If you were to transpose Raphael's School of Athens into a contemporary setting, what kind of architecture would you use and who would be included?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If we were to transpose Raphael's The School of Athens into a contemporary setting, the first thing to consider is which setting  Raphael had in mind when he created the painting, and what purpose did such setting serve to convey the message of his work.

In The School of Athens, Raphael used a setting which, it is argued, was meant to take the shape of a Greek cross to represent the convergence of Christianity and Paganism. Nevertheless, Raphael lived during a very philosophically and artistically-active period where concepts and ideas were quite welcome. This being said, it is also said that the actual "school" is the "concept" model of what would later become the basilica of St. Peter.

All this being said, the best way to transpose the school into a contemporary setting would be to either transpose it into the St. Peter's Basilica itself or into a setting that, similarly, invites thought, openness, acceptance, tolerance, and creativity. The closest thing to a basilica, in the manner in which Raphael intended to present it,  would be a historically-renowned college, such as Oxford, Cambridge, or the University of Nottingham, to name the most used examples in the UK. In an American setting, the equivalent of those institutions would be Yale, The College of William and Mary, and Harvard.

Once you decide your setting, it will be easier to choose the characters to be included. In The School of Athens, the "main characters" are Plato and Aristotle: master and student, yet, both geniuses in their own rights. Funny as it may sound, the two most influential modern thinkers are arguably Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Just think "Windows and Mac" while Plato and Aristotle represented "heaven and earth"; although Windows and Mac are different, they do not necessarily surpass the other (regardless of what fans of each operating system may say). The same thing goes with heaven and earth. Therefore, it is possible that adding these two personalities into an open and renowned college setting could be one way to transpose The School of Athens into a uniquely modern setting.


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