Andrew Hart’s first day of class at Temple Rome began with Franco Possemato telling the architecture students, “Grab your coats and follow me out the door.” They crossed the street and sat down in a Roman cafe.
The architecture class was taught in the cafe over a cup of coffee, emblematic of the “Franco way,” said Hart, a 2005 architecture alumnus. Every morning, Possemato would ask Hart, “What do you think about architecture today?”
“He was really concerned about what your voice was in architecture and what your part is in this much longer tradition of architecture,” he said.
“Everyone has a Franco story,” said Hart, who is now an adjunct architecture professor at Temple.
Possemato, a former architectural design professor at Temple University Rome, passed away in 2012 after battling liver cancer for several years. He was recently honored by the College of Engineering and the architecture program at the Tyler School of Art with the Centennial Fellow Award, which is given once every 100 years to “the graduate whose profession has brought great prestige to the university,” according to Tyler School of Art’s website.
Possemato’s work is also the subject of a new website created by various faculty members from The Tyler School of Art, his wife, Maria Grazia and his son Pompilio. The site contains tributes from former colleagues as well as sketches, models and videos he made, commemorating his talent as an architect.
Possemato, a 1981 architecture alumnus, was born in Solopaca, Italy, a comune a few dozen miles from Naples. He left the country when he was seven years old to live in the Philadelphia area. After he graduated from Temple, he earned his master’s in architecture and building design from Columbia University.
Possemato practiced in the United States for only a few years before returning to Solopaca for the remainder of his life.
“At the end of the semester oftentimes, students would choose to stay another few months and work for Possemato at his office in Solopaca,” said Hart, who studied under Possemato in Spring 2004.
Possemato approached life the same way he approached architecture, with meticulous attention to detail and a great amount of respect for the little things, Hart said.
“His work was an extension of his personality,” Hart said. “In order to be good at architecture, you have to be a good person, which means you have to have good friends, good family, eat good food and be in good spaces.”
Marc Krawitz, a 2012 architecture alumnus, studied under Possemato and worked for him more recently in the spring and summer of 2011.
“Franco just had this magical personality and he was really intelligent and very poetic,” Krawitz added. “My experience there was just very impactful.”
Possemato also ran for mayor of Solopaca, but lost, Hart said.
Possemato’s colleague John Pron, who taught architecture for 37 years at Temple and taught Possemato, visited him in Italy in 2012. Pron said Possemato told him he had “a touch of liver cancer.”
Possemato continued to work and teach until the end of his life, focusing on his students even while battling intensive bouts of chemotherapy, Krawitz said.
“Every thought I have about Franco Possemato is filled just with wanting to go back and I really wish he were still around, I really do.” Krawitz said.
Will Stickney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.