The in-field projects in this year's study fell into two types: data collection and contextual studies. The in-field contextual studies can be further categorized into experiential and directed studies. The examples of two projects you will find linked here are of this last type.

A. Data collection:

The majority of our activity in the field is supporting and preparing the studio and factory visits and the designer interviews conducted. The evidence of this primary activity can be seen in the "Current Research" area of this site. Students carefully prepared each interview and researched the firm and designers before arriving, generating meaningful and directed lines of question. On leaving an office we often were rushing to the other side of town to conduct the next one in a single day. But as much as possible that day, and definitely in the evenings after the studio interviews, the students huddled around so many laptops and hard-drives deconstructing the content that it was amazing the electrics in our apartments held up! This process was discursive and led to a progressive refining of our methodology.

B. Contextual Studies (experiential vs. directed):

The second group of activities built on the work we completed in our four week intensive course in Vancouver prior to departure for Italy. This type of field-work falls into two sub-groups: directed and experiential.

i. Experiential Studies:

ALL of our visits to cultural sites were not "directed".

The only way to really learn from a place like St. Peter's basilica or the Tempietto or the Etruscans tombs at Tarquinia is to be quiet and listen, and leave the outside world in the piazza in front. You must work at this skill. It is easy to be nonplussed if you bring your cultural baggage in with you, as so many tourists seem to do. In visiting cultural sites in Italy you must also be very strategic, and be prepared to come again as the time of day, the light, the shadow, the number of people in a space can profoundly affect any experience. This year, for example, we returned three times to the Pantheon in Rome to get it right. I have been to the Pantheon when the rains pours in through the oculus overhead, and I've seen it cause students to weep upon entering. If it DOESN'T have that affect, you have come at the wrong time and MUST return. You MUST return if you care to know this place, or any. On our third try we left on the first train into the center and arrived at the giant doors 30 minutes before opening. Enough time to get an espresso, make it a doppio espresso, and be the first in line, and then to have the temple to ourselves for the first half hour.

Bramante's Tempietto at noon loses its power due to the light and too many people packed into that little courtyard. But this year we got it right, arriving mid-morning to one of our most transcendent experiences of our six weeks in Italy. Any cultural site in Florence after ten a.m.? Forget it until closer to closing when suddenly the Uffizi lineup is gone and you can have the Fillipo Lippi's to yourself. The only "direction" to these studies then, is working at caring to get the experience right.

These are studies that "just get into you". They build a deep understanding and appreciation of who the Italian people are. As did the group dinners we shared all over the country but particularly at our friend Paolo's Trattoria Dardano in Cortona, at Alessandro's Hostaria del Ceccotino in Pitigliano. It is unforgettable visiting the 1,000 year old Gattavechi family's wine cellar in Montepulciano, and tasting their glorious Vino Nobile. Most students coming to Italy will not know a Pinot Grigio from a Sangiovese. But by the time they leave they'll never forget the taste of the Montalcino Brunello on the side of the road in a small picnic with Pienza pecorino cheese, ash and all. You MUST eat well in Italy to know Italians. Surprisingly, it is easy to not eat well in Italy these days. All of these are important experiences toward contextually understanding a subject and having something to say about it. Then when we get into the more directed work, the students are coming from a more mature position. These studies by and large remain in the hearts and minds of the students; except for the photographic images in the Captured Moments section of this site, you can't see them here. They are not easily quantifiable or manifested, and nor should they be.

ii. Directed Studies:

The second type of in-field studies we engage in you can see here in the following links. There were two major contextual research projects this year in-field: Urban Ethnographic Project One: Piazza Studies, and Urban Ethnographic Project Two: Urban Edges. These projects are intended to focus the looking after a period of mostly experiential reflecting. It is important to get the students beginning to articulate what they are seeing and to be able to go into any urban or aesthetic situation and evaluate its merits, strengths, and then to be able to compare one to another.

