When in Rome

Jeffrey Cody It sounds like heaven: six months in a villa in Rome, immersed in the work and travels of an inflfluential Italian architect.

This is Jeff Cody’s reality. He is among 29 scholars and artists to win the 2016 Rome Prize, awarded by the American Academy in Rome. From January to July he’ll live and work alongside fellow scholars and artists in a villa overlooking the city.

There Cody will study the work of Saverio Muratori, who helped develop the theories and processes for urban architectural conservation as Italy rebuilt its cities following World War II. Few scholars outside of Italy have studied Muratori.

Cody is a senior project specialist at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles, where he leads training programs in conservation for architects and city planners, helping them to be “sensitive stewards of fragile urban fabric,” he says. His trainings take place primarily in Southeast Asia.

Cody first learned about Muratori while co-editing a forthcoming Getty anthology on urban conservation. He plans to spend his time in Rome studying Muratori’s theories, visiting the architect’s own built work, interviewing Italian architects and educators and writing about what he learns. He’ll carefully examine the architect’s major 1959 study of Rome. He’ll also visit architectural landmarks, comparing the view today with that observed by Muratori 50 years ago. In addition, he’ll travel throughout Italy, including to Modena, which houses an archival collection of Muratori’s papers.

Villa in Rome
Jeffrey Cody '77 will spend six months in a villa in Rome, living with scholars and artists, reading, writing, and studying the work of an important Italian architect.

Cody also plans to paint watercolors, read novels and write a memoir for his children and grandchildren. The memoir is about a life-changing trip he took with his late wife from 1976 to 1979. Only three months after meeting, the couple embarked on a walk from the Shetland Islands to Jerusalem. “We walked for about three months but then realized the money wouldn’t last,” he says. So they took breaks to work, mostly waiting tables and dishwashing.

They made it to Jerusalem (although not entirely by foot) and eventually decided to continue to Asia. “We traveled overland on an old hippie trail across Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, northern India, Nepal and Sri Lanka,” he says. “We ran out of money in Sri Lanka and found teaching jobs in Iran”—just as the Shah was falling. “We got caught in the Iranian Revolution. Our school was burned down. It took a month to leave.”

His interest in travel never ceased. Cody and his wife spent 10 years raising their two children in Hong Kong, where he taught architectural history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Now, as he prepares for another adventure, he is also thinking back on his years at Amherst. While in Rome, he says, he looks forward to mingling with other fellows: art historians, musicians, writers, studio artists. “It’s the approach to learning that Amherst reflfl ects,” he says: “the notion of putting together a group of really interesting people and giving them a chance to explore, gain knowledge and learn from each other.