Architecture Graduate Travel Program
The Master of Architecture program includes an experiential learning component as part of ARCH9000: Special Topics Studio. The fall semester begins with a ten-day trip to a different destination for each studio as part of the ongoing research and design work of the course. The travel experience is integrated into the learning goals of the studio, and projects are typically based in the visited city. Recent destinations have included: Benin, Bali, London, New England, New Orleans, Rome, Scotland, Seattle and Shanghai.
Green School Bali is simultaneously the world’s foremost pioneer in bamboo architecture, and the most dramatic demonstration of the diverse possibilities for bamboo form and technologies. Bamboo Bali Studio students spent a week working with the remarkable master builder-designers of the Green School learning basic skills, advancing research on new techniques, and building a new structure for the Green School campus. The students’ own individual and collective research was continued in Boston resulting in students designing and building a remarkable bamboo pavilion at the Huntington Avenue gateway to the Wentworth campus.
The Bénin Studio focused on the effects of rapid global urbanization within the context of West Africa. Our world is quickly changing, much of it outside the purview of the media, and sub-Saharan African cities are the epicenter of these changes. Cities along coastal West Africa from Senegal to Cameroon have seen extraordinary recent growth, the Atlantic coastal cities of Bénin are no exception, an example; the city of Cotonou gains one new inhabitant every two minutes by either birth or migration. Throughout the semester students listened and responded to historic and contemporary stories of two very different southern Béninese cities separated by less than 12 kilometers of water. Their energies were focused on the informal settlement of Ganvié, a city formed by refugees from the slave trade, and Akpakpa-Dodomey, a neighborhood of Cotonou, formed by contemporary economic refugees and migrants from Benin, Togo, Ghana, Burkina-Faso, Niger, and Nigeria. In Benin, the studio worked directly with members of these communities, students from the Atelier des Griots, and a number of West African design professionals and artists, all in an effort to develop meaningful architectural interventions at a local scale. Student projects were exhibited at the US Embassy in Bénin during the month of March 2018.
The London studio involved researching techniques of urban activation and tactical urbanism by examining and experiencing architectural interventions throughout the city. In addition, visits to leading architecture firms, including Foster + Partners and Zaha Hadid Architects, helped frame the studio’s understanding of the local design culture. London’s rich historical fabric has moments where creative and nimble designs are meant to energize the public realm. Key among these are traditional markets, street fairs, temporary pavilions related to annual festivals, and a breed of social centers for shopping and consuming, including Box Park, Pop Brixton, and others. As part of the semester’s process, each student built off lessons learned in London while designing an urban-architectural intervention of modest size along Tremont Street in Lower Roxbury. Particular emphasis was placed on thinking through both the tectonic expression of the project as well as its potential urban impact, using limited means to maximize effect. The projects were influenced by experts on the tactical urbanism movement and officials from the City of Boston’s Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics.
Traditions of continuity embodied by great campuses are informed and challenged by contemporary approaches to sustainability. As a type of site, the campus provided an especially rich locus for sustainable design, due to its scale (many buildings and many people) and structure (strong leaders can effect change across a wide range of everyday practices). Studio travel and field study encompass diverse campuses—not limited to colleges and universities—within wide-ranging landscape contexts—post-industrial, rural, pastoral, and urban settings of various densities. Students experienced exemplary works of architecture in relation to the context of campus morphology, the pattern of buildings and the spaces between them. The design project for the semester focused on a new “Regenerative Village” for the Yale University Divinity School. A vision to model positive change in the world, the residential complex and community is intended to demonstrate a new, more morally-conscious way of living and building that prioritizes human well-being, sustainable growth, and deep reverence for the planet.
The studio concentrated on architecture, landscape and urban design in Rome, investigated larger cultural issues and how they interact with and through architecture. Through research and first-hand travel-based experience, students studied what makes the eternal city great by seeking to understand its physical, theoretical, social, historical, and cultural context. Upon returning to Boston, students applied their analysis and insight to an architectural design project on a proposed site in Rome.
For centuries, the Scots battled to maintain their independence from the English, however they ultimately joined their crown to that of England’s in 1603. Despite this union, the Scots have always maintained their pride as a people separate from the rest of the UK. The quest for secession from the United Kingdom resulted in a 55% “no” vote in a 2014 referendum. However, since 2106’s Brexit vote and the rise of the Scottish National Party, the drive towards independence has been growing. As Scotland ponders its future it must contend with issues of total self-governance. The split from their bigger sibling to the south won’t be clean or easy. Edinburgh and Glasgow have two very different stories and have had a long-standing rivalry with one another. Edinburgh is the more traditional and older of the two (think Boston) and the current seat of Scottish Parliament (which, it is important to note, has limited powers over the country and defers to Westminster). Glasgow is the edgier, grittier, more cosmopolitan city (think New York) and is only a 45-minute train or car ride away. Students traveled to both cities as well as the Scottish Highlands. Each made an argument for either city to be the capital. They proposed and designed a project that had a strong civic and cultural component as a vehicle for expressing Scotland’s independence and embodying the ever-fiercely national pride of the people.
The study site for the studio was Nan Xinjiao Jie (South Xinjiao Street) in the Haimen old town in Taizhou city, Zhejiang Province. Taizhou is three hours by high speed rail to the southeast of downtown Shanghai. Nan Xinjiao Jie dates to the Ming and Qing dynasties. (Approx. 100-400 years.) The redevelopment of old towns like this one is a timely topic in China. After a 25-year period of investment in rapid urbanization and global architecture in the major cities, there is renewed interest in China in the outlying and smaller towns and villages. Architects and designers are also looking with renewed interest at older spatial, tectonic, material and cultural traditions. This studio explored modern vernacular architecture or quotidian building practices in a context of rapid urbanization.