A year of studying architecture has gone by, and with it also a year of making friends with an old book. Many things have happened since then, a lot has been learned and the studies situation has also completely changed, but the Friends With An Old Book tasks have accompanied us all throughout the two semesters. Now, the time has come to look back and reflect on what I take away from this experience.
From the start, I found the idea of befriending an old book – while certainly funny, especially at the time of announcement – kind of interesting. I always wondered how one would go about analyzing an older book, maybe even written in a different language. As the tasks continued and went more in depth, it got more and more to a point where I can say I know what the essential steps are in getting to understand an old book, even if I don’t speak the language or know a lot about it’s subjects.
In my case, Architectura civil recta y obliqua was written solely in spanish and therefore not in a language I can call myself a native speaker of, even if my italian roots have helped me understand a couple of words and sometimes even sentences here and there. This has, however, not been too much of a problem, seeing as we did not have to read our books. It was more about understanding their context, structure and general topics. For this, my spanish skills or lack thereof combined with the help of DeepL certainly sufficed. I would have, however, thought that reading parts of the book would also help with understanding them and always wondered why that was not a part of the exercises.
What I really liked about FWAOB was the bridge to the past it represented, I really felt like being thrown back a few hundred years when scrolling through the pages. I would lie if I said I could feel a personal connection to the author but it certainly had the feeling of a window into the past, and content wise (from the parts that I did understand) even new ways of looking at architecture. The illustrations, of which there was an uncountable amount (even if counting them was part of a task), were extremely helpful in this immersion.
I was happy that I could find my book in the HDB library of the ETH, which certainly was of advantage in terms of travelling distance. I would have wished to be able to see an original version of the book(s), but that was simply not possible due to the distance to the few spots in the world where original versions of them can be found, so I had to “content” myself with newer books which had the content of the original books printed onto them. This is why I would describe my book as more of a friend of a friend, who friend #2 talks about very often and makes you feel like you know the other one, even if you never actually meet them.
All in all, I am really thankful to have been presented the opportunity to become Friends With An Old Book, I can happily say that I have learned a few things from it.