關於啟發 | On being inspired
約翰百德 (John BATTEN)
at 5:15pm on 25th July 2019
1. Interior of Palladio''s Teatro Olimpico
2. Voter registration recruitment
3. Quietly moving flowers outside Pacific Place.
All photos: John Batten
(Please scroll down for English version)
On being inspired
by John Batten
On my recent trip to Italy, I visited the small city of Vicenza, located 60 kilometres from Venice. I had come to see the 16th century architecture of Andrea Palladio, whose designs were to be so influential throughout 17th and 18th century Europe, the Americas and – oddly – now seen in many recently constructed civic buildings throughout the mainland. Palladio’s earliest commissions were in Vicenza and his palaces and country villas are listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Vicenza came under the rule of Venice in 1404, but its own wealth grew throughout the 16th-century with the cultivation of mulberry trees, silkworms and the production of silk cloth – half of which was exported outside Italy, particularly to Lyon in France. This economic prosperity benefited the city, including its bankers who had surplus cash to lend. Concurrently, the Venetian republic encouraged agricultural production to reduce its dependence on imported food. Vicenza’s wealthy families built new palaces in the city’s urban areas and consolidated their agricultural land holdings complemented by newly built villas – many designed by Palladio.
Palladio arrived in Vicenza in 1524, aged 16 years old, from nearby Padova to initially work as a stonemason on monumental sculpture. As a young man with an enquiring mind and ambition, Palladio joined a vibrant, culturally rich, social environment that reflected the spirit of the Renaissance. Introduced by the city’s intellectuals to classical Greek and Roman architecture, Palladio developed his own classically inspired designs. His early work crossed from construction into design and architecture and he was known for low cost solutions - for example, he replaced expensive stone with wood and brick which were then coated with marmorino (marble plaster) to replicate marble – a common technical solution thereafter.
I walked around Vicenza visiting Palladio’s buildings – all have innovative design ideas. Arguably his most famous building is the Villa La Rotonda (completed 1592), a symmetrical building placed atop a countryside hill and displaying a temple-like presence. Its stripped-down form comprises of a cube and a sphere with corners orientated to the four compass points. Palladio’s Villa La Rotonda was much-copied, most famously re-envisioned in Thomas Jefferson’s home of Monticello (1772) in Virginia.
However, it was inside Palladio''s Teatro Olimpico that I felt the greatest inspiration. The theatre was his final design before his death in 1580 and completed by an acolyte, architect Vincenzo Scamozzi in 1585. Thebes in Greece was Palladio’s own inspiration for the theatre, so the theatre’s interior has rows of classical sculpture (wooden, but imitating marble!) and a semi-circular bank of seating for the audience. Scamozzi designed the unique in-situ wooden stage that replicates perspective with streets receding to a distant horizon. This is the oldest surviving stage set in existence, in the world''s oldest roofed theatre. Only one word can describe it: inspiring.
Seeing Palladio’s architecture was one of the highlights of my trip to Italy. It uplifted me and still, two months after my return, I feel inspired. But, back home, recently, I have seen and experienced similar inspiring events. Etched now in history, will be the 2,000,000 + 1 people who marched against the extradition legislation on Sunday, 16 June 2019. However, individual stories and small episodes give greater personal meaning. Some of mine include:
There is video footage of an ambulance making its way through the crowds, the marchers parting as Moses parted the Red Sea. I was one of those that moved quickly to allow the ambulance to pass, but what sticks in my mind was the crowd’s clapping in appreciation for the ambulance and the work of its attendants.
Earlier in the march, I was on my phone trying to locate a friend who was nearby but unseen. I was standing on a Hennessy Road plant divider, and the crowd pointed and gesticulated to me so my friend could easily find me – it was smiles from everyone when he joined me.
On the march I chatted to young students who were registering people to vote. They were students from Lignan University, unknown to each other, but who volunteered to stand in the middle of the march, clipboard and registration forms in hand, to encourage eligible non-registered voters to register. By the end of the day, they had handed out 6,000 forms. It was such a simple, positive, and necessary action to assist democracy’s cause.
The most overwhelmingly poignant gesture I witnessed was on 17 June, when I returned to Tamar. As I passed Pacific Place in the morning, the thousands of flowers that had been placed on the side of the road during the previous day’s rally were still there - in tribute to Leung Ling-kit (“+1”) who had died falling from Pacific Place while hanging an anti-extradition banner. In the afternoon, students in uniform, young protesters and passersby spontaneously, in silence, collected the flowers and quietly placed them off the road to nearer the spot, near the temporary shrine of “+1”, while other objects were respectfully removed.
This article was originally published in Ming Pao Weekly on 6 July 2019. Translated from the original English by Aulina Chan.