Architecture Abroad

Just as filmmaker Nanni Morretti took a satiric look at Italian life in his movie “Caro Diario” (Dear Diary), I do the same as I evaluate how this semester of studying architecture in Rome has affected my studying and personal experience. Here in Rome, I got to see how much Roman and Oklahoman lives differ. What’s so great about Rome is not just the culture but it’s also the people. The modern culture of Rome is a mix of the arts, music, fashion, and historic architecture.

Daily life revolves around religion and food. There are more than 900 churches in Rome so walking to Sunday Mass is never a problem because the closest church might be right next to where you live. Sometimes two churches  can be located within 50 feet from each other such as the twin churches Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria di Montesanto in Piazza del Popolo. Furthermore, Vatican City, home of the Pope, is located in Rome and for this reason, many consider Rome to be the most important city in the world.

Food is no less important than religion to the people here. When people speak of Italian food, many think about pizza, ravioli, and spaghetti smothered in tomato sauce. It’s amazing how many ways people can use one ingredient: the tomato (or as Italians call it il pomodoro). Another thing that I will definitely miss is the water, which is not only abundant in quantity but also very amazing in quality. For someone who doesn’t drink alcohol and few soft drinks, I am very picky when it comes to drinking water. I would rarely drink out of tap water from the sink or water fountains in Oklahoma but when I tried the tap water here in Rome, I never stopped drinking it. The best thing about it is that you can come up to a water fountain (or nasone) every five blocks while roaming the streets of Rome, which is my favorite thing to do.

Here in Rome, you can walk everywhere unless you want to spend your money on public transportation. Walking to school not only helped improve my health but also allow me to appreciate the beauty of Rome. Sometimes it is the journey and not the arrival that matters most about traveling. But how does this trip affect my studying and my way of designing? As I have learned from one of the reviewers at my final presentation, the concept of a project is important but what’s more important is how my attitude about design has changed over this semester. Concepts are often a one-time use while attitude can be the main inspiration for the rest of my designing career. The answer is: I definitely have more confidence, which does not only affect my life, it is also reflected in my design. I remember months ago, I was uncertain about signing up for this trip because I was worrying about being away from home, living in a foreign country, learning a foreign language. However, by the time Spring Break came, I was used to taking care of myself, not being so dependent on my family and was more confident than ever. I contemplated, reevaluated, and found that confidence in my project, in which I now see expression instead of neutrality, radicalness instead of conservativeness, and complexity instead of simplicity.

Caro Diario = Dear Diary. Prod. Nanni Moretti. By Nanni Moretti. Dir. Nanni Moretti. Perf. Nanni Moretti. A Lucky Red Release, 1993.

– Minh Tran

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