William H. Fain, Jr. (FAAR’02) evokes AAR experience in Italy sketchbook

“I should mention that this is my forty-first sketchbook, and the most complete.”

So writes William H. Fain, Jr. (FAAR’02) in “At the Academy”, introducing his sumptuous recent book, Italian Cities and Landscapes: An Architect’s Sketchbook (Balcony Press, August 2007).

Fain generously has donated all proceeds from the sketchbook sales to the American Academy in Rome.

The 264 page book is a compilation of sketches Fain drew while holding a six-month Rolland Rome Prize Design Fellowship at the American Academy. Exploring the city on bicycle and later roaming further afield in the Italian countryside, the sketches—in colored pencil—start out modestly using a single method, but become more developed as Fain’s process of discovery builds momentum.

Below, Tuscan Montalcino:

“Most drawings were begun and completed on site”, explains Fain in Italian Cities and Landscapes, while “[s]ome were finished in my studio at the Academy”. The published sketchbook includes prefaces also from Richard Koshalek, President of the Art Center College of Design (Pasadena CA), and Adele Chatfield-Taylor (FAAR’84), President of the American Academy in Rome

Fain, who is managing partner and partner-in-charge of urban design and planning for the Los Angeles firm Johnson Fain (which he co-founded in 1989), illustrated views of the Eternal City, plus his travels to Naples, Venice, Florence, Lake Como and other destinations.

“My sketches embody what I can only describe as a Renaissance experience—the luxury of time to grow, discover and experience the glories of life,” said Fain in an interview about the book. “I tried with the sketches to capture the ‘feel’ of a location through a combination of color, texture and light.”

Bill Fain’s drawings were exhibited early this year at the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles; and he raised significant money for the Academy through booksignings in late 2007 and spring 2008 at Valcucine/DOM showrooms in Los Angeles and New York.

Amazingly, Italian Cities and Landscapes sells for less than $25.00, either direct from Balcony Press, or through the AAR Society of Fellows portal to Amazon (which additionally gives the SOF a referral fee), or through numerous other booksellers.

Bill Fain’s project in 2002 as an AAR Fellow was “Water and Space, Returning the Tiber to Rome.” Fain studied Rome’s Tiber River, which he saw as sharing a common “lost opportunity” with the Los Angeles River. Fain proposed to transform the Tiber River into a dynamic urban zone and gathering place; after completing his work, the City of Rome invited him to present his recommendations for reuniting the Tiber with the city.

On 4 June 2008, Fain with firm partner Scott Johnson FAIA received the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles (AIA/LA), the highest honor that organization presents to individuals for design contributions to the profession of architecture.

Below, at the AAR in 2002: William H. Fain, Jr. (right) with Andrea Pavia, his assistant at the Academy


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