This item has been filed in | Features
Print This Post Print This Post

Architectural marvels of Pisa come to UM

An exhibition featuring amazingly detailed replicas of famous structures at Pisa, Italy’s Cathedral Square, including the Leaning Tower of Pisa, opens at the School of Architecture this weekend.

A technician assembles a replica of the top two tiers of the Leaning Tower of Pisa outside the School of Architecture's Jorge M. Perez Architecture Center.

The burly worker climbed the scaffolding that had been erected on a small grassy area of the University of Miami campus. He gave a few quick tugs to a section of the framework, testing its sturdiness and strength.

Six sheets of strong, lightweight fabric had already been fastened to different metal rods of the frame, and in just a few hours, more sections of cloth would be attached until they completely enveloped the cylindrical structure.

Adorned with images of arches, columns, and bells, each piece of fabric is an individual work of art. But it is the tower’s unmistakable lean that raises eyebrows.

No architectural blunder here, though. The tilt is intentional. The structure, a nearly full-scale replica of the top two tiers of the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, is being assembled on the grounds of UM’s School of Architecture as part of a first-of-its-kind exhibition showcasing the architectural marvels of Pisa, Italy’s famed Cathedral Square.

Pisa AD 1064: The Square of Miracles, which opens to the public on Valentine’s Day at the school’s Jorge M. Perez Architecture Center, will include small-scale replicas of the bell tower, the Baptistry, and the Cathedral as well as actual centuries-old sculptures from the Pisa campus. The nearly full-scale mock-up of the top two tiers of the tower that is outside was assembled by technicians from Italy.

With a replica of the Cathedral at Pisa behind them, School of Architecture Associate Dean Denis Hector, left, Opera della Primaziale Pisana architects Gianluca De Felice and Alessandro Carmignani, and College of Engineering professor Antonio Nanni discuss the Pisa AD 1064 exhibition that opens on the UM campus on Valentine's Day.

“This is re-creation,” says Denis Hector, associate dean of the School of Architecture, who teamed with UM’s College of Engineering and Coral Gables, Pisa’s sister city, to help bring the exhibition to the University, “gives us an understanding and appreciation not just of the buildings and sculptures that are a part of [Cathedral Square] but of the efforts that go into preserving and caring for them.”

That job of preservation falls on the Opera della Primaziale Pisana, the Italian-based organization that has maintained and preserved Cathedral Square’s famed buildings for hundreds of years and created the exhibition to raise awareness of its ongoing preservation efforts.

For more than a week now, the organization’s team of architects, engineers, designers, and technicians has been working diligently on the Coral Gables campus, finalizing plans for the exhibition and assembling its highly detailed replicas, which were shipped to Miami inside two 40-foot-long containers. The priceless sculptures, which will be displayed in an area aptly named the Room of Treasures, arrived via airplane.

“For us, the most challenging part of putting together an exhibit like this has been making the distinction between what’s real and what’s been re-created,” says Opera architect Alessandro Carmignani. “And we’ve been able to achieve this through our creativity.”

Carmignani made his initial visit to UM last August, scouting the University as a potential site for the exhibition. He said the School of Architecture compound, reminiscent of Pisa’s Cathedral Square in some aspects, made it an ideal choice to host the exhibition, which will be on display through February 26.

For the many UM students who will visit this re-creation of Cathedral Square, the displays will boost their understanding of what it takes to preserve Pisa’s historic structures, says Antonio Nanni, professor and chair of civil, architectural, and environmental engineering who leads a College of Engineering research center that develops techniques to preserve structures. Nanni says the biggest challenge for architects and engineers over the years has been stabilizing the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He notes that they have employed strategies such as placing weights at one end of the tower’s base, removing soil from beneath the structure, and installing an underground drainage system.

Opera architect Alessandro Carmignani with a replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Preservation efforts for other structures in the Pisa complex, he says, have recently turned to re-creating materials that were used to construct the buildings centuries ago.

The School of Architecture’s Hector wants UM students to not only learn about the important preservation work being done at Pisa but also to be a part of it. He says an effort is now under way to arrange for the 15 to 20 students who visit Italy each semester as part of the school’s Rome program to participate in the ongoing maintenance efforts in Pisa, which he calls a “preservation laboratory.”

Hector has been to the campus at Pisa five times since his first visit in 1976. He says the “radiant white marble” of the historic structures is what first caught his attention.

For Nanni, Pisa AD 1064: The Square of Miracles is a taste of home. Born and raised in Bologna, Italy, which is about 100 miles from Pisa, he recalls his parents first taking him to Cathedral Square when he was 7 years old. Even at such a young age, he was impressed by the collection of buildings. “And there was more freedom back then because you could walk up the bell tower, which is not allowed anymore,” says Nanni, calling the Pisa campus “brilliantly stunning.”

Now, for the next two weeks, UM students, faculty, and staff, as well as the public can experience some elements of that stunning beauty, albeit on a smaller scale.

The exhibition will be open daily, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., from February 14-26 at the Jorge M. Perez Architecture Center. It is free and open to the public.

Share this Listing:
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Bookmarks
  • NewsVine
  • Digg

Comments are closed.

  • Related Stories
  • Tags
  • Popular
  • Subscribe
  • Subscribe to the Veritas RSS Feed
    Get updates to all of the latest Veritas posts by clicking the logo at the right.

    You can also subscribe to specific categories by browsing to a particular section on our site and clicking the RSS icon below each section's header.

UM Facebook

UM Twitter