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Posts Tagged ‘Piazza’

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Camilla and I ( and watercolor ). Drawing by Gianni.

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Ta-Da! I want to walk this city with you.

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Plaza de Panama. Balboa Park, San Diego. December 2014.



I was trying to find a poem
To describe your skin, night
But the poets don’t know
the hours, or the look i just tried on you–
I cannot find you in their words.

I am always hiding in their verses,
moon behind clouds.
Distilling memories, crafting them into images, words:
what is the wine that we drink?
and who can write about the way you held me?

They do not have a name for this, for how perfect we were, the amber and coffee
of our hips.
Your kind chest,
your arms, taut as steel,
and the fact that i did not look at you, not once, afraid of learning too much
from the way you walked,
or the way your clothes fell.

Drowning so sweet,
tender fire.

Name the nights this year,
count them on the palm
of one hand.
Indifferent city, i stole moments of brilliance
from your stingy months.
I ride dark, subversive waters
and capsize
continuously.

‘Until the inconscious is made conscious, the subconscious will rule your life,
and you will call it Destiny.’
Carl Jung

Do the poets write
of a lion lying with his lioness?
Of fleeting things?

You drove and i held your hand
You told me one must laugh, pray and cry,
everyday.
I argued the last point.

San Diego, December 2014

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Thank you mamma for letting me draw on the walls with permanent markers, for drawing our profiles in the moonlight, for the watermelon eaten with spoons on a beach still asleep, for all the walks,  for the picnics in lawns amongst the highways, where you would bring my net, so I could catch butterflies.

I’m still catching butterflies.
I love you.

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Photograph, December 19, 2010

This is my piazza, do you want to join me? We can walk inside the Battistero and talk about Islamic influences in the architecture of the Rinascimento in Firenze…or maybe just stroll about like tourists. Let’s take that via,the one on the left, do you want to come with me?

Every time I consider  imaginary spaces, my mind wanders to The Forgetting Room, that magnificent book.

Should we build a forgetting room for this year (to let bitter memories flow onto Oblivion)? Or a remembering one (to extract poetry and melancholy …even, ah, wisdom…out of hardship? – the feeling of seeing a familiar river in winter). God knows I built enough altars, and burned enough. I haven’t yet learned if sadness is better than anger.
2010, what a stubborn, bittersweet, impenetrable year you were….I release you, since I could never reach you, no matter how hard I tried, or how much I mentally applied myself to understand you.
Perhaps you were never meant to be comprehended. Perhaps you were not worthy.

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Steel frame poetry. Click for more info ore read below.

Choi+Shine, a Massachusetts-based design studio has recently received the Boston Society of Architects Unbuilt Architecture Award for their creative concept Land of Giants™, transforming the generic steel-framed electricity pylons across the Icelandic landscape into unique, individual humanised forms.

Read the World Architecture News article here.

In contrast to the poetry of the unbuilt, and whenever I see vision in design and architecture, there are the missed opportunities of the city around me. In my History of Architecture class I like to tell students that Architecture is built politics. By this I mean that the architecture of the civilizations we study, even the built environment around us, is the embodiment of a people’s values, belief system, socio-economic conditions (or agendas). Architecture can literally be considered ‘the body politik’.
During a recent conversation with a colleague the meaning of absence came up, that is, the absence of benches or piazzas in downtown San Diego. America’s Finest City enjoys the perfect temperate weather, is gifted with a beautiful natural setting, and yet its downtown does not invite enjoyment, people watching, outside of commercial establishment. This is a city that is, peculiarly, not urban at all, but fragmented, servile to cars, at times alienating. In the heart of its historical quarter, the Gaslamp, the city does not yield; no place to sit and pause to take it in.

There could be such place: Horton Plaza.

Downtown San Diego. Horton Plaza is in the 'Core'. Balboa Park is visible on the upper right corner. from onlinesandiegohomes.com

Horton Plaza/Fountain Side is a potential piazza whose use is twarthed by the deliberate use of ‘discomfort’ tactics: rough landscaping and the absence of benches, or seating at human-being level. I see tourists crouching down on curb edges everytime I walk by. There is a plan by the CCDC to ‘reenvision” the public park to make it more attractive‘.

