Rome Travel Guide

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The University at Tor Vergata: A Brief Tour

The latest addition to the club of Rome universities is Tor Vergata, named after the alternating red and grey bricks of a striped 14th-century tower.  It is a long way from the Centro, out there to the east with all those other "Tors": Tor Sapienza, Tor Bella Monaca, Torre Maura, Tor Borgata.  I would add Tor Pignattara, except that this community, long considered to be inhumanely removed (in more ways than one) from central Rome, seems in comparison to Tor Vergata very close in, indeed. 

Our first thought on considering how to out there was to take the Via Casilina trolley/train.  This was a mistake--the university is located three stops beyond the GRA--though in retrospect, in the absence of a scooter or car we would consider the Metro and a bus transfer--that, in reverse, is how we got home.  The trolley stopped frequently, and the ride, through an uglier part of outlying Rome, took well over an hour.  Even then, we weren't "there."  From the local natives we determined that the school was to the west, which it was; about a mile, in the mid-day sun.

At last we found the entrance to the campus--somewhat understated, we thought--down a dirt hill and through a parking lot. 

Things improved after that.  We found the academic core: a set of reasonably attractive  buildings in the style of contemporary modernism.  A trifle sterile, perhaps.  Alfredo Lambertucci and Tommaso Valle, architects. 

In one of the buildings, students studied at tables in a hallway.  Tor Vergata offers 113 courses of study through six "faculties": economics, law, engineering, letters, medicine, and science.  In the 2010/11 school year, the school claimed 43,000 students and 1,538 faculty. 

We came across a new, and on this day, almost empty, classroom.  Students were scarce elsewhere.  Perhaps the school year was not yet in full swing; it was early October. 

Outside, a small group was celebrating a graduation or some other achievement; the object of that celebration (center) was wearing a laurel wreath (appropriately, the Italian word for graduated is laureata). 

The Economics Department was preparing to host a leadership event, using English and a Warhol-style soup can, with Campus standing in for Campbell's

Away from the core, where, in the U.S., one might have expected green fields with athletes perfecting their skills, was a vast plain of dust and scrub, bisected here and there by streets too broad for the few vehicles using them.  A sign for "Scavi"--excavations--suggested that efforts to build on this ground had been halted when ruins or artifacts were discovered.  We wondered if Sergio Leone had thought about filming his spaghetti westerns out here. 

To the far west--at least a mile from the core, and hidden from it, the husk of Calatrava's unfinished--and unlike to remain unfinished--swimming pool.  It was to be a key venue for the World Swimming Championships (held in 2009). 

And to the south, framing the Alban Hills in the distance, a curious double arch, reminiscent of what Mussolini's planners had in mind for E42--the 1942 exposition intended to commemorate the founding event of Fascism, the 1922 March on Rome.  Italian Fascism never dies; it just reappears in weird places.  And, to the arch's left, visible two photos above, a huge cross. 

Nearby, in the midst of the desolation, we found a lovely church, recently constructed (2002, Vittorio De Feo) but with a judicious and appealing postmodern look.  According to one architectural guide, the building combines the geometric qualities of Russian constructivism, Bernini's facility with light, and the atemporalism of 1930s modernism.

It was open, and we had a look around. 

To be honest, we doubt we've done justice to the campus at Tor Vergata.  Yes, parts of it reminded us of Zabriski Point.  But Tor Vergata is reputed to have thousands of students, and we observed only dozens.  It would look different packed with young bodies. 

But maybe not different enough. 
On the celebrity modern architect working in Rome see an earlier post on 5 of Rome's "Starchitects".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice to see the photos of your campus tour! More photos about the inside part. :) Thanks!

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