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October 3, 2018
by AIA New York
Isola Bella. Photo: Mark Zlotsky.
Isola Bella. Photo: Mark Zlotsky.
Sketch by Mark Zlotsky.
Sketch by Mark Zlotsky.
Levens Hall. Photo: Mark Zlotsky.
Levens Hall. Photo: Mark Zlotsky.
Sketch by Mark Zlotsky.
Sketch by Mark Zlotsky.
Palazzo Strozzi. Photo: Mark Zlotsky.
Palazzo Strozzi. Photo: Mark Zlotsky.

The Center for Architecture and AIANY are currently seeking submissions for the 2018 Stewardson Keefe LeBrun Travel Grant! The purpose of the LeBrun Grant is to further the personal and professional development of an early- or mid-career architect through travel. Apply here by November 1, 2018.

Last year, the Scholarship Committee awarded $15,000 to Mark Zlotsky for his research project “Topiary Tango.” Zlotsky traveled in Italy, France, Monaco, England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Republic of Ireland to study the intersection between topiary and architecture and visit historic gardens. Zlotsky’s research project is propelled by his fascination with the Italian improvisational street theater form of the commedia dell’ arte, with its stock character types identifiable by their masks and gestures. He considers topiaries as living objects that can be changed and manipulated over time, similar to characters in a play or buildings in a neighborhood. Through his investigation, Zlotsky aims to shift the model for how we think about and produce our built environments.

Zlotsky reported back on the results of his trip with these “fun facts”:

  • Stayed in 33 cities
  • Visited over 100 towns/villages/cities in total
  • Visited approximately 61 gardens
  • Journey lasted 124 days
  • Walked around 13.6 miles a day, totaling just under 1700 miles

Zlotsky says highlights of the trip included his train trip from bustling Milan to Stresa, a peaceful old resort town with grand hotels surrounded by the foggy Swiss alps on Lake Maggiore. He then hopped on a ferry to Isola Bella, a beautiful little island with a grand palazzo and ornate garden that felt like it came out of nowhere. “I was probably the youngest person in the town there on my own volition,” says Zlotsky. “I knew nothing about the island until researching for the trip. It felt like a hidden gem I would have never known existed.”

A visit to Chateau Eyrignac marked his first visit to a garden that was solely dedicated to topiary with animals “and the works,” says Zlotsky. He describes the Gardens of Marqueyssac as his first encounter with abstract forms that were more beautiful than the photos, while Domme is “considered one of the most beautiful villages in France,” he says.

Less academic in achievement but still notable, Zlotsky he celebrated Bastille Day in Paris with new friends and joined them the following day to witness France become the World Cup champions. “I got to see the entire city lose their mind and celebrate by climbing anything and everything, standing on cars, starting fights, and making up,” says Zlotsky.

Zlotsky holds a B.Arch from the Syracuse School of Architecture, where he received the University Scholar Award and the Luther Gifford Prize. He is the Founder of Laboratory for Architectural Research and Design (LARD), a design collaborative involved in installations, performances, and design competitions.

In partnership with AIANY, the Center for Architecture administers three scholarships and three grant awards to provide opportunities for incoming and current architecture students, and mid-career architecture and design professionals. For more information, please visit our Grants and Scholarships page.

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