In Italy this is enormously important because there is SO MUCH to look at and so much arguing for your attention. And not all of it is "good" (see costumed "centurions" hawking their wares outside of the Colosseum, for example). Two of the course texts now come into play to accomplish this important task: Venturi's seminal text "Learning From Las Vegas" and Peter F. Smith's "Dynamics of Delight". The first text provides a method (form analysis matrices) for analyzing, organizing and communicating data collected, and the second text provides the means for making some judgment of the complex urbanism through its "aesthetic checklist". The students read the two texts in–field, in fact, writing their examination of the "Delight" text in the Campo di Siena, a main subject in Smith's book. To me this is one of the glories of study abroad, in which they read about the great square and then the next day view it, study it and test their comprehension of the book's content in it. It is my belief that once you have made sense of a city, a chair, an exhibition design, a website is easier to understand because they are much less dynamic. The next part is then analyzing several ethnographic situations that have commonalities but subtle differences. We do this in Tuscany by going over the next hill: each town is a world onto itself.

Over the course of one extremely intense work-week we visit a dozen Tuscan hill towns to study their streets and piazzas, the small patterns: how people sit, where, at what times, what changes? How is the piazza indicative as a mixing space of a particular culture? How does the city support social patterns? We work to apply and extend the methods from the two texts. Each day we spend either one day at one hill town or spent the day in several hill towns. We drove the beautiful rolling hills of Tuscany by bussini to: Chuisi, Siena, Monte Oliveto Maggiore, Pienza, Bagno Vignono, Montalcino, Cortona, and Montepulciano. Besides studying the forms of the urban and architectural delights of the towns, we learned about the relationship of time to quality in Italian culture through their every day activities such as: wine making, passeggiata, monastic time measures such as Gregorian Chants, market time, siestas. After one week, before we left our Dolciano home-base, in teams of 3, the students took our studies of the hill towns and presented it to the group to share the knowledge of how form analysis may be used in a powerful way to identify daily patterns. This led to a deeper understanding of the rhythms of Italian life and the embeddedness of time and quality. We spent seven days in the Italian country learning and looking closer in Urban Ethnographic Project One, and then it was time to move onto Firenze to take the study of urban patterns to the next level, in the greatest of the Tuscan civic-scapes.

After several days taking in the awesome array of works of the Florentine masters, and avoiding tourists and tourism at all costs, we had a rigourous tour of contemporary modern Firenze lead by SACI Professor Dr. Alessandro Vignozzi. He lead us around the outer edges of Firenze where contemporary urban interventions are beginning to rise from the old Renaissance architectural layout. We saw a Firenze -beyond the tourists- that needs to reinvigorate itself for its citizens so that it may flourish, once again, as the powerful city that it used to be. In coming years we hope that our perspectives on this subject, working with Dr. Vignozzi will add an objective view that might contribute to the future of Florence. A great responsibility and honor indeed. The second of our Directed In-Field Projects, Urban Ethnographic Project Two : Urban Edges was meant to go beyond the surface tourism, the sad effects of the Disney-fication of Italian cities like Venice and Florence.

We questioned how Florence will again become an innovation center at its core and not just its manufacturing plants in the suburbs periphery — life for Firenze beyond Sesto Fiorentina, what's working, what's not — without romanticizing the subject or making Florence into a perpetual Merchant-Ivory tableau. For example, we studied with Dr.Vignozzi the new Stazione Leopolda Exhibition Center, and the controversial soon-to-be-central location for the "alta–velocita", high–speed/ high capacity Italian contribution to the European high speed rail network, among other significant new developments in urban Florence. Professor Vignozzi, began with the group a deep conversation about the culture of "edge cities": what develops at the peripheries of old and re-forming urban patterns over time. This thesis formed the basis of our Firenze in-field project presented in two parts at the SACI Santa Maria Novella design studios in central-downtown-Firenze. The project lasted 10 days and studied at a high level of form analysis the contemporary social patterns of Firenze: an extension of the analysis we applied to the Tuscan hill towns.

Again, as in the transcendent moment at Rome's Tempietto, and the ability to examine the Campo di Siena, the project was handed out in Brunelleschi's perfect gem-like Cloister in the Santa Croce complex: a place where generations of the first modern scholars walked before us. Thinkly deeply about the world, in one of the first spaces where modern scholars did so was meant to be an inspiration to the students, in a space that was quiet, small, refined, and contained. A perfect metaphor for successful constraint-driven design. Our project was to be that metaphor, condensed and refined. It was to be a very metaphorical project about what makes Florence a delightful city where people come back year after year to visit, but which is, like Venice, buckling under the weight of its tourist economy.

The results of these two analysis projects are in this section.