ArgumentNo. 13/2021

Conference Review - The Academy as a Mirror of Change: 125 Years of Arts and Humanities

https://doi.org/10.54508/Argument.13.25

  • / PhD. researcher, University of Architecture and Urbanism „Ion Mincu”, Bucharest, RO

Abstract

The conference was opened by Antoine Picon (architectural historian), who compared the French Beaux Arts – statefinanced since the founding of the Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Paris and of the Academy of Architecture in Paris in 1671 – with the French Academy in Rome in 1666 and the Prix de Rome (awarded for architecture since 1720). The Architecture Diploma existed in France only from the end of the 19th century, as until then the principle that artists needed no diploma had been followed. By contrast, the American Academy in Rome (AAR) is privately financed. In reinterpreting the Beaux Arts, the same point is reached, namely elitism, but there are also differences, for example in the building plan. Fellows in architecture have been appointed since 1894.

The talk was followed by the pre-1945 panel, moderated by previous Andrew W. Mellon Professor Lindsay Harris, a specialist in 19th and early 20th century photography. First, Frederick Whitling’s book Western Ways: Foreign Schools in Rome and Athens, published in 2018 by de Gruyter (Whitling, 2018), was presented. The book deals with academic diplomacy (as represented by the directors of foreign schools) and with the foreign schools of fine arts with an emphasis on architecture.

Katherine Geffcken presented the School of Classical Studies in Rome, which was founded a year after the Academy. She emphasized how important it was to see the classrooms versus who lived in the building. There were 6 to 8 female Fellows before 1914. In 1913, there was no competition for classical studies, then the competition was only open to men, which led to a struggle. There was no residence for women and the female classicists were told to build their own premises since they were not allowed in the McKim building. So due to the lack of money they lived downtown from Gianicolo and had restricted access until 1947. According to Picon, architecture was male centric until the 1960s. There were good links to the German Institute. In 1912, there was a merger of the classical school and the school of architecture (humanities and arts). Frederick Whitling noted that the space of Villa Aurelia was insufficient so a new building was necessary.

Alberta Campitelli presented topographic design in Italian. She started with two books on Italian gardens which showed the interest for the Italian garden, not only in its contemporary version, but also in its classical one, which can still be found in Tuscany, in the designs of English landscape architects; the books also included surveys of these gardens made by AAR Fellows. In 1924, on the 21st of April (the birth date of Rome), the gardens became an instrument of propaganda for Mussolini and so did a new garden designed by Rafaele de Vico and other landscape architects. Villa Aldobrandini was opened to the public. In 1933, the Villa Sciarra, redone by the Americans on the basis of a destroyed villa, was donated to the Italian state. The first question to the panel referred to the establishment of women's colleges. The second one regarded the American Academy in Paris: were the Beaux Arts taken as an example and does this mean that the French source of influence was the primary one. The answer also has political relevance.

Mostra del giardino (exhibition of gardens) in Florence 1931, the first one, also included American Fellows among the exhibitors.

For the arts, the model were the French, while for the humanities it was the Germans. There was a competition between the German archaeological institute and the French one before the academy was founded.

The second part of the conference also included a panel with Elisabeth Rodini as moderator. Resources of the academy for public outreach and digital technologies were shown (the Broken Books project, the Nash collection). The first speaker was Sebastian Hierl, librarian, who presented the book collection: early treaties on the history of architecture and the topography of Rome. Donations of rare books were mentioned:

- Flavio Biondo: Roma ristaurata ed Italia illustrata, Venetia, 1543 (Biondo, 1543);

- Vitruvius Pollio: De architetura libri dece, Como, 1521 (first Italian translation of Vitruvius) (Vitruvius, 1521);

- Giovanni Battista Piranesi: Campus Martius antique Urbis, Roma, 1762 (one of the definitive moments in the history of architecture) (Piranesi, 1762).

In place of the second speaker Valentina Follo, who had the flu, Ili Nagy talked, but this talk is not relevant for an architecture analysis.

The third speaker was Lavinia Ciuffa, the photo archive curator. The topic was the work of Ernest Nathaniel Nash. Born in Potsdam in a Jewish family, a lawyer by formation, he left Germany in 1933, set up a photo studio in Rome, and departed for the US in 1939, where he set up another photo studio. After the war, he returned to Europe as an American citizen. The Fototeca Unione collection includes his works on archaeology, architecture and landscape architecture. Unione Internazionale (the Union of Foreign Academies in Rome) was created after the war, when Nash returned, and he made a donation to it in 1956. Afterwards he photographed other places as well. The presentation included Pictorial Dictionary de of Ancient Rome (originally published in German) and a 1978 book: Ancient Roman Architecture. Projects of the AAR on the topic included The Urban Legacy of Ancient Rome of 2017-2018, an interactive and georeferenced website (AAR, 2018), together with the historic Nolli map and contemporary cartography, funded by a digital resource grant, and the 2019-2022 Fototeca Unione Digital Collection (digital humanities collection of AAR), both projects of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

