Seeing an American hometown with the eyes of an Italian architect
Guglielmo Botter was born and raised in Treviso, a city he captures in exquisite detail in his China ink drawings. Now he’s added another city, this time an American one, to his drawing repertoire. It’s not New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago or the other cities you might expect a well-established Italian architect to be interested in. It’s Pittsburgh.
Both Guglielmo Botter’s artistic talent and his interest in Pittsburgh can be explained by a little bit of family history. You would expect, given that his great-grandfather moved to the United States, that Guglielmo’s ancestry involved the typical Italian immigrant story, but things are more complicated than that. His great-grandfather had a daughter who returned to Italy and that’s where Guglielmo’s mother was born. However, as an American citizen she returned to live in the U.S. for much of her childhood and early adulthood before returning to Italy and settling in Treviso where she started a family. Played out between the United States and Italy, this is the immigrant story in reverse, especially since for the Italian-born Guglielmo returning to Pittsburgh means visiting the past and discovering family roots.
By the time he was 6 years old Guglielmo was among the finalists in a local art competition and, at the age of 13, he won a national contest for children to design a stamp based on their hometown. Perhaps that is why today his Pittsburgh sketches are available as a U.S. postage stamp. Guglielmo’s interest in art clearly comes from his mother, who earned success as an artist in Pittsburgh in the 1950s, and his father, who was a painter, sculptor and restorer of frescos in Italy. However, Guglielmo officially turned his talented visual eye to architecture when he earned a degree from Venice’s IUAV University.
In the stark black and white lines of his drawings Guglielmo captures the mix of vibrancy and industrial history that makes Pittsburgh such an unconventional American city. His drawings show places that many visitors to Pittsburgh are familiar with, but instead of mimicking the perspective commonly adopted by picture postcards, he chooses an unusual angle or distance. From the skyscrapers of downtown and historical landmarks to parking structures and a railway bridge from Pittsburgh’s now finished steel boom, the drawings reveal how Guglielmo combines an Italian aesthetic background with a family history rooted in the U.S. to envision the American urban landscape.