Architecture: The discipline that studied abroad before there was study abroad

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Puerto Rico Design-Build Project
NYIT and UPR students building a beach pavilion for a community in Puerto Rico

Arguably, given their unique training, design professionals are very well suited for the cross‐disciplinary creative thinking required to take on 21st-century global challenges. If working collaboratively with designers, consultants, and clients across time zones is commonplace in professional practice, it only seems appropriate and valuable that architecture students also engage in research and projects that transcend traditional scopes and boundaries in the course of their studies. The kind of work that architects are taking on, the methodologies they are using for project delivery, and the skills valued in the industry are changing rapidly in the context of an increasingly connected world.  

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Africa Design Design-Build Project
NYIT students studying brick patterns inspired by local hand-woven mats for the design of a community tech education center in Senegal

Visiting a city; a building; an urban space; and moving through it, recording observations, and sketching for analysis – these experiences are invaluable to the study of architecture and its allied design disciplines. There is no amount of study at a desk or a computer that can offer the same education. Their sketchbooks that remain are evidence for a discipline that has motivated its most prominent professionals throughout history to venture into lands foreign to their own. Inspired by these mentors, designers continue to visit and re‐visit canonical built works and also, the unknown vernacular ones that surround them. The result is a collective built environment that has always been and continues to be shaped by both local and external influences, ranging from the aesthetic and historical to the environmental, political, socio‐economical, and cultural. In architecture, travel is part of ongoing research and study for the beginning student and seasoned practitioner, alike – it is, in fact, the discipline whose apprentices were “unofficially” studying abroad long before any such university practices were set in place.

Farzana Gandhi, AIA LEED AP
Chair, Manhattan Architecture Department
Assistant Professor of Architecture New York Institute of Technology
School of Architecture and Design

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