Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Consoling illusion

Palazzo Taverna: 16C fountain
This is a photograph I've borrowed from an Italian blogger, Massim. F., a Turinese living in Rome who posts snaps of the city and environs often accompanied by interesting reflections. It shows the view through the passageway under Palazzo Taverna (once Palazzo degli Orsini) in Piazza Dell'Orologio.

I like it because it does, if only a little, something once quite common: it creates an illusion, which is the possibility of a greater space. I mean the space to the either side of the fountain - just looking in, it is impossible to say how far that courtyard extends to the left and right. Might there not even be a park? The fountain itself is half-enclosed in the green of the hedge and the creepers spill from the arched entrance - might not the green go on and on?

I know from experience what a relief such a view is after a day spent on and among the stones of the city. It's like drinking a long glass of chilled water on a stone-baked afternoon. The eye is spared for a moment the hard straight lines of buildings and monuments - in foliage, lines are fragmented, fractalised. Green is a cool, refreshing colour and the water of the fountain dances with all the energy that you have spent walking on stone and asphalt.

Just as important to the illusion is the view throught the darkness of the vaulted passageway. The light at the other end contributes to the sense of greater and different space there.

Do architects design such consolations now, or were they banned never to return by the rigorous demand for 'honesty' made by the Modernists (may they suffer a thousand lashes)?

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