November 08, 2013

Watch: Home from Rome

A sketch by Steve Kieran of the facade of the Palazzo Maccarini in Rome, one of the buildings he "disassembled" during a one-year fellowship in the city.

As part of the Home from Rome series sponsored by the American Academy in Rome, Steve Kieran delivered a lecture this week entitled "Carrying Rome." His lecture traced a passage back to his 1980-81 fellowship in Rome and its influence on thirty years of making architecture.  
While in Rome, Steve made more than 3,000 index card-sized sketches that continue to inform design at KieranTimberlake. His drawing of the Palazzo Maccarani, in particular, allowed him to disassemble the entire facade, completed in 1532, to understand how architect Giulio Romano established then flouted convention and then pointed a rhetorical finger at it (minute 24:00 in the video below). Partner James Timberlake was also a Rome fellow, in 1982-83, and the balance of art, intuition, science, and innovation that the two observed in Roman architecture led them to seek a similar balance in their own work. Steve pointed to Brunelleschi's dome in Florence as an exemplar of this equilibrium, explaining that truly compelling beauty hangs in the balance between art and science. 
Several elements of the firm's contemporary work draw upon lessons learned in Rome, including masonry walls that manage gravity and water; rainscreens (see Sidwell Friends School, Loblolly House, Brockman Hall); high-performance transparent walls (see Yale Sculpture Building, Putman Pavilion, Cellophane House, US Embassy in London); and the use of daylighting (see Quaker Meeting House and Arts Center). 
Steve noted, "Rome is still home. The insights I gained through disassembling and recording what I was seeing more than thirty years ago have remained ingrained in every facet of my life as an architect." 
Read the American Academy in Rome review of "Carrying Rome."

Watch "Carrying Rome"