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AIA Indianapolis Partners with IU School of Architecture to Showcase ‘Nomadic Studio’

In early March, members of the public enjoyed the opportunity to hear about architecture students and faculty members’ experiences studying abroad in Europe.

The American Institute of Architects Indianapolis Section recently hosted a public discussion, titled “The Nomadic Studio Begins” at the former Republic building on Second Street in downtown Columbus.

The session, led by Director of Graduate Studies T. Kelly Wilson and Associate Professor Daniel Martinez, included a short presentation and a panel discussion. Students, Wilson, and Martinez shared their experiences, recollections, and lessons learned while in Berlin and Rome.

What is the Nomadic Studio?
The first phase of a student’s Nomadic Studio experience begins at the end of their first year, when they travel to Rome. They learn from architectural scholars and specialists as they explain the geometry and intentions behind the design of the 2,500-year-old city. Students are tasked with drawing and analyzing the spaces they see as they walk the streets of Rome.

The streets are their classroom. Observation and analysis, through drawing, acts as their teacher. The summer in Rome prepares students for the second phase of their Nomadic Studio experience, in which they will travel abroad to experience and study design around the globe.

During a student’s third year, he or she will participate in the second phase of the Nomadic Studio, traveling to architecturally significant cities around the world.

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While walking the streets of these unfamiliar urban areas, a sketchbook in hand, they will learn to analyze and interpret spaces and buildings, to see how architecture and design, filtered through the lenses of time and culture, permeate the streets and the spaces of each new city.

At the end of their travels, IU’s architecture program hopes to provide students with the ability to compare and contrast these unforgettable cities based on their personal observations, experiences, and drawings. The lessons they learn will forever influence the synthetic and creative natures of their studio work as an architect.

Students Share Their Experiences
According to Wilson, international travel is an important part of the graduate program that was put on hold amid the pandemic. Now that travel restrictions have been lifted, Martinez and 13 students were recently able to spend four weeks in Rome and four weeks in Berlin during the first half of the 2022 spring semester.

A gallery of sketches and drawings from both students and instructors was on display throughout the former Republic building, with each week abroad represented through dozens of drawings depicting historic buildings in Rome and Berlin.

Wilson accompanied the group for part of their trip, as he has nearly 30 years’ experience of teaching about Rome. The students’ second half of the semester will include designing a building that could be located in either city and also creating a studio art project that is a “consequence of their experiences in those cities,” said Wilson.

“The way that city holds you and leads you – it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” said one of the architecture students who had never left the country prior to this trip. “The physical experience changes your ideas of how the world works. And I think that will stay with us forever. It changes the way you see things and the way you know things can be.”

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Wilson said the Nomadic Studio is meant to imbue students with the lifelong practice of visiting and drawing different buildings, spaces, and art from other cultures “to collect ideas useful for your own design projects.” “We are packrats, architects,” Wilson said. “We tend to collect a lot of different concepts from all over the place, and that’s how you learn to invent.”

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