News from Robert in Rome: Where Are You Going to Sit?

Tiber Chair

One of the hallmarks of successful urban spaces all over the world is the use of movable chairs. William Whyte’s studies in The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces found that people create ownership of public space by being able to control where and how they sit. This theory was recently tested in Times Square, where the moveable chairs in the new pedestrian plaza have proven to be enormously popular.

But will the same application work in Italy? That’s what Friends of the High Line Co-Founder Robert Hammond will soon find out.

Last spring, Hammond received a Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, allowing him the opportunity to work on a proposal for the adaptive reuse of the area surrounding Rome's Tiber River. The walkways and embankments along the Tiber River were built around the turn of the twentieth century to control the annual flooding of the river. Although the embankments have served their purpose of protecting Rome, the walkways are essentially unused by Romans and visitors alike.

Hammond realized that making the walkway along the Tiber River into a vibrant social open space does not have to be difficult or complex. An alternative to grand architectural and urban planning schemes is to focus on two simple issues: seating and programming.

Next week, his experiment will be put to the test. Hammond and Lisa Bielawa, a composer, vocalist and Co-Founder of the MATA Festival in New York City, have organized an art and music intervention for the banks for the Tiber River.

EnlargeMovable park chairs along the Tiber.

"The Performance on the Tiber," which will showcase the work of Soprano Susan Narucki, the Brooklyn Rider String Quartet, and the Blue Chamber Orchestra, will take place on Monday, May 31. One hundred movable park chairs will be placed in the open space along the walkway on the Trastevere side of the Tiber, next to the Ponte Sisto. At the performance times, the musicians will arrive one or two at a time, over the course of seven minutes, so that it is not clear exactly when the performance has officially begun. Similarly, at the end of the 35-minute piece, performers will leave one or several at a time, so that when the piece is over, there are no musicians present.

For our supporters in Italy, there will be two preview performances of the project on Sunday, May 30, as part of the opening weekend of the new MAXXI museum designed by Zaha Hadid. That day the chairs will be placed in the museum’s piazza. The musical performances will unfold both inside the museum and in the piazza.

And for our supporters in the States, the May 31 project will be documented through video and time-lapse photography. We cannot wait to see the results!

For more information, visit Chance Encounter on the Tiber's web site.

"The Performance on the Tiber"
Monday, May 31
18:30 - 19:00 and 20:00 - 20:30
Walkway on the Ponte Sisto at the Tiber River
Roma

Preview Performances
Sunday, May 30
15:30 - 16:00 and 17:30 - 18:00
MAXXI Museum Piazza
via Guido Reni, 4
Roma

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