By Earl Jackson, AIA
In a past life, before cell phones and digital cameras, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study in Italy, in Rome, Siena, and anywhere we could get to on the weekends by train. I traveled with a great Pentax K1000 SLR, rolls of film, a box of watercolors and pens, and four friends that believed it would be best to rest when we’re dead. We were in architecture school and somehow knew that an authentic visit to places of wonder would be way more valuable than just reading about a place or a future digital/virtual experience could ever be.
The sights, smells, sounds, people, food, climate, and rhythms of a place can be absorbed through every pore of your skin and can find their way into to your heart and soul where they take root and continue to blossom forever.
We would make friends and have chance encounters by just sitting and drawing in a public place and then striking up a feeble conversation in our best (not so good) Italian.
That summer changed my life. I was introduced to the shape and space of cities. It was new for me to think of cities as planned/designed. Best of all, I connected with a culture that fostered multi-generational care for the craft of lasting objects and their connection to the natural materials of the earth. I barely made the bus to the airport to come home and as I left, I dreamt of someday owning a small wood shop on a neighborhood street free of cars. I could see my shop doors open to the street, and neighbors stopping to see what we’re making on their way to the market.
Earl Jackson is an architect, artist and urban planner. His studio, Earl Jackson Architecture Workshop, is located in New Jersey, USA. The illustration of the Pantheon in Rome is by the author.