Thursday, November 21, 2013

Finding Time. And a Job.

I packed up all my sewing things last Friday and made the journey to Nashville to spend some time with my momma. After a quick weekend in Blacksburg with CJ, I drove the remaining 6 hours to mom's house and quickly made myself at home.

I've set up camp in the basement

The week has been madness. I went on two job interviews (and got offered an internship position at both! And then spent a day in panic because I had to pick one and turn the other down), finished getting everything ready for Swoon #1 to be quilted (cut batting, made backing, even made the binding!), and started work on Swoon #2. I'm two blocks in, and I finished cutting fabric on Monday. Go me!

My little layout table

I'm trying to find someone in Nashville or Virginia who could quilt my Swoon quilts for me (that also won't cost me an arm and a leg), since I'm running out of time. I wanted them done by Christmas... But I've got everything for Swoon #1 sitting in a nice, neat, pile, all ready to go. 

I'm using Flea Market Fancy for Swoon #2! Allison, you would love it :)

I'm going to have a lot of half finished projects here soon. I've got my Salt Water Quilt top that needs finishing, my Sister's Ten BOM quilt will *hopefully* be done here soon, plus Swoons #1 and #2, AND I wanted to make a quilt as a gift for a friend. And join another BOM. And do a traveling quilt. 

I'm sorry I don't have any photos of them yet, but Swoon #1 and Quilt Barf both look awesome! I'll get around to photographing them soon...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Back home

Step 1. Come home from Europe.
Step 2. Jet lag
Step 3. Unpack and laundry
Step 4. Finish Swoon Quilt #1 top
Step 5. Put on Quilt Barf binding
Step 6. ???
Step 7. Profit!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


We joked, as we ran from the Pantheon to the Trivi Fountain to the Spanish steps, that we are now coasting through the last hill of our trip. Downward slope, sketchbooks put away, snapping photos quickly and moving on to the next thing to see in Rome.

Fountain of Four Rivers. Check.

Moses, by Michelangelo. Check.

It's very easy to do. My little tourist map has small drawings of all the famous facades and churches and piazzas and buildings and ruins to see, and I've been crossing them off my map as I've visited them (yes, I know I'm terrible). Rome isn't very large, but it is full to the brim with things to see. And it's such a famous city that you can knock out most of the "Top Things to Do" in an afternoon if you try hard.

Back and front of Pantheon. Check.

Occulus of Pantheon. Occulus shot with a tiny fisheye lens. Check.

I was thinking the other day about what exactly makes something famous. The architect of the Trevi Fountain didn't build it thinking, "I'm going to make this fountain that people from all over the WORLD will come throw money into!" So when did that shift happen? What makes a place desirable to visit? And who says we HAVE to visit it? I bet most of the people who come to Rome (or go to any touristy city anywhere) have a checklist mentality. Do we stop to think about why we visit something? Or do we follow our tour guide and look at what she tells us to look at?

Trevi Fountain. Check.

I checklisted my way through Rome on Tuesday with a quick stop for architecture in the middle. In the process of checklisting, I missed out on lunch, which made me crabby and I became Grumpy Cat. But once I had some risotto in me, the rest of the afternoon went swimmingly.

Coliseum. Check.

We visited the job site of a convention center by the architecture firm Fuksas. The exterior is a cube, and the interior is a "cloud". Kind of weird, but I love any and all opportunities to don steel toed boots and a hard hat.

Construction site. Check.


On Wednesday morning, a group of us left early to go to the Pope's  General Audience at St. Peter's. We arrived around 8:30 and waited for two hours, getting pushed and boxed out by the people around us. But it was a great experience. Pope Francis drove right in front of us in his Pope-mobile, and, even though I don't speak Italian, his sermon was really good. I could pick out a few words here and there, but his inflection and manner of speech conveyed his message almost as well as his words did. That is the sign of a great speaker.

St. Peter's Square. Check.

Swiss Guard. Check.


Then we visited the Vatican Museum, where I saw LOTS of art and ran into Matt and Mallory, who are making their way through Europe on their own super adventure. I didn't take any sneaky photos of the Sistine Chapel, so sorry, you're going to have to just go see it yourself.

Super funky archway. Check.

Thursday is my last full day in Rome. I fly home on Friday, where CJ will pick me up from the airport and HOPEFULLY I can eat macaroni and cheese within ten seconds of getting home. A girl can dream, right?

I would philosophize about my feelings on this trip, but really, you readers have been with me along the whole way. I went to Europe to study architecture. I didn't go to be a tourist, I didn't go to collect and try beer, I went to learn. I've seen works from famous famous starchitects and small firms. I watched people. I formulated opinions on both people and architecture. And all of this is going to help me grow as an architect as I continue my last year and a half of schooling.

