Perhaps the most important impact of the SOM fellowship was the opportunity to experience first hand the architecture that remained locked in my mind as ideals or icons, but only in printed form, or, at best, enlarged in a slide lecture. Dislocated from site, time, locale, texture, culture, they held the imperious allure and aloofness that distinguishes the image of architecture from Architecture
The tactile reality of this experience led me to a keener focus on materials, the art of tectonics, and the compelling will of site. To say this has directly affected my practice today is an understatement. Perhaps even more important than the observations above is a more personal one. As a practicing architect and professor of architecture, the fellowship intensified an awareness that a passion for architecture is, in fact, a companion to the passion to explore, travel, observe, reflect and invent.
The trip I took to Europe in 1983 exposed me not only to my “pilgrimage” site but also to unplanned wonders, just as browsing in the library inevitably reveals a wonderful unknown text. The Alhambra in Granada was just such a text. The juxtaposition of the dry landscape of Granada with the lush oasis of the Generalife Gardens and the sound of water next to the crush of gravel beneath the feet, overwhelmed my expectations. A half day “Checklist” visit became a week’s stay. The experience radically expanded my horizon of what architecture includes, and my practice today is committed to this broader definition of what the site of architecture is.
- Marion Weiss
From a letter dated 2 July 1996
Picking up my pace as the final days of this trip approach and I’m on the train to Amsterdam this morning. After leaving Rome with all its heat and energy, I arrived, May 23, to any icy-cold Paris, rainy, windy, “impossible to get warm” weather. My first day was an unusual introduction to the French tradition of Revolution. I was caught, along with thousands of others, in the teargas crossfire between demonstrating students and police. The university students were staging a demonstration against Savary and his recent laws, which were considered unjust by the student body. The results were ultimately favorable for the students only after much violence and destruction. After adjusting to the unseasonable weather and the predictable Parisian attitude, the riches and unmistakable elegance of the city soon lowered my defenses, and I was able to enjoy its sights and rhythm.
- Marion Weiss
From a letter dated 23 July 1983, Paris