One of the most admired architectural works is definitely the vestibule of the Laurentian Library in Florence. This small space is ambiguously interior and exterior. The stairs cascade in slow, sensuous movement. The playful niches, blank windows, corbels, and double columns all challenge conventional notions of scale and proportion.
Like St. Theresa in Ecstasy, architecture students swoon and prop themselves against the walls to soak in the energy within this small footprint. I was such a student. It was in that space that I realized how intimate and personal architecture can be. It was there that I realized how architecture can be at once visceral and intellectual. It speaks beyond stone and mortar. Over the centuries, Michelangelo's vestibule has carried one-on-one conversations about experimentation, beauty, and delight. I wonder if it met his expectations?
-- Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA, is the CEO of Richter Architects in Corpus Christi, Texas, which received the 2011 Texas Society of Architects Firm Award. Richter was recently elected 2015 AIA President.