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Barbieri visit commemorates 10 years of cultural exchange

By Sally Harris and Sandy Broughton

Spectrum Volume 21 Issue 14 - December 3, 1998

Armando Barbieri-Castagna, noted Uruguayan architect and chief architectural curator for Uruguay's Supreme Court, visited Virginia Tech this fall to commemorate the tenth anniversary of a cultural exchange between the university and Uruguay.
During the recent visit, Barbieri gave a slide presentation to members of the Henry H. Wiss Center for Theory and History of Art and Architecture. The talk was titled "The Legislative Palace in Montevideo, Uruguay, and Its Restoration." Barbieri also gave a talk on Uruguayan author Horacio Quiroga. The talk was sponsored by the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures in conjunction with Sigma Delta Pi, the Spanish National Honor Society. Both presentations were delivered in Spanish. In addition, he participated as a critic of student work in architecture design studios. He also met with university officials to discuss future educational and cultural-exchange possibilities.
Barbieri's long relationship with Virginia Tech began in the early 1980s when his daughter and her husband were in the doctoral programs in chemical and civil engineering. As an internationally respected architect, Barbieri became involved with the architecture and urban studies programs at Virginia Tech. An exchange was arranged through the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and the efforts of Humberto Rodríguez-Camilloni, professor of architecture.
In 1988, in formal recognition of the relationship between his country and Virginia Tech, Barbieri presented the College of Architecture and Urban Studies with a bust of Quiroga carved from a black hardwood by Uruguayan sculptor Juan Pedro Morra. In return, he accepted for his country a pastel painting by Dennis Kilper, painter and professor of architecture. The painting, entitled "Post-Modern Fantasy," now hangs in the Court of Justice in Salto, Uruguay. Other dignitaries attending the ceremony were Héctor Luisi, the Uruguayan ambassador to the U.S., and James McComas, Virginia Tech's president at the time.
His return to Tech this fall "gave us a chance to re-kindle this special relationship," said Rodriguez, who serves as director of the Wiss Center. As chief conservator of the Legislative Palace in Montevideo, Barbieri oversaw the historic-preservation project of the building that symbolizes democracy and independence in Uruguay.
His slide presentation traced the meticulous research and work that went into restoring the interior, exterior, monuments, and surrounding landscaping of the 73-year-old building. "It is clear the building was in the best of hands under his jurisdiction," Rodriguez said.
Barbieri's talk on Quiroga was arranged by Antonio Fernández-Vázquez, Virginia Tech professor of foreign languages. Barbieri's association with Misiones, the place where Uruguayan prose-fiction writer Horacio Quiroga lived and worked, offered an opportunity for Virginia Tech's faculty members and students to visit Uruguay and do invaluable on-location research on the renowned Spanish-American literary figure.
Barbieri has donated numerous books to Virginia Tech and plans to donate the complete works of Horacio Quiroga to the Newman Library. During his visit, Barbieri and Fernandez-Vazquez also initiated talks leading to future research opportunities for students of Spanish America. This resulted in an invitation to the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures to collaborate on this international cultural exchange. _