Aug 15 – Prova, Prova!

I woke up this morning at an early hour to start some work, now that we were nearing the final review. The sun was finally shining today, meaning that the track would dry for the last general prova. After sifting through drawings and diagrams new and old, I went outside to the Campo to check out the  conditions myself. Apparently, I wasn’t the only with that notion. Several other locals and tourists flocked the piazza and with it being early afternoon, people were already reserving their spots against the inner gates. Knowing that the prova was a “go” for today, I finished the tasks for my group project and gathered a small group to wait inside the Campo shell.
Shawntel, Joann, Tim, and I walked in search of an opening near a gate. At this time people lined up against the fences creating a single interior perimeter of people, leaving the entire shell vacant. Myself and Joann brought our sketchbooks to draw and kill some time, but there were spectators constantly entering the gates forcing us to keep ground against the fence.
Every 15 minutes there were noticable changes in growth of the people within the shell, mostly forcing up against the fences. Cleverly, street vendors selling Siena apparel including the varying Contrada flags, were stationed within the Campo center. Many people flocked to them prior to aiming towards the fence, equipping themselves with proper attire.
A couple times prior to the horses and jockies making their scene, there were canon shots given off. These loud bursts, which startled everyone in the Campo (except myself), signified an incremental amount time before the trial took place – as if a dial tone couldn’t suffice. After a couple were shot off all remained contrada members and tourists within the track were forced into the crowd and the gates were closed. This meant the horses and jockies were coming out shortly and naturally everyone started to chear. Before they came out there was a display by the carabinieri (military) on horses decked out in full uniform where they took a couple laps stirring up the nearly full Campo. As they took a final lap around the track charging towards the main Campo gates the horses and jockies made their entrance.
The intensity was certainly in the air, making my heart beat faster and faster. The horses made their way to the starting line, passing Contrada members who each tried to out yell the next. The horses took their marks but several on several occasions the horses and jockies were asked to realign against the starting line.
This type of horse race doesn’t start like a conventional horse race, there are in fact two starting lines. The front line is where the horses are positioned against a rope, excluding one who is stationed about 10-15 feet back behind another rope. The process in starting the race is as such: the rope behind is dropped freeing the single horse, when that horse crosses the dropped rope, the front rope is dropped freeing the other 9 horses. Before you realize it, all horses are taking off and rounding the first corner. The crowd was roaring cheering for their contrada. Because this race was merely a practice for tomorrow, only a few horses participated at near full speed – a sudden slip of dirt beneath could send the horse to the ground, injuring them and the jockey. As the horses rounded the last bend (located near us) one of the horses tore up a chunk of dirt from the track and sent it flying directly towards Tim’s face. He was able to retrieve it with much excitement and claimed it as a souvenir – luckily it wasn’t a piece of manuer otherwise he still would have cherished it.
After the first place horse and jockey finished the race, the canon shot off designating the winner and the trial runs end. The gates were opened and people flourished onto the track where everyone was in a frenzy to reconvene with their appropriate contradas. Despite the race being a practice, it was a great experience and put me in the mood for the real Palio race tomorrow.

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Aug 14 – Uneventful Saturday

I slept in a little to recuperate from the POPup assignment and took some time out of the day to photo document the model. The weather wasn’t pleasant so not many people traveled or did much of anything, so this blog is mostly dedicated towards the upcoming Palio (in two days).

For the past week or so, there’s been a transformation with the Campo, from public piazza to a horse track, accompanied with changes to the overall city look and feel.It was quite evident that there was an excitement among everyone, locals and tourists. The Campo was become more packed each day for all hours, even later than midnight. Throughout the different streets, there were large banners, flags, and medieval looking street lights representing the colors for each individual contrada. Each night, a different contrada hosted parties within their territories for social gathering among their own people. I witnessed a party myself and there were people of all different ages from kids to grandparents all supporting their micro community. A couple days prior to the day of the Palio there are trial runs, called prova’s, similar to the actual race. Had it not been for the rain today, they would have had a trial run. Since the weather is supposed to clear, drying the track, there will be a final prova tomorrow which will be exciting to look forward to. Usually the final prova is nearly as packed as the Palio the following day.

