Michael Saltarella joins the landscape architecture faculty at Penn State after completing his 2018-19 Prince Charitable Trusts/Kate Lancaster Brewster Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture at the American Academy in Rome where he investigated the interplay between the classical and the irregular in so-called formal Renaissance gardens. For Saltarella, the balance of order and disorder in art, text, architecture, and in gardens is never-ending. His interests soon expanded beyond the garden to the source material after antiquity for Renaissance humanists: medieval illuminations, manuscript marginalia, Romanesque facades and frescoes, and Byzantine mosaics. He believes these metamorphoses of paradoxical imagery – of familiar forms from unfamiliar pasts – had the power to reach the viewer on an intuitive level and to fill us with wonder.
Prior to his time in Rome, Saltarella was an associate at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) where he worked in the Cambridge office since 2012. At MVVA he was a project designer and contributed to construction supervision for projects such as Novartis Institutes for Biological Research in Cambridge with Toshiko Mori Architects and Maya Lin Studio, One Dalton Park in Boston with Pei Cobb Freed Architects and Partners, and One Bennett Park in Chicago with Robert A.M. Stern Architects.
Saltarella believes that landscapes do many things for us, but their greatest power is probably the emotional presence they bring to our lives. In his experience, contemporary practice and academia seem to favor a notion of landscape function that has been decoupled from the human psyche and offer very few opportunities to explore this aspect of landscape design. His own interest in the landscape is very much tied up in its emotional appeal, and how to design projects that respond to this particular need.