) but we always get a 10, no 15, no 30 minute coffee and cigarette break at some point during the 4 hours. Classes are usually based around a theme (like post WWII reconstruction) or dedicated entirely to one or two cities – the best of these being Ferrara. It was absolutely wonderful to sit and learn about Ferrara from the late 600s until today and then step outside and walk past all of the same monuments. The prof is really passionate and very very accepting of foreign students – of which there are many in the class. He also invites tons of guest lecturers to speak, giving a new perspective (and often a new dialect). Coursework consists of a semester long project in groups (everything is in groups) in which we study the evolution of a nearby city and produce a book explaining it. There is also ONE oral exam at the end of the semester (in january really) that relies on knowing the material of 3 books really really well. The books are fascinating, but reading in italian takes a little more effort. Yeah..
Overall – I’ve had some hard weeks and some wonderful ones. Some classes are awful some are wonderful – but in general I am really glad to be here. The program is huge, and wont coddle you the way american ones might, but the information and point of view is unique and certainly worth hearing. I’ve made friends with tons and tones of italians, and exchange (erasmus) students. Generally the exchange students will be great friends to have because they too are going to the same difficulty with comprehension and also know very very few people. The italians are more cliquey but all thing its the coolest thing that you come from the states and chose to come here – to Ferrara – really!?
I’m going to leave you all with some nice pictures of the architecture school and the medieval wall around the city. The first (above) is taken from the top of the wall looking back at the building, and the second is the opposite direction looking out over the grassy field and the bike path.
The facoltà is really fortunate to be situated where it is in such a picturesque spot!!