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Field Studies—Near Home and Abroad

Field Studies

Design students have always pushed beyond the environment of the classroom to study and learn from inspiring examples of architecture, landscape architecture, design, and development that they find in the cities (and in the wilds) around the world. APLA faculty embrace this tradition with enthusiasm and “field studies” are embedded in all our programs. These programs expand the boundaries of the classroom and embrace great places around the globe as learning laboratories. The stories that follow are just a sampling of how we do this every semester. —David Hinson, School Head

Master of Landscape Architecture students took to the mountains of Western North Carolina in February 2015 to explore historical context of Western North Carolina as a recreational destination with a diversity of ludic landscapes. This course was developed by historian Cornelia Lambert, PhD, a cultural historian of science, medicine, and the role of childhood education in the development of nascent societies, and co-taught with Elise Cormier, PLA, CPSI, for a third-semester landscape architecture studio focusing on ludic landscapes.  Comparative study of traditional and modern landscapes of play through visits to Asheville, Biltmore Estate and Village, Chimney Rock, town of Black Rock, Camp Merri-Mac Girls’ Camp, Blue Ridge Parkway, and other areas. Questions asked through sketches, group discussion, solo walks, and conversations with local experts: What is recreation? What natural and cultural characteristics make an area attractive for recreation? In what ways is the recreational profile of Western North Carolina the result of cultural appropriation? What are the roles of myth and nostalgia in recreation? What factors—class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age—are important to recreational plans? Is recreation essentially tied to socio-economic class? In Dr. Lambert’s own words:  “Designed to complement your studio experience creating a recreation plan for the town of LaFayette, Alabama, this field experience in Western North Carolina, and its hub, Asheville (“the “Paris of the Southeast”), seeks to develop your thinking about cultural landscapes and the questions one must ask in order to parse a landscape’s meaning.” 

Architecture / Interior Architecture [ARIA] is dual-degree program leading to a Bachelor of Interior Architecture and an accredited Bachelor of Architecture. Attending to physical and professional seams between interior and exterior, the program prepares students as leaders in conceiving and shaping a more integrated built environment. Summer Thesis is the culmination of the Interior Architecture degree; it combines Thesis Studio, Thesis Research, Professional Practice and History & Theory into an intensive ten-week course of study.

In addition to coursework on campus, Interior Architecture students traditionally engage in a study trip to research and experience seminal works of architecture for discussion, documentation and analysis. Under the direction of Professors Rebecca O’Neal Dagg and Matt Hall, this past summer’s class travelled to Boston, Massachusetts and New Haven, Connecticut focusing on works of design that demonstrate a consistent attitude and clear spatial and aesthetic transition between interior and exterior. Our concentration was on American Modern masterpieces that uncompromisingly sought to control all aspects of the design; total and often polemic works for the students to interpret and critique.

The trip began in Boston with a visit to The Harvard University Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, the famous Swiss Architect Le Corbusier’s only building in the United States. Students and faculty then explored Harvard’s Fogg, Sackler, and Busch-Reisinger Museums that were recently adjoined with a new addition by architect Renzo Piano. After touring the Harvard Graduate School of Design, travel moved to downtown Boston with an in-depth visit to the brutalist City Hall; admired by architects but often disdained by the people it serves.

The trip concluded in New Haven on the campus of Yale University. It is here that Auburn’s most famous graduate, Paul Rudolph, realized his masterpiece in towering rough concrete housing the Yale School of Architecture. New Haven has no shortage of modernist landmarks, and a short walk led us to Louis Kahn’s Yale University Gallery and Center for British Art. The latter presented an opportunity for students to witness an interior renovation and restoration with a special private tour of the construction site.

After a tour of Gray Organschi Architecture and their recently completed interior interventions in downtown New Haven, an astounding discovery was made: New Haven was the birthplace of American Pizza! Such an important historical achievement could not go unrecognized, and student travelers enjoyed fine slices while discussing topics from the designers’ intent for various buildings from the trip to plans for post-graduation. These trips are as much about comradery as they are about learning. While the majority of design studies take place in the lecture hall and studio, it is direct experience with architectural space and trips beyond the predictability of our locale that facilitates honest debate and illustrates both the exciting potential and cultural consequences of our additions to the built environment.

In this course, first year Master of Landscape Architecture students travelled to Chicago, Illinois to visit, sketch, and analyze historic and contemporary works of landscape architecture. The field trip focused on landscape typologies related to the concurrent fall studio project—a public park located along the Chattahoochee River in near-to-Auburn Columbus, GA. As such, students studied and visited Chicago landscapes with interesting landforms located along waterways. Projects visited included the completed and under-construction portions of the Chicago Riverwalk by Sasaki Associates, the newly completed Maggie Daley Park by MVVA, Millennium Park, the Lurie Garden by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, and Dan Kiley’s iconic South Garden at the Art Institute of Chicago. Students also visited the Jens Jensen designed Garfield Park Conservatory and spent a day exploring Chicago’s urban habitat at Studio Gang’s Northerly Island and the McCormick Bird Sanctuary—a wildlife refuge on top of a parking garage!

