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.

 

Pittsburgh North Side | Guglielmo Botter

Pittsburgh, Downtown, View from Heinz Lofts Parking Lot | Guglielmo Botter : “Another point of view: the modern American city cannot live without a car. Pittsburgh is no exception and disappears behind a chaos of car parks, ramps and bridges. But that’s the charm of America.”

 

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.

 

Pittsburgh from the Railroad | Guglielmo Botter

Pittsburgh, The Strip District, The Railway | Guglielmo Botter : “How can we forget the glorious railroad? Arriving by train in Pittsburgh is fascinating: after the last curve you are suddenly confronted by a majestic skyline of towers that surprise you.”

 

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.

 

Pittsburgh Fort Pitt Bridge | Guglielmo Botter

Pittsburgh, Monongahela River, Fort Pitt Bridge | Guglielmo Botter : “What about the bridges in Pittsburgh? Every one of them offers a different approach to Downtown and I find that the Fort Pitt Bridge is fantastic. I try to imagine the emotion felt by my mother, then twenty-three, when she crossed the bridge for the first time in June 1959, at the wheel of her beloved Dodge.

 

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.

 

Pittsburgh North Side

Pittsburgh, View from North Side, Railway Bridge | Guglielmo Botter : “Looking at the city from the North Shore, I was blown away by the beauty of the old railway bridge that survives as a witness to the glorious past of the city of steel. An unusual view that forces you to remember.”

 

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Pittsburgh, The Strip District, Penn Ave. | Guglielmo Botter : “Penn Avenue is the heart of the Strip and reminiscent in many ways of an avenue in a European city, full of shops and populated at all hours, plus there is the magnificent backdrop of skyscrapers.”

 

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