HNRS3065: Art, Architecture, and Engineering in Ancient Rome

The Roman Experience

UHP group in Rome

Instructor: Gian Rassati and James Swanson

Offered: Spring 2024

Requires a study tour to Rome, Italy

Course Description

This honors seminar aims at fostering the understanding of the intersection of art, architecture, and engineering in ancient and antique monuments and masterworks by showing, through a combination of theory and direct experience, that art, architecture, and engineering are often just facets of the same masterwork, and one could not exist without the other.  The seminar consists of weekly lectures focusing on art, architecture, and engineering in ancient and classical Rome and Naples, as well as Italian culture and language, leading to a 10-day study trip visiting and experiencing the sites and monuments that were studied.  This seminar is the newest installment of a series that has been ongoing for more than a decade.

Wide shot of Roman city

Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to recognize and describe the major art, architecture, and engineering periods and discoveries in Roman culture
  • Students will be able to describe the synergy brought about by the built environment with features of the natural world in and surrounding Rome and Florence
  • Students will be able to articulate the ways that the Roman Catholic Church, especially the papacy, dominated visual arts in Rome, including monumental construction, and, by extension, at times in much of Europe
  • Students will observe and be able to describe first-hand exposure to the behavior of current Romans as they work, live, and play in a place and society that combines the ancient through modern and postmodern
  • Students will demonstrate their understanding and knowledge of the above through an inclass quiz, journal writings, an oral presentation on site, and a final project

Class Activities

Students fully engaged in the Roman experience utilizing small-scall beams made of mortar to illustrate the limitations of stone beams that were used in the Ancient Greece Parthenon, specifically in the colonnades.  The class demonstration showed that the beams perform adequately with shorter than lengths (columns spaced closely together) but that the beams tend to break on their tension side when the span lengths are increased (when the columns are spaced farther apart).