MRED Program Travel: 
The Master of Real Estate Development (MRED) program at Auburn University understands the significance of collaboration and firsthand experience. The MRED program provides students access to the highest levels of industry leadership, nationally and internationally. Each semester, students go on a field trip to examine cities and sites of outstanding sustainable real estate development projects. Students meet the developers, designers, contractors and other stakeholders involved in the these projects.
The MRED program leads each cohort of students on five trips. Philadelphia, Portland or Seattle, Boston or New York, and the Urban Land Institute Fall Meeting are visited annually. The location for the international field study trip varies. 

How does MRED decide where their students are going? The director of Graduate Program in Real Estate Development, Michael Robinson, explained, “We find projects and cities that are particularly interesting and involved in the kind of sustainable development practices that we’re trying to promote.” 

 “We also like to talk to MRED graduates who are located in a lot of these cities. They are a great resource in helping put the projects together,” said Robinson. MRED students recently traveled to Hawaii to visit the Redmont Group, a full-service commercial real estate firm, which was formed by three MRED alumni.

“We’re trying to put students in front of cutting edge projects around the country and around the world,” said Robinson. “We want them to interact with the developers, contractors, and designers who are responsible for the production of the buildings. We place them in the neighborhoods and districts in which the structures are built and have them interact with city officials and planning agencies responsible for helping implement the projects.”

Student surveys prove the field study trips are one of the signatures of the program. Like most people, MRED students tend to be visual learners and appreciate the experience. The trips provide the kind of real-world knowledge the students can utilize in their office the next week.

Mark Valudos, an MRED student, is the Senior Project Manager at JLL in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area. Valudos’ field study trip in Philadelphia, PA was a valuable experience. “The field studies are relevant because they allow everyone from different backgrounds to see into the world of the people they will most likely interact with,” said Valudos. 

These trips involve students analyzing real world cases in detail. The key is connecting course content with activities that will bring content alive. “One moment that stands out [for me] is when we were in Philadelphia listening to the presentation with Harris Steinberg, Executive Director of Lindy Institute, discuss the Innovation Neighborhood,” explained Valudos, “How they were working with Drexel University, Amtrak, SEPTA, the University of Pennsylvania, and the city to create a live/work/learn neighborhood really opened my eyes to the potential of teaming up with a public organization for leverage and a more congruent neighborhood.” 

The Auburn University Executive Master of Real Estate Development degree program is an executive graduate degree offered jointly by the College of Architecture, Design and Construction and the Harbert College of Business. One of its primary strengths is the merging of the disciplines housed in these two colleges. The program emphasizes best development practices related to environmental sustainability, social responsibility, economic resilience, financial feasibility, deal structuring, and design excellence.  For more information about the Mast of Real Estate Development Program at Auburn University visit here.

The Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Palazzo Farnese—for tourists in Rome these are sights to be seen and checked off the list; but for students in the Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture (APLA) International Studies Program residing in Rome, these are valuable, rich opportunities to analyze and draw and learn in situ about the foundations of Western culture and architecture. It is Field Studies each and every day of the semester in the Eternal City.

Spending a place-based semester in Rome also allows students to return again and again to these important places, and over the term develop a more nuanced, critical and deeper understanding of the structures and spaces of the city, and to make real the images and ideas from lectures in previously viewed on campus. It is Field Studies, it is Hands-On learning, it is design and drawing, it is fully engaging the learning process with all the senses, surrounded by different experiential opportunities and using the whole city as the classroom and studio. It is the opportunity to grow, to be curious about the world and how it works, how architecture and cities have been made and remade, adapted and sustained for centuries.

And even as we explore the ancient monuments and ruins, the focus of the studio projects will be the modern architecture of 20th century Rome. The Foro Italico serves as the site for students to develop a new Master Plan for Rome’s 2024 Olympic bid, and then each develop a particular part of the plan. This involves visits to the north and south of the city, the east and west neighborhoods, to understand the context at the urban scale, as well as research into the history of the Olympics not just in Rome, but in comparative venues, including the ancient origins in Greece.

And each day, a student can go to the Pantheon, stop and ponder for a moment (or two and hopefully make a sketch) the structure, the city, the history, the future, our connections in the universe. Can you imagine a more compelling Field Studies opportunity?

This program entails a significantly different approach to study abroad as it is a whole semester long program, and students study under the expert tutelage of professors from a distinctly different background from the programs that take place in Europe. Students are registered and study in Turkey at the Istanbul Technical University, one of the oldest and more established Universities in the world. They are literally immersed in the Middle Eastern and European culture, as well as the exquisite history of the region both architecturally, politically, and culturally.

Visiting students have the opportunity to study together with students from vastly different backgrounds and origins over an entire semester. Classes are taught from highly qualified Auburn faculty and Turkish professors at the Istanbul Technical University, but the opportunity to learn from residents, other students, and the environment around them is quite valuable as well; experiences include interaction with local schools as well as distinguished architects and their offices in Turkey.

Students also have an opportunity to travel as part of a program partly sponsored by ITU. Travel within the western part of Turkey will expose them to the differences that lie within the country between the metropolitan centers and small settlements that are widely scattered. 

The program commences in mid-January and continues until June of each year-participating students are met at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport upon their arrival and delivered to their lodging of four independent flats in an apartment building next to the local police headquarters that is eight minutes walk from the University. Due to an exchange program now in place with ITU, Auburn students will have Turkish students that previously studied in Auburn to aid them during their tenure in Istanbul.