The third part of the conference started with a keynote, based on a dissertation by Denise Costanzo on architects in Rome at the AAR from 1945 to 1960,“Designing a Modernist Academy: Laurance Roberts and the Postwar Battle for Architecture”. The presenter held a workshop: “Rebooting Rome's postwar academies”, during the 2014 fellowship, based on the Rome Prize project proposal, “Eternal City, New Lessons: Architects at Modern Academies in Postwar Rome” (Constanzo, 2014) (including an intervention on the Romanian Academy). The workshop was sponsored by the American Academy in Rome, the Swedish Institute in Rome, and the British School at Rome. Other participating institutions were the German Academy in Rome at Villa Massimo, the Swiss Institute in Rome, the Danish Academy in Rome, the Egyptian Academy in Rome, the Japanese Cultural Institute in Rome, the Polish Academy of Sciences in Rome, and the Romanian Academy in Rome on the 18 May 2015.

In the fine arts, a continuity with the pre-war period can be observed (the academy was closed from 1940 to 1945). The first director was an art historian, Laurance Roberts (1946-1960 AAR director) and the architect James Kellum Smith was AAR president from 1938 to 1957. Architecture was the most powerful academic discipline. For 50 years, all academy presidents were architects, as was the director from 1917 to 1940. A book presents this contribution before 1940: Fikret K. Yegul’s Gentlemen of Instinct and Breeding: Architecture at the American Academy in Rome, 1894-1940, Oxford University Press, 1991 (Yegu, 1991). In 1945, the board of trustees included six architects, and six for the other four arts as well as three classicists. The 30-year age limit for Fellows was lifted and they were also given artistic freedom as mature individuals, no longer obliged to have exhibitions. Modernism was welcome. Venturi credited the time spent at the Academy at his Pritzger prize lecture.

The keynote was followed by a panel on post-1945 arts, moderated by Peter Benson Miller, the longest-serving art director (till 2019). His earlier presentation “Painting in the ‘Contact Zone’: Artists at the Postwar American Academy in Rome” (Benson Miller, 2018) on extending the academy's reach into the city of Rome was credited.

The academy engaged in cultural diplomacy during the Cold War. The book Cultural Diplomacy and Heritage (Joong Lee and Niglio, 2019) was referenced.

Ilaria Schiaffini talked about the art collection on the Roberts’ Italy at Vila I Tatti – the Berenson Foundation.

The next speaker was Martin Brody, composer and historian of music who talked about how Roberts shaped music at the Academy. The Rome Prize in music exists since 1920.

Ugo Rubeo talked about languages, literature, and translations.

According to Denisa Costanzo, Roberts also served on the Italian Fulbright commission.

A Fellow from Roberts’ time was heard saying that “he was the right director at the right time”.

The fourth part of the conference dealt with post-1945 humanities. The keynote addressed the classics. Fellows were killed in service in WWI and the monument at the academy was presented; Fellows were also in service and killed in WWII. A 1938 Fellow (Harrison Gibbs),who had redesigned the courtyard, was killed in WWII, and his daughter, who was also an artist, relocated the work in bronze from the courtyard at Peoria, Illinois. During the war, after 1940, the American Academy enjoyed Swiss protection and so reference was made to the history of the Swiss Institute, as presented in Noëlle-Laetitia Peret’s book L'Institut suisse de Rome. Entre culture, politique, diplomatie (Peret, 2014).

Again, reference was made to F. Whitling’s book and to Lawrence Richardson’s book, The American Academy 1947 54, Reopening and Reorientation: A Personal Reminiscence (Richardson, 2012).

Another book (covering the first 75 years of AAR history) is Lucia N. Valentine and Alan Valentine’s The American Academy in Rome, 1894-1969, published by University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville in 1973, whose chapter XIII,“The future”, discusses how to set up a foundation to secure finances, how to recruit women to the board, winning the Mellon and Samuel Kress foundation and National Endowment for the Humanities as sponsors.

Among the innovations of the last 25 years are externally funded affiliated fellowships. The number of Rome prizes has grown (to 30, from 17). On the 9th of December 1969, Robert Venturi wrote a 14-page report for the academy board, “an analysis of architecture at the AAR with recommendations”; “it has to adapt,” Venturi writes, to be strong. This was the closing question for the panel on post-1945 humanities which followed the keynote: what does the American Academy need today?

