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Italy & Spain 1 of 4: Rome

MisterF

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I just spent a couple weeks in Italy with a side trip to Madrid. I started my journey in Rome.

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Gateway to the Eternal City
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I loved the Pantheon. Almost 2000 years old and the inside is in amazing shape.
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The Forum, centre of ancient Roman civilization
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What's everybody waiting for?
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The damn Pope, that's what.
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I didn't spend nearly enough time in the city. Oh well, next time. Coming up in part 2: Tuscany.
 

jn_12

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Fantastic. I wish we put that much care and attention to detail into our buildings and infrastructure. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to the next batch.
 

MisterF

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Fantastic. I wish we put that much care and attention to detail into our buildings and infrastructure. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to the next batch.
Thanks. To be fair most of the buildings in the photos are old. Toronto's historic architecture is generally underwheming in scale and design, but new architecture is as good as in most other cities. You have a point on infrastructure though. Sidewalks are generally stone with no asphalt patches all over the place, no overhead power lines, the design balance is far more in favour of pedestrians than cars, street furniture is uncluttered, and public squares are all over the city. Even the inadequate metro is being expanded faster than in Toronto. I was even more impressed with Madrid than Rome, but that's another thread.
 

matix

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really enjoyed those!

looking forward to the rest.

especially madrid.

I've been there, but not italy.
 

junctionist

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Thanks. To be fair most of the buildings in the photos are old. Toronto's historic architecture is generally underwheming in scale and design, but new architecture is as good as in most other cities.

The landmark historical architecture is obviously less impressive, but in terms of scale, the monumentality of Union Station or Old City Hall isn't underwhelming. There are plenty of fine historic buildings in Toronto.
 

jn_12

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I was referring more to the ornamentation elements that they incorporate into much of their infrastructure. Yes a lot of it stems from these buildings being historical, but in my experiences in Europe, they take great pride in going beyond banality. Yes, those statues on the bridge are hundreds of years old, and maybe they wouldn't get built on any bridge today in Italy, but I'm sure the cost to maintain them would be enough for people here to be up in arms over excess. Why do you need a bridge with art when a bridge with no art works just fine! And yes, they're tourist attractions, and that probably helps provide an argument for maintaining them, but I feel like there is a large grey area between what we find acceptable and what they have.

I don't mean to hijack this thread but here's an example of a street pole from Paris: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2233/2380385971_154a60eded.jpg
It's these finer details that I find distinguish one city from another. It makes you feel like you're somewhere special, where people care about where they live. It creates a sense of place as well. Maybe I'm just a sucker for these things and that I long for us to be just a little more European, but I think they're fantastic elements of a city that we just don't care about.
 
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MisterF

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The landmark historical architecture is obviously less impressive, but in terms of scale, the monumentality of Union Station or Old City Hall isn't underwhelming. There are plenty of fine historic buildings in Toronto.
I was talking about the "everyday" architecture. The 2-storey commercial architecture that's everywhere in Toronto, even downtown - the equivalent buildings in European cities tend to be larger and enclose the street more.

Awesome shot, but almost looks too organized to be Roma! :p
That street stopped me short. It has a sort of sleepy hollow quality to it. In the summer with leaves on the trees I imagine it has a totally different feel. But yeah, a lot of Rome has a very disorganized feel to it doesn't it?
 

Urban Shocker

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I think the reason why a major city such as ours has smaller scale early commercial ( and residential ) buildings downtown compared to major European cities is that in many cases these were the first Toronto structures built on those sites, when we were a much smaller city. European capital cities of the mid-Victorian era were considerably larger than Toronto at the time, with master planned districts ( Haussmann's Paris, London's grand squares etc. ) that were often built on the site of earlier neighbourhoods that were already many centuries old and had undergone several waves of development. Rather than making us inferior, it gives Toronto touchstones - a heritage of surviving "first generation" buildings for our contemporary architects to accommodate to, something which European cities lack.
 

junctionist

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I was referring more to the ornamentation elements that they incorporate into much of their infrastructure. Yes a lot of it stems from these buildings being historical, but in my experiences in Europe, they take great pride in going beyond banality. Yes, those statues on the bridge are hundreds of years old, and maybe they wouldn't get built on any bridge today in Italy, but I'm sure the cost to maintain them would be enough for people here to be up in arms over excess. Why do you need a bridge with art when a bridge with no art works just fine! And yes, they're tourist attractions, and that probably helps provide an argument for maintaining them, but I feel like there is a large grey area between what we find acceptable and what they have.

I don't mean to hijack this thread but here's an example of a street pole from Paris: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2233/2380385971_154a60eded.jpg
It's these finer details that I find distinguish one city from another. It makes you feel like you're somewhere special, where people care about where they live. It creates a sense of place as well. Maybe I'm just a sucker for these things and that I long for us to be just a little more European, but I think they're fantastic elements of a city that we just don't care about.

I agree with your observations about European cities, but it's too much of a generalization to say we don't care. It's more complex than that. For one, a lot of what impresses in Europe follows a tradition of decadent urbanity which evolved out of eras when small elites built lavish cities. With economic growth, their achievements have been preserved, enhanced, and furthered, inspiring citizens in contemporary times while attracting tourist dollars.

Plenty of people care about the city in Toronto. We improve our public realm from year to year. I think we can achieve comparable greatness, but it takes an evolution of mentalities about cities. The postwar planner's way of seeing streets as functional corridors and suburban living didn't help the evolution, but it continues. Talk with an urban planner and you'll find the passion. You'll see it in ordinary residents at avenue study meetings.

We need to see our city for its strengths. The people who built these cities could be humbled by our cityscapes, dominated by thousands of skyscrapers. The new Toronto is one in which the "everyday" is exponentially more monumental with towers soaring towards three hundred metres. We have a long way to go in terms of public space enhancements and architectural details like mechanical boxes and cladding, but I think that an evolution is evident, one that can be advanced with better municipal leadership and activism.
 

jn_12

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I agree entirely with everything you said. The proof that things are improving is in websites like one that help promote better design in our community. I think the main issue (at least in Canada) is sticker shock. It's near impossible to build anything to any degree of significance without someone complaining about cost or excess, when we live in the richest city in one of the richest countries in the world. The other issue is that as much as it was the elite that paid for the beautification of European cities, its today's people in Europe that are still holding themselves to those standards. I can't possibly know what the psyche of a European planner or architect might be, but I'd wager they feel a sense of responsibility to continue (at least in spirit) the legacies that were created before them. We just don't seem to have that here.

If anything, in terms of our city planning/architecture, every generation has sought to destroy the work of the previous generation. The grand buildings of the early 1900s were torn down for "modern buildings" in the middle of the century, and now we're trying out best to reverse the suburbanization that generation created. That's obviously a simplified version of things, but the point is that I don't think we have any sense of responsibility to those who came in and built our cities. In a way there are some benefits to this attitude, because people make mistakes and you end up with a sea of suburbia that isn't sustainable but skip that middle generation and I don't know how modern planners/architects feel about the work of those at the turn of the 1900s. I'm in a planning masters program and while I have a really strong interest in urban history which forces me to reflect on history when I consider planning, it seems my fellow planning students are being taught to look forward to the future and very little true planning history is ever taught beyond one week of intro to planning. I'd be curious to see how that compares to what European planners are learning. Or perhaps none of this is true at all and it's just my perception of the situation. Or I'm tired. haha
 

Mustapha

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Enjoyed these immensely. I used to work for an Italian company and had occasion to travel to Ivrea. Brings it all back, thank you.
 

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