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Aug 11 / 12 / 13 – POPup Piazza

Our next big assignment was the POPup Piazza, where everyone was assigned a small piazza and asked to make a popup model using a single sheet of A3 watercolor paper. Much like the analytique assignment, we were paired per piazza but asked to make our own popup model – the purpose being to enable us to work together at the preliminary stages of figuring out how to assemble this model. There of course were restrictions with the model, that being: paper can only be cut and folded, no severed pieces big or small, no tape used, and the facades must be watercolored.

The first step in the assignment consisted of documenting our given piazzas. Mine, shared with two others, was Piazza Quirico. I wouldn’t personally recognize it as a piazza, more like a glorified medieval parking lot, but thats just me. After taking careful measure and sketching out plan and elevations (approximately 2 hours later), I felt it was necessary to take an initial stab at popping up the piazza.

Success in this assignment required lots of test trials with different strategies of folding and cutting, folding and cutting, folding and cutting, and lastly folding and cutting. Trials 1 – 3 dealt with different scales of paper and it wasn’t until the final clean sheet of A3 watercolor paper that it was necessary to get the precise shapes drawn and angled correctly on the full sheet. It is in my nature to challenge myself for every assignment and task given to me, and though it seemed daring, I attempted to model the scaffolding in front of a building located in the piazza. The trial runs showed some success so I figured I would push for it in the final model.

Prior to folding and cutting the final model, all the score lines and cut lines had to be drafted on the full sheet of paper. After everything was drawn to near perfection, I layered watercolor paint to distinguish buildings and details within the piazza. At this time, I began to cut and fold and realized it was already time for the Final Review.

I was not able to finish in the given time frame, but i did position my study models and current model on the desks. I planned to finish the model later after the review and tomorrow, but in the meantime I positioned a piece of paper next to my unfinished popup assembly reading “Under Construction”. Luckily, some humor was taken from it, and I was able to finish the model at a later time.

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Aug 10 – Field trip to Florence

As a class, we planned to meet in Florence and tour around the city. I just so happened to wake up later than expected and found myself rushing along with my roomate to the bus station. It was crucial to take the 9 am bus otherwise it would involve waiting a good hour for the next one. It was about 8:45 with the bus station a good 20 minute walk away from the dorm, so myself and edwin jogged the length there (not so easy with the terrain and heat). We got there with a couple minutes to spare and naturally we were in a sweat. The bus ride there was a little longer than an hour, and upon arriving we met at a cafe for breakfast and embarked on the Florentine field trip.

The urban setting is less dense than Siena, offering sun to shine down on the streets. Architecturally, there is a distinction between Florence and other Italian cities which added to my visual library of styles. We hit the main attractions (excluding the statue of David) and included visits to some smaller attractions around the city. Some of the attractions included: Santa Maria Novella, Basilica di San Lorenzo, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Palazzo degli Uffizi, Piazza de Salterelli, Santa Croce, and Duomo di Santa Maria del Fiore.

Throughout our walk around the city, I took as many pictures as possible in addition to sketching what I found interesting. We were given the basic history 101 of Florence and how the Florentines dominated Italy centuries ago (including Siena). The day passed very quickly and ended with a bunch of us getting burgers at a local well-known burger joint. Even the Italians know how to make a decent burger.

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Aug 9 – Analytique due

Today was judgement day for the finalized, colored analytiques. Joining us were two new critics from NJIT who would be staying with us for the remainder of the program. Again we lined the desks and placed the analytiques around the perimeter for the entire class to observe. For each Porta there were two individuals, so it was interesting to see the varying display of drawings and organization. Unfortunately we ran out of time for my Porta to be critiqued but it was insightful to hear the others talked about – its strengths, weaknesses, etc.

