A Behind-the-Scenes Travel Diary
To capture the story of architect Pier Carlo Bontempi, our WTTW video crew, along with host Geoffrey Baer, traveled from Chicago to Paris, to Milan and Parma – with several stops in between.
Via planes, trains, and rented vehicles, they moved themselves (and a large amount of video gear) around Europe to see first-hand how Bontempi and his peers have been working to elevate the status of traditional architecture and urban planning.
In this travel diary, Producer Dan Andries shares some of his impressions of the trip.
Producer Dan Andries
Lost, without a map.
Lost, in big cities, small cities, old cities, between cities. Lost at the roundabout. Lost on the Autostrada. Lost at night. Lost in the afternoon. Lost at noon, lost after breakfast. Sometimes we needed to be heading back in the direction we came from. And sometimes we probably really just needed to go to sleep as soon as possible. We were lost. Lost in Europe.
It is a good analogy for the story of four American TV people abroad armed with the worst of navigating tools – GPS and cellphones, all with international data that didn’t match. Imagine sending a text that arrives 45 minutes later to someone 15 feet from you.
But we were also Chicagoans, a city known as one of the most modern on earth, traveling to Europe to talk with a traditional architect who didn’t speak English, and of whom we had truly the most basic understanding, as not a lot has been written about him.
And in this way too we were lost, without a map. And no GPS or cellphone was going to help us navigate the thoughts and work of a man who grew up in a very different world than ours.
We were going to have to be willing to be beginners.
There are two quotes I’ve been hanging on to throughout the entire production.
One from a friend of Franco Maria Ricci, the designer and art publisher: “Now here is something I know nothing about. I’ll have to write a book about it.”
The other from Pier Carlo Bontempi, our architect, said while strolling the streets of Parma: “I like it a lot when a street does not immediately reveal where it will bring you.”
Being lost means you can get caught in a nightmarish loop, as in a labyrinth, but it also is a chance for alertness, for hope, and for blessed discovery.
“When you are on a road going to who knows where, you are brought to reflect that even in our spirit, we are a little like this. We are a type of labyrinth. And this road is also like trying to find the truth. The truth that we know is always hard to find, and of which we can never be certain. The difficulty of the labyrinth is a bit of a search for finding the truth within ourselves.”
– Pier Carlo Bontempi