Through the Lens of an Architect 

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9 Unusual Buildings to Add to your Travel Itinerary

PIAZZA DEL CAMPO  

Siena, Tuscany, Italy 

Jacopo della Quercia 

I have a dream I often revisit. I’m walking down a street in a city I have never been in. I don’t know what is around the next corner. There, there is a street, space, façade that I’ve never seen before. I walk down a cool, dark five-to-seven-storey-high stone canyon, the sides bending sublimely in plan, leaving a deep azure sunlit void overhead. I turn a sharp tall vertical stone corner, and before me the Campo tilts gently. 

SAINTE MARIE DE LA TOURETTE PRIORY  

Lyon, France 

Le Corbusier  

Complex, beguiling, purposefully offset in the countryside. A building laden in detail and moments. I entered the chapel. The length, height, width, changing floor plane underfoot, light slipping in, blazing in colour over the side chapels, forming the space. I looked at the tiling set out underfoot, the cross section of the pews. Then I said, this is the best room I have ever been in. 

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MILL OWNERS’ ASSOCIATION BUILDING  

Ahmedabad, India 

Le Corbusier  

When I took my first steps, I bumped into a coffee table. On it lay an open ‘Ouevre Complete’. (Anthology of Corbusier’s work). I entered into and moved through the black and white image I could see, on varying floor planes, through mass, solidity, void, absence, height, width, slender posts, concrete texture, which I could feel, all composed and held in the light grey light. I decided I wanted ‘to do this’. I started to study architecture. 

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SANGATH  

Ahmedabad, India 

Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi 

The scooters, tuk tuks, busses, sacred cows, horns blaring, throngs of people working, stench, noise in the streets, and you exit into a haven of quiet contemplation, water, greenery and the roof vaults suspended above the shade that supports them. The vaulted roof welcomes you in: inside a real studio crammed with paper, models, people drawing, working, talking, designing. A beautiful stair, window details, colours, and an intense serenity, intense as the city outside.  

VILLA LANTE – FOR CARDINAL GAMBARA  

Bagnaia, Italy 

Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola 

You just have to get to the top. It works downhill. Water swirls, cascades, pools, runs down the elaborate axial trough and shoots through tiny apertures underfoot. Juxtaposed to the water fantasy, cool calm pavilions stand symmetrically about the axis. Finally, water squirts from the plump breasts of nubile stone women. Below the pavilions, the immaculately gardened platform is suspended over the town of Bagnaia, clearly declaring who was in charge and who wasn’t.  

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CIMITERO DI SAN CATALDO  

Modena, Italy 

Aldo Rossi 

Gray, wet, cold, mist, flat land, and ‘behind the walls are absent presences and present absences’ (borrowed from Emilio Ambasz). Clear, precise, rational, poetic, logical, utterly unremitting, holding the remains of loved ones, their lives now reduced to ashes, filed in little labelled boxes, a lexicon of death. (Not unlike traditional burial structures in Italy). If you could hear the departed, this silence is the reality of death.  

VILLA SAVOYE 

Poissy, France 

Le Corbusier  

A pleasant train ride west of Paris. At the station anyone you see knows where you are going and welcomes you warmly. Walk through suburbia to the gates. The gate house is entirely strange and utterly consistent with the ‘tenets’. Walk a bit further through the garden. See the cube building, which simply demands you stop and look at it. A beautifully sculpted mass of solid, void, slender posts. Take any number of routes to move through it to the roof plane. The arrogance is beautiful, exquisite, and genius. 

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INDIAN INSTITUTE OF MANAGEMENT  

Ahmedabad, India 

Louis Kahn 

At the gate is a ‘diagram’ of the buildings, a ‘fire evacuation plan’? And beyond, on entering the ‘diagram’, here is all of architecture, space making, history, a way of construction. Bespoke bricks and concrete elements rise in vertical planes, block and let the sun in, using exquisite apertures. Deep furrows interrupt the mass of building, recalling the ancient citadel of Kumbhalgargh and Gujurat’s Mogul past.  

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POMPIDOU CENTRE 

Paris, France 

Piano + Roger  

Apparently, the only competition entry that proposed an urban square? Inclined gently, the only way you can sit in the square is to face and look at the building. At the escalator of all escalators. The Beaubourg precinct appeared in Corbusier’s crosshairs as he conceived the Plan Voisin, which required levelling the historic city fabric. The Pompidou Centre, however, works; the ‘object’ placed within an intact historic city urban ‘texture’.  

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Macio Miszewski 

Director and Architect 

VDMMA 

www.vdmma.com  

@vdmma_ct 

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