The Importance of Travel on Architecture, With Ryan Walterscheid
A longtime architect and partner at Forum Phi, I believe travel is one of the most valuable ways to understand architecture. It is an incredible way to see how things change over the years, but also where they began. Equally important, travel provides an appreciation and understanding of the human scale. Getting caught up in the day to day is inevitable, and we all need to remember to get out and see the world. With a love of Europe, I personally try to visit a new country each year.
My wife and I decided to begin in Old Town, Dubrovnik, Croatia, which is originally a walled city. Dubrovnik portrays very much its own style of architecture, quite unlike any other on the coast. Seeing the beautiful white stone structures up close and personal is incredible. Moreover, it illustrates a true example of durability and history. I love to see how things develop over time. In Old Town, the locals build fresh and new within the historical shell and the architecture boasts simplicity and clean lines. Not to mention, it is a perfect example of proportion and phi, which Forum Phi is built on.
Croatia is eye-opening. The history that engulfs the town still rings true. The past and recent disruptions the country is going through is apparent at every step. In light of this, to understand and see the cultural drivers and events up close and personal that shape these towns are incredible. One of the highlights of the trip is definitely reaching the Napoleon Fort, at the highest peak. This is where the Croatians defended the top of the mountain as to not lose control of the town. In Europe, as you move from city to city each culture and story is so very different, which you don’t feel in the US. It is important to learn and see this first hand, as it makes us more empathetic to what people are dealing with elsewhere.
From Croatia, we continued on to Italy. Having studied Andrea Palladio in Vicenza, Italy during my college years, I was overjoyed to be back. Palladio, who still to this day influences Roman and Greek architecture, most designers consider one of the most influential individuals in the history of architecture. The recent visit to Vicenza is in fact, the 20th anniversary to when I was there for the first time. On a visit to the school, we came across students in the very photography and sketching class I participated in years prior. Learning to sketch is a powerful tool; to be able to create. It’s important to realize that the freedom to sit and draw is a pure talent and needs to continue to be focused on. Fortunately, it is still offered at this school in Vicenza.
We base what we practice in architecture on how Rome and Vicenza were built hundreds of years ago. Consequently, it makes traveling to these countries so much more real and applicable to today. After all, the architecture in Italy is the perfect example of so much of the traditional and classical work we do. It makes you realize the context in which and how we create spaces. The size of things. Proportions, rooms, ceiling heights all of this relates back to the past.
Ending the trip in Venice, we spent a day at the Biennale Architettura. A contemporary visual art exhibition that highlights modern art design and architecture. The Venice Biennale is one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world and has a visitor attendance today of over 500,000. The exhibit itself dates back to 1895 when the first International Art Exhibition was organized.
With such an amazing tour through history, I can’t wait to get back to Europe next year.