John Kinross Scholar in 1985
Lucy Baird, Portico Palladio Bench
How did the experience affect you as an individual?
In looking through my old notebooks I begin at the science museum finding devices for telling the time and navigating at night, this seems apt as my time in Florence began in October and ended on the shortest day December 21st 1985, the long nights are a backdrop to many memories.
It’s surprising how quickly life became entwined with that of the city. Exploring was a joy and after much time museum visiting and art admiring, I discovered the British Institute Library and became immersed in their unusual and eclectic collection. My time was centred on study and research, with the freedom to explore any avenue and develop ideas. Walking by Santa Croce, passing the Duomo or crossing the Ponte Vecchio became part of everyday life, though familiar new discoveries were always waiting. Seeing masterpieces so often that they become a part of daily life will make them less daunting eventually!
I spent a week at the British School of Rome, where you find yourself in wide open spaces surrounded by architecture on a grand scale, such a contrast to Florence with its defensive architecture and narrow crowded streets. I managed a visit to Venice just before Christmas, shrouded in mist, red carpets laid out on the Calle and a wonderful sense of peace that came with silence.
(The sounds of Italy, talking accompanied by cutlery noises, traffic, car horns and mopeds)
What was the impact on your practice?
I had cycled solo all the way down the spine of Italy the previous summer, so my experience was mainly of whizzing through places, the opportunity to live and work in one place was welcome.
I began seeing architecture as a backdrop and a stage setting, cityscapes acting like landscapes. Florence has Genius Loci in abundance, that sense of the spirit of a place and the impression it leaves on the mind. Italy has a wealth of original inventive and unique architectural forms which give identity, vitality and a sense of place to its towns and cities. The Influence of Italian art and architecture is a well-covered topic, in depth study can bring something to life. I have a lifelong love of libraries, archives and research from this time; you never know where it will take you. (Pre-internet days)
What would you say the long term impact has been on yourself and you work?
After moving to America, I took up woodworking and design work based on the idea of facades. Old American building fronts are like stage sets, having a ‘fake’ facade as if for a film set, and this brought me to back to Italian architecture. Initially to find the underlying patterns of the geometric puzzles that are the Venetian Palaces, leading eventually to a wider study looking at historic forms unique to place of which Italy abounds, on reflection perhaps it was a way of travelling back there. I am inspired by arches, arcades and arcading in architecture. These lovely forms are the basis for endless inventive variations and are disappearing from the modern world.