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Study Sketchbook Tour

drawings from days 052-057 and my personal introduction to Dutch and German architecture

At DIS, classes are canceled for one week in October and one in November. Students spend one of these weeks traveling to another country (or two!) with DIS faculty and other students in their discipline. The other week is just a break that many students use as an opportunity for independent travel. For my first study tour week, I traveled with DIS faculty and other Architecture students to The Netherlands and Germany. I had plenty of opportunities to sketch on the trip, but even so, I couldn’t capture everything on paper. What I managed is below; both drawings from my daily sketchbook and sketches I completed in my studio sketchbook.

Day 052

A morning flight out of Copenhagen left me and my tourmates in The Netherlands with anticipation and a newfound appreciation for Copenhagen’s airport (infinitely better than Frankfurt’s.) Right at the start of the tour, we were running behind schedule. So after dropping our bags at the hotel, we found ourselves running through the streets of Amsterdam, utterly disoriented, but blindly following our brave -and thankfully very tall- tour leader Jeppe. Naturally, after we arrived at our destination, we waited for 20 minutes before our boat arrived. Canal tours can be a little cliche, but when in Amsterdam it is a great way to see the iconic canals and historical buildings, like the one I drew. Plus, they serve drinks.

Day 053

I like how these sketches turned out. I enjoyed the colors and it was a peaceful early morning practice. That being said, it was odd doing a site visit to the Silodam, an apartment building that we couldn’t go inside. When reminiscing about our adventures, this is the site most of my tourmates forget. Despite my aesthetic appreciation for this sketch, I don’t think it encapsulates the wonderful time I had taking in all -well, not all- of what Amsterdam has to offer.

With only one full day in Amsterdam we somehow managed to fit in an apartment building, a film museum, my new favorite library, two art museums, a dinner that was admittedly worth the two-hour wait, and, somehow, Mariah Carey in October.

Day 054

This was one of the most serene experiences I have had abroad. I liked it so much that I wrote a separate blog post for it!

Day 055

These are sketches from the “Depot Boijmans van Beuningen” in Rotterdam, affectionately nicknamed “The Cereal Bowl.” It is a giant temporary facility built to display and store a massive art collection while the nearby art museum undergoes extensive renovation. Its massive volume and reflective facade are not typically a style of Architecture I enjoy, but it was interesting to see how it provided a giant mirror in the middle of Rotterdam’s museum park.

Later that day, we went to the Kunsthal Rotterdam, designed by the (in)famous Rem Koolhaus. This contemporary art museum had intriguing elevation transitions and a pretty fun use of color. My hastily done sketch here shows an auditorium within the building.

Day 056

Most of this day was dedicated to a bus ride from Rotterdam, Netherlands, to Cologne, Germany. The single stop we made was the Museum Insel Hombroich. It was instantly a crowd favorite. The “museum” feels more like a park with a large landscaped area filled with groves of trees, manicured gardens, and open plains. Nestled into the landscape are simple and elegant buildings designed to be inhabitable sculptures. After days of exhausting travel in brand-new cities, this escape to nature was just what I needed. This is the only sketch I made that day. I don’t really like it. I tried to capture the staghorn sumac growing near the water, because seeing this plant reminded me so much of home and my childhood, but honestly, I was more interested in wandering than drawing that day and I’m glad that was the case.

Day 057

On our final day, we went to the Kolumba Museum, designed by Peter Zumthor. The museum and art collection were built around the ruins of an old church and this instantly became a new favorite building for me. The material tectonics fascinated me and I loved the organization and design of the courtyards in the back of the building. The exterior facade encorporated the old church facade in a way that felt authentic, modern, and historical all at once.

Before Zumther, however, we first visited the famous Kolner Dom (Cologne Cathedral.) This was the first Gothic Cathedral I had seen in person. I can now safely say that I understand the hype. Seeing it in person and climbing up the MANY flights of stairs to the top of the bell tower in the early morning is not an experience I could replicate in quick sketches or photos. 

As breathtaking as it was, the experience started uneasily for me. This was due in part to a lack of sleep and travel fatigue, but it was also strange for me to visit a cathedral in a secular academic context. I attended Lutheran schools from kindergarten all the way through high school, so school-related trips to religious institutions are not foreign to me, but my brain has yet to figure out what to do with itself when I visit places like the Kolner Dom in groups where personal beliefs aren’t really shared or talked about readily. This, combined with the antagonism often created between Catholicism and Protestants and my own personal struggle of balancing my personal faith and relationship with God with the history of harm caused by organized religion, left me on edge. But the building was beautiful, and I wanted to draw it. So, after we students were set free to either explore the cathedral more or head out into the city, I sat in a pew to draw what I saw.

As I began to sketch, the irony of the situation settled on me. I felt like my experience in the Museum Insel Hombroich the day before had been much more spiritual than the one I was having in the Cathedral. There had been fewer mental and emotional barriers between me and my faith when I wandered through sumac than here in the church. No grand revelations or insights followed that thought. I formed no conclusions about myself or the world around me. But as I listened to the familiar organ music that began playing and continued to draw, I calmed down significantly until I eventually experienced a quiet peace. I was very glad that I had stayed.


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