Walled Gardens—Elusive Landscapes

Presented November 17, 2017 at the Civita Institute's fundraising event

ELISA RENOUARD is a designer and educator with one foot in Seattle and the other in Rome. She joined Olson Kundig in 2014 and works across a broad range of project types, from private residential to commercial. Elisa’s background in literature, art history, and the humanities informs her architectural work, as she is interested in ways that contemporary architecture can take its place in a continuous cultural and historical narrative. While at Olson Kundig, Elisa was the first recipient of the firm’s Creative Exchange Fellowship. Her proposal took her to Rome, Italy to study mid-20th-century Italian fascist structures built to protect historic monuments, exploring their relationship to the artistic and political dialogue of the time.

Elisa has taught undergraduate and graduate studio courses at University of Washington, Montana State University, and Washington State University. As visiting professor at Montana State University, she also designed and led architectural history courses, evidencing her vast interest in buildings as dynamic records of human ingenuity and thought.
The Italian experience is an entangled history of elusive landscapes, a palimpsest of fortresses. The walls that have historically defined the Italian landscape are at once protective and threatening, simultaneous demonstrations of great power and fragility. This talk will examine the social and political significance of walled space by looking at examples of different scales from disparate slices of history. Case studies of walls enclosing city, garden, and monument will speak to fortification as a continuous architectural element in the history of the Italian paesaggio. Overlapping stories of architectural power and collapse, instigation and ruin, together form a story distinctly Italian, thousands of years old. Discussion will primarily consider the dramatic topographic and social landscape of Lazio and Umbria. Though the talk will focus on architectural history, references will also be pulled from Italian art history and literature.
Learning Objective #1: 
Participants will see the connection between architectural manifestations and social, cultural, and environmental contexts.

Learning Objective #2: 
Participants will consider the architectonic element of the wall as contributor to urban synergies and to genius loci, the spirit and character of place.

Learning Objective #3: 
Participants will identify continuous tectonic threads in past and present layers of the Italian experience.

Learning Objective #4: 
Participants will understand patterns of urban/tectonic morphology and the Italian tradition of living ruins.