Florence Summer Semester Study Recap

Photos by Sakae and Crandon Gustafson
By Crandon Gustafson, Head, School of Interior Design

Last month I was pleased to be joined by eight BAC interior design and architecture students for a studio and sketchbook learning experience in Florence and Tuscany. Chuck Agro, Vanessa Canella, Jillian Gaviani, Bianca Marchany, Aly Putnam, Elizabeth Spatola, Sarah Strang, and Michelle Ungar met with local architects, ascended the 463 steps to the top of Brunelleschi's dome, and sampled organic wine in a cool earthen cellar designed by Emu Architects.

The "Pop-Up" was not Brunelleschi's Duomo, but a temporary performance venue designed by students for the Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, for staging recitations from Bocaccio’s Decameron on the 700th anniversary of his birth. Santa Maria Novella’s marble façade is Alberti’s quintessential Renaissance study in proportions, and a five-minute walk from our digs, student apartments of SACI, Studio Art Centers International. In addition to housing, SACI provided us with a home base and lecture/meeting space.

We had a rare look at the Palazzo Strozzi interior for an exhibition featuring Brunelleschi’s and Ghiberti’s original competition maquettes for the Baptistery Gates of Paradise. Boticelli’s Venus and Primavera were our Uffizi favorites, and we covered the length and breadth of the Boboli Gardens. Sketching was our means and our passion, from the sun-drenched Medici Villa Garden to shady cathedral cloisters, to the exquisite Roman amphitheater at Fiesole.

Our default meeting place and home-away-from home was the café at Gucci Museum, where a contemporary interior exhibit reinforced the brand, right down to the loafers worn by the servers. The café’s air-conditioning gave us a sympatico study environment and a place to recharge our batteries.

The Gucci wasn’t the only new object of study. Our trip to Siena (the ultimate medieval town center for sketching) took us to Renzo Piano’s Rocca di Frasinello, a sustainably-designed winery in the Maremma region of southern Tuscany, where we received a guided tour of the cellar-as-amphitheater and a realistic appraisal of the sustainable performance of the building. And free samples.