Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Our 5th Day Trip: Torino

We left bright and early this morning for the train station with tickets to Torino, home of the 2006 Winter Olympics. For many of us, this was our second trip to the city. A group of us went earlier in the semester for a ski trip at nearby Bardonecchia. This time, however, the visit was architecture related and, with our trusty guide Judy, we spent the entire day seeing some of Turin's best.

We began the tour as soon as we stepped out of the Porta Nuova train station. We traveled up Via Roma (which was on axis with the train station) to Piazza San Carlo. This piazza was designed by Castellamonte in 1621. There were several iconic buildings overlooking the piazza including the twin churches: San Carlo and Santo Christina (pictured below).

As we made our way through the city, we saw many historic buildings and learned about their history and significance with Torino, including the castle and monument below:

The Palazzo Carignano (Guarini, 1679) boasted one of the more interesting facades we have seen. The entire building, including columns and decorations, was made of sculpted brick (as opposed to the typical marble or stone that had become used to). I took some time during our lunch break to draw the building because it was so unique:

The next building we learned about was the Palazzo Madama (Juvarra, 118-1721). The interior was especially interesting because the floor was removed to reveal the remnants of the Roman roads and infrastructure that had long since been covered by the layers of time (and therefore lost) throughout the rest of the city. The image below is a glimpse of what Torino used to look like:

The following sketch is a detail of one of the windows of the Palazzo Madama by a classmate (Amy Leong):

After leaving the Piazza Castello, where the Palazzo Madama was located, we continued on to a beautiful church by Guarini: San Lorenzo (1668-1687). As we approached the entrance, judging by the very unassuming exterior, our expectations for the interior were not very high. However, much to our suprise, the church was beautifully decorated on the inside. The quality of the light pouring in from the drum of the cupola brought the space to life:

Another Amy Leong sketch of the underside of the lantern:

In plan, the rotunda boasted eight beautifully decorated radiating chapels as depicted in the panoramic image below:

Our next stop was the iconic Mole Antonelliana e Museo del Cinema (Antonelli, 1863). Here we learned about the history of the building, the architect ran the original clients off -he refused to budge in his design intent- so the town government had to buy the project in order to allow the work to continue. Today, the dome and steeple atop this building has become a symbol of Torino. Inside, we were able to take the elevator -suspended from cables and hoisted in the center of the dome...not very comforting for those afraid of heights- to the top and had a great view of the city.

After leaving the Mole (pictured above), we moved on to a more modern building: the Fiat Lingotto (Matte Trucco, 1914-1926). This was an interesting factory-turned-office complex that holds a significant place in automotive manufacturing history. It was modeled after the Ford factories in America (complete with the newfangled concept of something called "the assembly line") with some improvements. The raw materials arrived on the lowest floor and the cars were assembled as they rose. Once they reached the top, the roof had a test track that the cars could be driven on before they descended the spiral ramp to the ground below. Although the building is no longer used for testing cars, the test track -with its banked turns- still exists, and we were lucky enough to get a private tour:

While we were on top, a promotional company was selling rides in exotic cars in the plaza below, and the route included driving up the ramp for a spin on top of the building. (Some of us, including me, almost took more pictures of the cars than we did of the building!)

Recent additions to the roof included an upscale conference room by Renzo Piano. The new additions added another iconic element to the building as seen in the center of the images below:

(photo by Derrick Simpson)

The conference room (1982-1991) bubble (see image above) came complete with a helicopter landing pad for the executives that wanted to fly in. On the inside, great efforts had to be taken to reduce the amount of harsh sunlight (the greenhouse effect from all the glazing) on the conference table (see below).

On our way down, we took the ramp (just like the cars did during the factory days) which sported a concrete structural support system resembling the spokes of a tire's rim.

(photo by Derrick Simpson)

It is said that this aesthetic inspired many architects and engineers of its day, including architect Le Corbusier and engineer P.L. Nervi.

After leaving this factory, we had to hurry back to the station to catch our train for Genoa. Our 5th day trip ended with a short bus ride from Genova Principe Station back to the villa, and a tired but enlightened group of architecture students trudging up the steps to hit the sack.

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