Dear Faculty, Staff, Alumni and Friends,
The School of Architecture celebrated a very special anniversary this month: 50 years since the Charles E. Daniel Center for Building Research and Urban Studies, commonly known as “The Villa,” began receiving students in the historic city of Genoa on the picturesque Ligurian coast of Italy. This was the first of what would become three trademarked Fluid Campus locations beyond Clemson where its architecture students study for at least one semester.
Nowadays, doing anything consistently for 50 years is noteworthy. We overuse the word “visionary,” but it was a bold move 50 years ago and unprecedented for Clemson to stake so decisive a claim so very far away from home. It turned out to be transformational not just for the School of Architecture, but, perhaps more importantly, for the students who came to stay at the Villa and become immersed in the sights, sounds, and smells of a land and culture so distant from their own.
Of course, there was and is the stunning architecture literally around every corner of this blessed country: breathtaking cathedrals from the Medieval period, grand Palazzos from the Renaissance, pathbreaking structures from some of the best architects alive today, not to mention the way the Italians learned to build their environment — in harmony with nature and the surrounding landscape — to create a feeling of both space and intimacy. But beyond the architecture and the built environment, there is the culture of the people inhabiting those spaces that is as important a part of the experience, and you can see the impact from the way these alumni talk, and the look in their eyes.
This transformational quality may in part account for the fierce loyalty of all those graduates, many of whom have banded together to form and sustain the Clemson Architectural Foundation, a donor board that continues to own and care for the Villa. It also explains the remarkable phenomenon of over 100 architecture alumni and their spouses gathering together in Genoa to mark this historic moment.
The celebration at the Villa took place at the end of Spring break, following a week during which many of these alumni spent reconnecting as they traveled in groups through Italy. There was a group in Sicily, a group based in Positano on the Amalfi Coast, and a group in Tuscany, mainly Florence and Siena, with everyone converging on Genoa to top it all off.
I was one lucky Dean to have the opportunity to meet up with the groups in Positano and Siena. Sadly, I was not able to go to Sicily. But it was a tremendous treat to sit together with several decades worth of accomplished architects, Clemson grads all, to share food and wine and stories.
The main evening itself was both joyous and moving, with testimonials and toasts offered by alumni representing all five decades. A special tribute was paid to Silvia Siboldi Carroll, the rock that has kept the Villa solid for over four of its five decades, and the nurturing mother the students have looked to continuously to support them so far away from all that is home and familiar.
To top it all off, a festive dinner with live music and two stunning cakes at the Castello Bruzzo, just across from the Villa and yet an inaccessible place of mystery for so many generations of students until now.
What an event. What an accomplishment.
Nicholas Vazsonyi, Dean
College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities
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