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Ross Altheimer Decodes the City of Rome

February 6, 2013
Retroactive Map of Rome
“Dinner Conversation” in process at the Cinque Mostre, a collaboration with Fellow Erik Adigard
Flood Stair
Pleached Oaks
Sink Garden
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Ross Altheimer is the winner of the Prince Charitable Trusts Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture and a Landscape Architecture Studio Leader at Hammel Green and Abrahamson in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

What part of the United States did you come from?
Middle-West. I grew up just outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and when not in Rome live in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Why did you apply for the Rome Prize?
Besides being a big fan of “supplì”, I have a strong interest in the future of cities and also interdisciplinary collaboration. Rome is a place that has gone through so many iterations over the last 3000 years and is the source or reference point for so many other cities and culture in general.  

What I understood about the American Academy in Rome was that it provided space and time for transformation and for building community with people from different disciplines. For where I was in my work it seemed time for me to go and study the city and be at the Academy.

Describe a particularly inspiring moment or location you've experienced in Rome thus far.
I took an amazing walk along the river from testaccio to tiber island just after the river came down after the first fall flood in November. I was on the banks of the river at sunrise, the sounds, smells and textures were amazing and somehow felt in the middle of this wild post-flood landscape even though I was in the heart of the city.

To what extent, if any, has your proposed project changed since your arrival?
Since my project is about Rome I have found myself spending a lot of time out in the city recording and experiencing. My project that began as an inventory of the contemporary city is still underway, but the medium which I am documenting has shifted into film, sound and experiential drawings. I am also experimenting with models that can record natural or constructed processes.

What's surprised you most about living in Rome?
The sheer volume of pasta that I have consumed, the number of lizards that live in the walls and how fantastic a place it is to keep a running practice.

How have you managed the balance between your work (time in the studio/study) and engagement with Rome and Italy (travel, sightseeing, interactions with locals)?
I feel good about the balance that I have established, it is something that I am constantly shifting from week to week. Having children here has connected me to the city in ways that I never anticipated, whether meeting other Italian families at school or talking to locals at the city playgrounds. The problem with the Academy is that there are so many amazing people in the community sometimes I don’t get out into the city enough.

How do you anticipate your Rome Prize Fellowship will influence future work?
It is amazing to have time to spend decoding the city of Rome and focusing on process. It will have an enormous influence on my approach to constructing landscapes. I’m inspired by so many people that I have met here including: designers, architects, illustrators, artists, gardeners, archaeologists, historians, writers, conservationists, chefs, composers and kids. I have learnedvolumes from them all and look forward to collaborating on future projects.

What is your favorite spot at the Academy? or in Rome?
At the academy my favorite spot is the Bass Gardens at Sunset. In Rome one of my 6:00am runs while the city sleeps.

Dinner Conversation: an installation by Ross Altheimer and Erik Adigard