Because of the new addition of critics, we were asked to inform them about our group project. Thus far we’ve consolidated our diagrams, drawings, and other graphics onto a separate blog that clearly explains the progress we’ve made. After hearing some criticism on our group work, we talked how to further our progress and think in terms of a final installation. The final assembly is responsible to document our findings in a clever way so we could give enlightenment about our territory to the rest of the class.

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Aug 8 – Fearlessly painting

Starting early in the morning I prepped myself for the final analytique composition. The first couple hours involved drafting the analytique lightly by hand. Some revisions and additions were made for the final but the basic organizational principles were kept. It took a while to get the overall layout completed but eventually it was all set to watercolor.

I deliberately took an hour to get comfortable with mixing watercolors, brushing, and layering on a separate sheet prior to starting the actual painting. After getting used to the process, I began very lightly with a couple coats giving the sheet a grey tone. From then on, I came up with a number of tones I would use and basically marked which sections were which tones. After several hours, approaching the early hours of monday morning, the analytique had completely dried.

I felt it would be interesting to keep a basic greyscale and vary with tones instead of using a broad range of colors. That way the hierarchy of forms and proportions can read better. In general, it’s hard working with colors because some pop up and read more clearly than others, the tones tend to be misread, so better to keep everything within a scale. In all, what I expected to take the entire day, took a day and a couple hours. I’ve learned that the keys to watercoloring is time, patience, and light layering – if you possess all three, it’s easy.

Aug 7 – Siena attractions

Upon coming to Siena, I was looking forward to visiting the Duomo and Panorama. Because nothing was planned for the day, myself, Joann, Jill, and Jen, walked over and bought passes to visit these attractions including others. We were early so it was recommended to visit the Museum first leading up to the Panorama.

The museum features several frescos (paintings) varying in size and historical content. In addition there are sculptures and assembled metal and glass pieces referencing important people and instances. The detail put into each painting and hand held object is remarkable, I constantly find myself in awe with the skill these crafters possessed. Even the most skilled would need a tremendous amount of time and patience in order to complete such work – kudos to you guys.

From one level to the next, the museum has varying artwork until reaching the top which provides entry for the Panorama. This overlaying platform structure provides 360′ views of Siena and beyond. The very top of it is amazing where you find yourself at eye level with the dome top of the Duomo, so naturally I set my camera to the panorama setting and took 180′ shots capturing wide pictures of the surroundings. After becoming comfortable and catching some sun rays, we were asked to come down so the next group can experience. With the Museum and Panorama checked off our list, we immediately went to the Duomo.

The Duomo’s entry greets visitors with multiple steps to a patio space just prior to the left entry of the symmetrical front facade. Upon entering, there is some pupil readjustment, so for the first couple seconds it’s hard to register the dark interior space. Within a few seconds the interior space becomes readable and every square inch visible is filled with detail and excitement. Firstly there is a relation from the front facade to the interior, obviously the central nave holds highest in the hierarchy of spaces followed by the side aisles. Following the procession forward leads to multiple side scultpures, murals, and intricate stonework on the floor, walls, and above. The most interesting is the alternating black and white stone relating to the historical reference of the Balzana – almost giving the interior a zebra-esque styling. Midway through the procession leads to the transept (cross corridor) and the centrally located dome interior above. The columns supporting the ceiling loads are extremely massive and formed elegantly in plan orientation. I can continue to ramble on about my narrative of the space, but nothing equates to the visual – take a glance at the pictures I took.

After taking picture after picture, and sketching for well over an hour, it was time to leave. As you approach the exit and walk on the entry patio space. the white marble reflects the sun so painfully that it took nearly a minute to readjust and be able to open my eyes wide. I believe there was intention behind doing this, having the sunlight amplified upon exiting the church may have signified a presence of God from above in close proximity to the church – just my guess.

It was early afternoon, and in total we spent 5 hours doing the tour. There were still small attractions to visit, but they were of less importance so we decided to head back to homebase. The rest of the day consisted of refining sketches, organizing, pictures, and thinking more of the analytique which was going to be an all day task for tomorrow. Tomorrow the paint hits the paper.

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