HKP Architects’ Partner Brian Poppe, AIA, LEED AP, embarked on an incredible summer trip to Italy in September. Once back at the office, we sat down with him to discover what he loved most about his time in Italy.
Where in Italy did you visit and why?
We spent 11 days in Italy, starting our trip on my wife’s birthday. Having never visited Italy it didn’t seem right to stay in just one place. We landed in Rome, staying there for two nights, followed by Florence for two nights, and finally Venice for two nights. From there we left our tour behind and traveled on our own to Naples via rail, staying there for three nights.
Again, having never visited Italy we saw this trip as almost a scouting trip to see where we would like to return to and spend more time in a subsequent trip. Right now, that’s Florence.
What were your most memorable experiences on your trip?
There are so many, each day bringing something new, and every two days being somewhere new.
As a guided tour not only did we have a tour guide with us from Rome to Venice but we also had local guides showing us the sights. The local guide in Venice was the perfect mix of dry wit, local knowledge, and irreverence. Walking through Saint Mark’s Basilica, followed by the Doge’s Palace was a perfect overlap with the downpour outside. Through our earpiece we heard not only about the architecture, but also religion, and their three branches of government.
One of the most impactful trips was our visit to Herculaneum. As cramped and crowded as Pompeii was, Herculaneum was not. And as cleared out as Pompeii was, Herculaneum was not. Only approximately 5 sq. km of approximately 22 sq. km. of Herculaneum has been cleared, the rest of the city is under modern day Ercolano. Recent excavations in 1980 uncovered the “boathouses” where the skeletons of up to 400 people waiting to evacuate Herculaneum were smothered in place by the pyroclastic flow. Standing at the boathouse doors, picturing these people waiting to leave and then seeing the 60’ of volcanic debris looming overhead really drove home the tragedies caused by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
Did you see or experience anything that you would like to incorporate into HKP’s practice (if applicable)? (lifestyle, way of thinking, way of working, etc)
One thought that comes to mind is reinforcing the longevity of civic architecture. These projects should and do have long lasting impacts in their surrounding communities and environment. And where our projects have 50-75, and maybe 100-year expectations, these buildings are hundreds of years old and are still serving their original purposes. These extended lives take a dedication to their maintenance and budgets to support the maintenance. At HKP we endeavor to build not only long-lasting buildings but also the long-lasting relationships to assist with their ongoing care, maintenance, and changing needs.
What was your favorite meal during your trip?
Our last night in Rome we were walking around by ourselves, not knowing what we wanted to eat or where to go and came around the corner to see a restaurant with a street-side dining area. We were relieved that the owner and staff knew just enough English to assure us that reservations were not needed. We both ordered spaghetti carbonara. The simplicity of the meal with the quiet and intimate location was the perfect way to remember Rome.
Our second evening in Florence treated us to dinner in the Tuscan hills at a local winery. The views, and food, and camaraderie with our fellow tourists was another wonderful departure point.
What architecture were you thrilled to see?
During our second day in Rome we went on a walking tour of the ancient heart of the city. Walking down a side street and turning the corner and being presented with the Pantheon was a wonderful architectural memory. As big as the building is it almost felt like a hidden jewel. Going inside, everything was in view and easy to comprehend. As if on cue, the oculus illuminated our entry into the building.
The Duomo in Florence was at the top of my list to see and experience. However, the reality of facing 90 minutes in line just to shuffle through the space reset my expectations. I still want to visit the Duomo, but when I have more time to devote to experiencing the space. In lieu of the Duomo we sought out other local churches to visit, and while they were largely anonymous, they were some of the more special experiences, with their presence and quiet reverence.