Lessons from Rome

architect Tod Williams
interviewed by Smilja Milovanović-Bertram


Interviewed in New York, July 2005


The American Academy in Rome is the foremost American research institution abroad. Founded in 1894, it serves as a remarkable meeting place where visiting scholars and artists, after intense competition, are invited to exchange ideas and work on projects that offer renewed understanding of Italian history and culture. This interview will explore the relationship between travel, conceptualization, and the production of architectural space through conversation with prominent architect and Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, Tod Williams.


ORIS: What were your aspirations before going to Rome?


Williams: I spent my 40th birthday in Rome in 1983. I applied to the American Academy because I felt it would give me a much-needed break and a chance to gain perspective on my work. I had been teaching at Cooper Union for nearly 10 years and my work consisted principally of projects, interiors and an occasional house. Although I spent a year of graduate school at Cambridge, I never really explored Europe. Upon returning from Rome my first significant institutional project was a small 40-person dormitory at Princeton. That project, Feinberg Hall and virtually all the work since, has been affected by my months in Rome.