Three views of Todi.

The architecture that resonates most deeply with us often derives its power from its ability to capture the unique spirit of a place. So it is in Todi, a hill town overlooking the Tiber River in Italy’s Umbria region. Here, the vernacular architecture—traditional, indigenous buildings designed without architects—seems to have sprung directly from the land and the local culture. During a sabbatical from teaching architecture in the spring of 2019, I used watercolor paintings to explore the deep connection between the town and the landscape that has nourished it from its Etruscan origins, through its medieval expansion, to its present-day cachet as a model of town-scale sustainability.  

James Williamson GAr’73&’74 is a professor of architecture at the University of Memphis and the author of Kahn at Penn (Routledge, 2015).

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