Elisabeth Jane Shepherd’s paper was read by someone else since she had the flu and was unable to attend. It presented the Rome spirit of collaboration, which was for the schools to work together; Italy supported this with the Unione (in the1950s), together with the German libraries (DAI, the German Archaeological Institute in Rome and DHI, the German Historical Institute in Rome). In Florence, the return of German libraries was also negotiated by the newly founded Unione (as discussed by Frederick Whitling), treading a fine line between internationalisation and national culture (promoting German books). The goal was to overcome the previous competition between the academies during the rise of communism. In the humanities, new fields appeared. After 2000, these changed again. The session focused on these changes.

The next speaker was Elisabeth Rodini from the Fototeca (photographic collection). She gave a tour of the academy with its recent archive. Created in 1959, it includes the largest civil archive of aerial photography in Italy, recognised by MIBACT (Ministry of Culture). In 1962, American aerial photographs from the war were offered to the Fototeca by the AAR director. Photos of the British School in Rome were included a few years later as well. It became the Mediteranean Allied photo reconnaissance, including almost 1 million photos of the Italian territory, with contributions for AAR from the French School and the Swedish Institute. Geological features, archaeology, urban planning, architecture etc. were surveyed. The archive is waiting to be restored and made available to the public.

The next speaker, Ingrid Edlund-Berry from the Swedish Institute, talked about Lucy T. Shoe who was a Fellow twice, in 1936 and in 1949. In 1936, she created a field with her architectural models. She first attended the American School in Athens and through this she opened up a field which she continued to work in for the rest of her life. De Vico suggested to her how to get permission to do architectural models and politics played its role. Her relationships with male Fellows were discussed. 1949 was also about Inez (Nina) Longobardi, a librarian at that time and a Fellow in the 1980s. Her thoughts express the change in our way of thinking about libraries (something can be seen digitally anywhere in the world, but certain things can only be seen in certain places, the real gems). You do your homework before you go to the library.

The last speaker was Ingrid Rowland who talked about how being a classicist differed in Rome from Athens, from her experiences in the 1980s. With Jewish refugees, European thought came to the US. Posthumanism became a very popular area; the direction changed after WWII and fascism. She spoke of her experience as a Fellow in the 1980s and she also talked aboutof Nina Longobardi, as they were both Fellows in the 1980s.

The director Ochsendorf gave thanks to former Fellows and staff who returned.

The fifth session was about the 25 years of presidency - continuity (planning, building and fundraising), including preservation (of the buildings starting with the gardens, then the provision of better fellowships), presented by Adele Chafield Taylor. She was also a Fellow in the 1980s, a colleague of Ingrid Edlund-Berry as well as the 2020 resident in historic preservation. She talked about how she made sure that the future of the institution is ensured and that precariousness is overcome. This includes attracting more applicants, so that the winners are excellent. Then she addressed historic preservation: it is a distinct artistic enterprise in line with some other modern art forms and explorations, above all cartography, modern archaeology, and anthropology, which have in common the capturing of a moment in time, of a physical reality that arose in the middle of the industrial revolution in the 19th century. Such capturing of a moment in time is not nostalgia, but a creative act. The American Academy Fellows traveled and dreamed for 125 years and then returned to the US and built cities or became great scholars. The aim today is peaceful coexistence on Earth and Fellows are invited from beyond the US and Italy. The 21st century is different: from having Americans in a foreign land to crossing paths in a global world.

The final session addressed the academy in the 1990s in the conception of the current art director Lynne Lancaster.

Mark Robins, former director of photography, then dean of architecture and subsequently director of design, talked about the balance between tradition and innovation. He had a fellowship in design under Adele Chafield Taylor and he talked about Fellini's depiction of 1960s Rome, which we continue to explore today. Many affiliated fellowships are funded by Italian institutions, the most recent in architecture and landscape architecture for the Piemontese. Discussions are in progress about starting 14 to 18 residencies, about organizing common events for the Fellows such as dinners or visits accompanied by lectures. An example of this kind of collaboration: a picture by Carol Walker about race and gender, The Ecstasy of St. Klara, included in the Cleveland Museum of Art. Another example of collaboration is between a composer and an architect interested in digital printing who printed the instrument (megaphones), seen in Rome and then in New York. The new fund allows Fellows to engage with the city of Rome: a preservationist doing a performance and choreography in the Campidoglio, Nina Young, in the courtyard around the Tempietto. The conference “Water and culture: A view from Rome”, and the exhibition “Matera imaginata” were mentioned, with thanks to several Mellon professors. Three women photographers were included in the traveling Matera exhibition curated by Lindsay Harris (in Rome, Matera and at the New York IIC, the Istituto Italiano di Cultura). Other activities included conferences sponsored by the new projects fund; other conferences were also mentioned as well as exhibitions, publications, the 5th year of conversazioni (with a half million dollar budget), which feature interdisciplinary discussions on what history means to preservationists, architects and specialists from other fields. The iPhone has changed the way we think about the transmission of knowledge and the speed at which it can happen.

