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Launching the Centenary from the Capitoline with Ignazio Marino, Mayor of Rome

February 6, 2014
Ignazio Marino, Paolo Masini, Flavia Barca and Mark Robbins
Mayor Marino and President Mark Robbins
Mayor Marino
Audience in the Sala della Protomoteca
Antonio Saggio, Walter Hood, Luigi Franciosini, Nicholas de Monchaux, Elizabeth Fain LeBombard, Lucina Caravaggi, Alessandra Vinciguerra, Alberto Iacovoni
AAR Trustee Walter J. Hood, FAAR'97
Elizabeth Fain LaBombard
Nicholas de Monchaux
Alessandra Vinciguerra and Walter Hood
Christopher Celenza, Anna H. Celenza, Mark Robbins and Peter Benson Miller
Peter Benson Miller offering his opening remarks
Paolo Masini, Ignazio Marino and Mark Robbins
Antonio Saggio
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Last Tuesday the American Academy in Rome launched a centenary year from the Sala della Protomoteca on the Campidoglio with an event to commemorate the past hundred years of collaboration between the American Academy and Roma Capitale. Ignazio Marino, Mayor of Rome, and Mark Robbins, FAAR’97, newly appointed President and CEO of the American Academy, signed an accord, or Protocollo d’intesa, in conjunction with the year’s first public event, a landscape architecture symposium dedicated to the revitalization of Rome. The symposium gathered landscape specialists from the Academy and their Italian counterparts to present research and concrete proposals on the renewal of abandoned or underused space on the periphery of the city. Simultaneous translation was made available and a short discussion period followed.

Valentina Grippo, President of the city’s Commission on Tourism and International Relations, welcomed the assembly to the halls of the Campidoglio before Director Christopher S. Celenza, FAAR’94, offered opening remarks on the special significance of this Centenary. It is a year marking the anniversary of the inauguration of the McKim, Mead and White building on the Janiculum Hill, but, as Director Celenza reminded audiences, we celebrate far more than the edifice itself. Rather, this centenary celebrates a hundred years of mutually nourishing intellectual exchange between the arts and humanities that has taken place inside. Andrew Heiskell Arts Director Peter Benson Miller echoed these sentiments underlining how these collaborative intentions extend to the Academy’s role as an international laboratory for intercultural as well as interdisciplinary dialogue and ideas.

Conference papers were delivered in two sessions with an interval for the mid-morning signing ceremony at which President Mark Robbins, and the entire Academy community, received gracious words of welcome from Councilor Paolo Masini, Councilor Flavia Barca, and Mayor Ignazio Marino, who spoke about the vital role that the American Academy has had and continues to have in contributing to the well-being of the city and enhancing its international reputation. In his first act as President, Mark Robbins noted the historic nature of this remarkable honor and capitalized on the mayor’s surgical profession to draw a metaphorical parallel between body, city and intellectual body politic, whose multiple constituent parts must all function to operate the living whole. The American Academy has become a part of Rome’s connective tissue over the last century.  

Academy Advisor Antonio Saggio (La Sapienza) acted as moderator for the symposium and delivered the first paper of the day in which he stressed the necessities of new infrastructure and the advantages of an Urban Green Line for Rome. Alberto Iacovoni presented designs by ma0 Studio Architettura for better integrating development into a network of interconnected green zones and interactive civic space with partners Luca La Torre and Ketty Di Tardo. Rolland Rome Prize Fellow Nicholas de Monchaux (Berkeley) demonstrated how information technology can facilitate the process of activating lacunae in the urban fabric. Prince Charitable Trusts Rome Prize Fellow Elizabeth Fain LaBombard (New York) illustrated the problematic effects that top down investment and planning have had on Rome’s periphery in the past ten years, suggesting the revitalizing potential of community-based projects that might be launched in conjunction with the next Jubilee. AAR Trustee and Mercedes T. Bass Landscape Architect in Residence Walter J. Hood, FAAR’97, (Oakland) initiated the second session of the day with a discussion about the importance of developing a cultural practice that offers incentives to local and grassroots groups already in place. Luigi Franciosini (Roma Tre) discussed projects that have successfully re-appropriated city space from organized crime. Lucina Caravaggi (La Sapienza) outlined the problems of underdeveloped public transportation and proposed concrete sustainable solutions for integrating transport systems. Bass Superintendent of Gardens at the American Academy Alessandra Vinciguerra concluded with a talk on the wider repercussions of maintaining urban green space.

During the final question period, Nicolò Basetti, author of the screenplay for Sacro GRA, a documentary film about Rome's periphery which was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival last year, invited the assembled group to put their ideas into action. Heeding his call, the Academy will screen the film and reunite the conference participants to provide further opportunity for dialogue. Also as a direct result of the symposium, a task force under the aegis of the AAR and with the support of Councilor Masini has been created to translate the ideas aired in the symposium into concrete requalification projects for the periphery. Via such interventions, the Academy wishes to extend the benefits of its intellectual resources to the contemporary city. It is estimated that by 2030 three-quarters of the world population will live in cities, therefore the effective management of urban landscape to ensure healthy and prosperous populations is a fundamental global challenge of the 21st century. The Academy occupies a key position in enabling new dialogues that will yield creative solutions. This symposium activated such dialogue by shifting the standard conceptual terrain to imagine crisis as catalyst. Gaps, holes or absences within the framework of the city can be creatively re-conceptualized as openings and opportunities where the new city can blossom, figuratively and metaphorically.