Horton Plaza, facing the U.S Grant Hotel. San Diego, 1910. Fountain and plaza design by Irving Gill, who proposed four tiled walks (the city approved two, not tiled). Notice the cordoned-off lawn, and the absence of benches, even back then. sandiegodailyphoto.blogspot.com

Horton Plaza before 2008, with fountain still operable. It is flanked by a mall by the same name ( I love when malls appropriate the names of public space they displace, names such as 'Plaza', 'Avenues', 'Boulevard' etc.). Tall, unattractive plantings and no benches make the use of this piazza impossible. From http://sdhs1960.org/photos/yesterdaytoday.html. Adding ugliness to infamy, the fountain has remained fenced and inoperable for two years with no immediate plans for restoration. From signonsandiego.com

Horton Plaza/’Farmer Market’ Side is an open space eager to be a piazza, yet at the stage of ‘Piazza. Interrupted’. Why? The absence of seating, appropriate lighting, or a focal point in this location (a fountain? a modern sculpture?) renders this an open space to be traversed as quickly as possible, day or night, where spontaneous gathering is not encouraged (except for the commercially-viable weekly Farmers’ Market half-days or the inescapable ritual of the holiday ice-rink).

Horton Square, between the Horton Plaza Mall and the NBC building in Downtown San Diego. From shindohd@ flickr.com.

But Horton Square has potential, at least it’ s not a permanently-in-shade, unusable ‘public space’ such as those found among high-rises in financial districts nation-wide. You know what I’m talking about.

Wells Fargo 'Plaza', Financial district, San Diego. from frwl @ flickr.com.

Upon reading ‘ Why Public Spaces Fail’, it seems like San Diego has used this article as a blueprint to eschew its public responsibility and alienate the public sphere.
Of course anytime public space is brought up, the issue of the homeless is dragged out like a decaying corpse from the cellar, to once more make an appereance in trite arguments. The refrain goes ‘ We cannot have any public space in San Diego because of the homeless’. Meaning, if you build it, they (the homeless) will come. And we can’t have that. It’s as if the city, to paraphrase Ani di Franco’s words, instead of curing the disease, is bent on suppressing any evidence of the symptoms.
Of course we have the public, but touristy, Seaport Village and our cultural, manicured, Balboa Park. Both are not integrated with the urban fabric of downtown San Diego, that is they are destinations, not generators (can I say incubators?) of urban moments within the streets/flow of the city.
Balboa Parkis a wonderful (or maybe just pretty, depends on the days and my mood) public space, also designed by Irvin Gill,  and yet it is a place apart, an idyllic, bucolic, museum-filled oasis . I have not tried to go there at night, but I suspect that, in addition to dangerous, the park closes at night (like most American parks, something that doesn’t happen for public spaces in Europe). There are no night activities encouraged in Balboa, except for going to eat at The Prado restaurant, which stops serving food around ten. This could also says something about San Diego early bird ethic, and limited vision when it comes to cultural events. Balboa Park could be made an integral part of Downtown by better, more frequent transportation and by its transformation into a cultural hub, with stores and museums open at night. There are already good news: the main plaza of the park, originally designed as a public space and made in recent decades into an ugly valet parking lot is to be restored to its original use (!!). San Diego will finally have a true piazza (hopefully with seating opportunities) and I for one plan to go there sketching as often as possible.

The lack of piazzas or urban public spaces is not of course a San Diego phenomenon, or a Southern Californian one, but a North-American one. Why criminalize the act of spontaneous gathering, why call it ‘loitering’? We do not have this word in the Italian language, not with the negative connotation. What else but healthy loitering and thinking is done in piazzas in Italy? We can speculate, get political, be conspiracy theorists. We could talk about the privatization of public space. We could wax poetic about missing piazzas and the public consciousness of European cities.

Or we could-maybe- all agree on the beauty of (un)built poetry.

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