In conclusion, the AAR is a contemporary institution, not just about study and contact but also about original thinking, production and art, different from its 1894 embodiment. It prefigures what it will become and its gates are open. Throughout the anniversary year there would be concerts, and an additional exhibition was scheduled for the spring. The autumn exhibition was “Encounters”, visited after the conference with the guide Peter Benson Miller: postwar encounters between former and current Fellows, followed by a reception at the main building (the conference took place at Villa Aurelia).

References

AAR (2017-2018). The Urban Legacy of Ancient Rome. Accesat pe 12 Decembrie, 2021, la http://exhibits.stanford.edu/nash

Benson Miller, P. (2018) “Painting in the ‘Contact Zone’: Artists at the Postwar American Academy

in Rome,” Accesat pe 12 Decembrie, 2021, la https://www.aarome.org/events/calendar/

peter-benson-miller-painting-contact-zone-artists-postwar-american-academy-rome Biondo, F. (1543). Roma ristaurata ed Italia illustrata, Venezia.

Costanzo, D. (2014). Rome Prize project proposal, “Eternal City, New Lessons: Architects at Modern Academies in Postwar Rome”, Accesat pe 12 Decembrie, 2021, la https://www.aarome.org/news/features/2014-15-rome-prize-winners-announced

Costanzo, D. (2015) ”Rebooting Rome's postwar academies”, Accesat pe 12 Decembrie, 2021, la https://www.aarome.org/ events/calendar/rebooting-postwar-academy

Joong Lee, E. Y. & Niglio, O. (2019). Cultural Diplomacy and Heritage, Tab edizioni, Rome.

Nash, E. N. (1961). Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Rome, Praeger, New York.

Fototeca Unione (1978). Ancient Roman Architecture: photographic index on microfiche, K.G. Saur, München; New York.

Peret, N.-L. (2014). L'Institut suisse de Rome. Entre culture, politique, diplomatie, ed. Alphil, Neuchâtel.

Piranesi, G. B. (1762). Campus Martius antique Urbis, Rome.

Vitruvius, P. (1521). De architetura libri dece, Como (first Italian translation of Vitruvius).

Richardson, L. Jr. (2012). The American Academy 1947-54, Reopening and Reorientation: A Personal Reminiscence, American Academy in Rome, Rome.

Valentine, L. N. & Valentine, A. (1973). The American Academy in Rome, 1894-1969, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Whitling, F. (2018). Western Ways: Foreign Schools in Rome and Athens, de Gruyter.

Yegul, F. K. (1991). Gentlemen of Instinct and Breeding: Architecture at the American Academy in Rome, 1894-1940, Oxford University Press

Download

References

  1. AAR (2017-2018). The Urban Legacy of Ancient Rome. Accesat pe 12 Decembrie, 2021, la http://exhibits.stanford.edu/nash
  2. Benson Miller, P. (2018) “Painting in the ‘Contact Zone’: Artists at the Postwar American Academy in Rome,” Accesat pe 12 Decembrie, 2021, la https://www.aarome.org/events/calendar/ peter-benson-miller-painting-contact-zone-artists-postwar-american-academy-rome
  3. Biondo, F. (1543). Roma ristaurata ed Italia illustrata, Venezia.
  4. Costanzo, D. (2014). Rome Prize project proposal, “Eternal City, New Lessons: Architects at Modern Academies in Postwar Rome”, Accesat pe 12 Decembrie, 2021, la https://www.aarome.org/news/features/2014-15-rome-prize-winners-announced
  5. Costanzo, D. (2015) ”Rebooting Rome's postwar academies”, Accesat pe 12 Decembrie, 2021, la https://www.aarome.org/ events/calendar/rebooting-postwar-academy
  6. Joong Lee, E. Y. & Niglio, O. (2019). Cultural Diplomacy and Heritage, Tab edizioni, Rome.
  7. Nash, E. N. (1961). Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Rome, Praeger, New York.
  8. Fototeca Unione (1978). Ancient Roman Architecture: photographic index on microfiche, K.G. Saur, München; New York.
  9. Peret, N.-L. (2014). L'Institut suisse de Rome. Entre culture, politique, diplomatie, ed. Alphil, Neuchâtel.
  10. Piranesi, G. B. (1762). Campus Martius antique Urbis, Rome.
  11. Vitruvius, P. (1521). De architetura libri dece, Como (first Italian translation of Vitruvius).
  12. Richardson, L. Jr. (2012). The American Academy 1947-54, Reopening and Reorientation: A Personal Reminiscence, American Academy in Rome, Rome.
  13. Valentine, L. N. & Valentine, A. (1973). The American Academy in Rome, 1894-1969, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville.
  14. Whitling, F. (2018). Western Ways: Foreign Schools in Rome and Athens, de Gruyter.
  15. Yegul, F. K. (1991). Gentlemen of Instinct and Breeding: Architecture at the American Academy in Rome, 1894-1940, Oxford University Press