During Associate Professor of Art and Architecture Stan Mathews’ drawing class, which took place at the Richard Meier Ara Pacis Museum in Rome, students in the Colleges’ Rome study abroad program had the opportunity to meet Meier himself.
The 1984 winner of the Pritzker Prize for architecture, Meier “is one of the world’s top architects, and a true celebrity in Rome,” Mathews says.
Mathews’ class had been sketching for a few hours when photographers and film crews arrived and began photograph the HWS students as they drew. Mathews asked what was going on and was told that Meier would be at the museum in 10 minutes.
When Meier arrived, through surrounded by a sea of reporters, photographers and television camera crews, Mathews says he explained to him “that I was there with a group of American architecture students, and we’d come that morning to draw his building. I asked him if he would pose with our students for a picture.”
Meier responded, “I’d be delighted.”
The students gathered around the architect, in front of the museum, while dozens of Italian photographers snapped frenzies photos.
“Meeting Richard Meier was exciting, overwhelming, and inspiring all at the same time,” says Alexandra Aquadro ’11, a double major in architectural studies and art history. “I have always admired Meier’s work, especially his design for Ara Pacis, so meeting him was an unbelievable experience.”
Meier asked to see some of the students’ drawings and took time to commend them on their work, and even autographed each of their drawings. As a graduate of Cornell University, Meier, when asked if he was familiar with Hobart and William Smith, said, “Oh yes, I know it well.”
“This was without doubt one of the high points of this Rome program,” Mathews says, “and something the students will never forget.”
Additionally, the group has been able to examine a variety of other sites of architectural significance in Rome.
Last week, several Italian architects and architectural historians gave Mathews and the HWS Rome students a tour of the town of L’Aquila, which was devastated by an earthquake last year, as part of a daylong symposium on the long range recovery of L’Aquila and the Abruzzo region, sponsored by the Association of American College and University Programs in Italy and Museum of Architecture and Art in L’Aquila.
Wearing hard hats provided by the fire department, the group passed through the military checkpoint and toured the city center, where the buildings were severely damaged and uninhabitable, and the cathedral, where the dome had collapsed.
The visit to L’Aquila was followed by a symposium to discuss ways that American universities might become involved in the rebuilding efforts.