I complained before I left about the professors who were going on the trip with me. I complained that they would wax poetic and try to philosophize to me. I had just spent a year building a freaking bridge, I wanted a practical architecture education! Teach me how to work! Teach me how to have a career! What I didn't realize through my "practical" education is that I needed to remember how to think. How to create. In the haze of construction documents and deadlines, I forgot that that aspect is only half of architecture. If I want to be successful, if I want to be good, if I want to wake up every morning NOT hating my job and wondering why I wanted to go into this field anyway, I need to remember the poetry of architecture.

This trip was good for me. It's put a lot of things into perspective and helped me discover. I'm ready to go home now, and I'm ready for the next three semesters. I'll roll my bike down the hill and coast on home :)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Travel Days and Siena

I realize I haven't written about the past three travel days. Travel days are when we all hop on a big tour bus and go from one city to the next, and stop at places along the way.

From Venice to Florence, we stopped at a cemetery by Aldo Rossi. I've mentioned him before in this blog, he was an iconographic architect. He incorporated shapes and symbols and icons into his work to create associations for his visitors. Usually it's successful and kind of nice, but his cemetery missed the mark for me.

The complex itself is still unfinished, after 20 years of work. There are spaces for mausoleums (mausolei? mausoleae? Forgetting my 8th grade Latin here), for coffins, for bones, and for other remains. And it was almost All Saint's Day, so the graves were all covered in flowers.

It felt so institutional though. I immediately thought of the idea of the "business of death" while I was there. The spaces were small and there wasn't any private area to speak of. There were over 1000 spaces in the bone house in the center- how would you fit 1000 families there on All Saint's Day? It is not a place I want to take my "forever nap", as I put it to Erica.


The complex actually is an addition, and the shapes of the buildings mirror the shapes in the cemetery next door. And Rossi's iconic ideas were still visible- blue roofs to represent the blue sky, symbols of pitched A-frames to address that this place is a home (just for dead people), etc. It all felt wrong to me though. I don't know if it's my culture to blame, my own views on death, or my dislike of overcrowding, but that cemetery did not sit well with me.


From Florence to Siena, we wanted to stop at a monastery, but the monks were doing All Saint's Day services all week and visitors were not welcome. So, we spent a couple hours in the small town of San Gimignano, a little village in the heart of wine country.


I sat in the square and sketched and journaled. Gene talked about the staggering of the buildings, how the topography of the land influences the location of the buildings, and other things. Someone pointed out to me that the Italy section of this trip is more about Urban Planning than it is Architecture- and the old Italians were GREAT urban planners. They can make a plaza that makes your heart sing. And it's so interesting to have a truly public place. We in America have "public" places like parks, but crime is such a big issue in our society that you almost can't have public areas for fear of misuse. I don't know if it's less of an issue in Europe or if the plazas are just designed in such a way that there is nowhere to hide, but there hasn't been any crime to speak of and people just respect and value these public areas more.

Erica, Mattie, Leanna and I did a quick wine tasting before hopping back on the bus. When in wine country...


From Siena to Rome (which was November 4th), we stopped at Hadrian's Villa. It is the site of the former palace/villa of Emperor Hadrian of Rome, who was Emperor when the Roman Empire spread from England to Iran. The ruins are still visitable today, and are incredible. Absolutely incredible. We've seen domes and arches on this trip, but these ruins reveal the wall section, the thickness of slabs, and the construction methods of the past. It's so cool to be able to see just HOW these incredible forms are made, all from examining and drawing their ruins.


We spent 3 hours at the Villa, and it almost wasn't enough. The air smelled of olive trees, which is a very distinct smell I had never encountered before then. I don't really like my sketches all that much, they were all very analytical and just me trying to construct the shapes and forms on paper. Kinda difficult, kinda didn't succeed very well... But hey, I tried.


Siena was essentially a pit stop on our way to Rome. There are two very impressive things to see, and nothing else- the Piazza Campo, and the Cathedral. We spent a few hours at each place during our time in Siena.

The Campo is the big public plaza. The land slopes down towards the center, and alleyways cut through the buildings from the main street above to the plaza. We were tasked with drawing two of those alleyways, and Gene complimented mine. SCORE.


The Cathedral is, obviously, the cathedral. It was magnificent and sat at the highest point in the city. I stared up at it one day, and the way the clouds were blowing past made it look like the facade was about to fall straight onto my face. It was a weird sensation. Inside is a beautiful dome and a library full of old handwritten monk manuscripts. On the floors are inlaid medieval drawings of people- Gene suggested we try to draw one of them, but from upside down. It was a fun exercise, but really difficult to explain to all the curious non-English speakers who tried to ask me what I was doing. Womp womp.

A passageway from the back of the cathedral to the front

Exterior facade, and the library! You can see the monk-uscripts in the bottom of the photo

And the crux of the church!

But now I am in Rome!

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Cities in Italy are unlike cities in the rest of the world. Italy has a very stark contrast between its historic buildings and more modern buildings. Things from the middle ages can be right next to things from the 1800s, and no one bats an eye. There is no blending.

HEADS UP the photos are probably not going to correspond much with what I'm writing.

Santa Croche cathedral

This is a Franciscan church, as opposed to Dominican. The Dominicans had more money, so this church is much simpler in material and design. You can tell really well because of the arches- they aren't vaulted and the spans are made with triangles, not real arches.

The tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo, and Dante, respectively. We also visited Dante's house

Dead guys just interred in the floor

With that said, picture Florence in your brain. Google it if you have to. Yellow houses, red tile roofs, big fat Duomo. Right? We drove into the city on Wednesday, and it looked NOTHING like my imagination said it would. I think we came in from the university side, because I thought it looked more like metropolitan Paris than an Italian city.

A piazza, then the courtyard of the San Lorenzo monastery

Michelangelo designed these steps in the library at San Lorenzo :)

In the daylight though, the city lives up to all preconceptions. It is beautiful and yellow, there are leather goods stalls literally on every corner, and TONS of tourists. It may have been worse than Venice in that regard. But there were lots of statues to see and piazzas to hang out in and places to walk to.

I spent a lot of time at the Duomo. It was designed and built by Brunelleschi in the 1400s, and is super impressive because it is built as two shells- an outer and an inner shell. On Halloween (Thursday), Hanna, Ryan, Rebecca and I hiked up to the top of the dome. It's totally awesome, because you walk in between the two shells to get up there. The view of the city from up there was absolutely stunning, the red roofs sprawled out for miles. You can pick out which towers and tall buildings were built in which time period, too. The darker stone ones were the middle ages, the churches were in the Renaissance, and so on and so forth. On Friday, Hanna, Ryan, and I climbed the tower next to the Duomo and sketched for a while. Good fun. I struck up some conversation with a friendly Austrian and an Argentinian architect- I love meeting people.

The front facade of the Cathedral, and the fresco on the interior of the Duomo

The vaulted arches (definitely NOT a Franciscan church), and us up in the top of the inside of the church. Getting ready to climb up to the top!

Climb climb climb. Mildly terrifying, because there is only one way up and down. So there's lots of congestion and apparently people didn't really believe in adequate handrails in the 1400s

Side note though, people LOVE to watch you draw. They love to be nosy and judge how you draw. They will crane their necks to see what you're doing and crowd around behind you. It's really awkward to be in the middle of a drawing and suddenly sense someone behind you, then turning to see two people literally staring at what you're doing. Even worse is when they take photos of you. We've had some awkward interactions with people trying to take our photos while we draw, like one person will stand behind you and the other will take "their" photo, but it's totally of you. It's really uncomfortable. So, if ever you see someone drawing, please, leave them alone. Don't be nosy, and for the love of all that is covered in melted cheese, DON'T TAKE THEIR PHOTO. Especially without asking.

This little shop does all the repair work on the cathedral. Apparently, 80% of what you see on the Duomo has been replaced- BY THESE GUYS

As far as other "things to see" in Florence, I saw the Ponte Vecchio and some other random bits, but no sculptures. It cost 11 euro to see the David, and the line was always at least 30 minutes long. And I couldn't find the museum where the Pieta is housed. And anyway, they have taken to making reproductions of these works for safety reasons. A crazy guy came at the Pieta with an axe a few years ago, which is why they moved it. But now there's a chance the statue you see is not actually the real one.

Ben is wise

The Duomo!

I also experienced the most anticlimactic Halloween of my life in Florence. Since the hotel didn't have wifi and the free wifi in the piazza was very limited, I didn't see photos online of people's costumes or got any Halloween hype. And I didn't carve a pumpkin or eat candy or dress up or anything. Hanna, Rebecca and I went out Halloween night with plans to hit up a bar I found, but we ended up wandering the city and listening to the street musicians. It was really nice, and I enjoyed watching all the people walk by who WERE dressed up. We eventually made it to the bar, where I received a free lobster hat. Kids in Florence trick or treat at the restaurants instead of apartments/houses (because they aren't really accessible), so we had kids running in and out of the bar to get candy. Pretty odd.


I have less than a week left of my trip! I am in Sienna until Monday, and then we head to Rome. I think it's going to take me a couple months to process everything I've seen and to formulate an opinion of my experience. I just want to nap and eat macaroni and cheese when I get home.